What’s the Difference Between a Swaddle and a Sleepsack

What’s the Difference Between a Swaddle and a Sleepsack

We'd like to add one more topic to the list of things you shouldn't discuss with family during the holidays: money, politics, and baby sleep. As a parent, you have so many decisions to make, and you're doing it all with very little sleep of your own.

When it comes to baby sleep, the debate is often between two camps: those in favor of sleepsacks and those who swear by swaddles. So which should you choose for your little one? It's time to put the "sleepsack vs swaddle" debate to rest.

What is a Swaddle?

A swaddle is a simple blanket, usually made with muslin or cotton, that you wrap your baby in. It's designed to keep your baby snug and secure while they sleep, helping them feel comfortable and relaxed enough to fall asleep (and stay asleep). Swaddles help by:

  • dampening your baby's startle reflex
  • mimicking the feeling of the womb
  • keeping your baby warm without loose blankets

This last benefit is extremely important because according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should not have loose blankets, loose sheets, or stuffed animals in your baby's sleeping area. 

The key thing to remember with a swaddling technique is that you want the fabric tight enough to create a feeling of security, but not so tight that your baby can't move their legs. Since swaddling has been around for centuries, there are many different techniques to master the perfect swaddle.

Are Swaddles Safe?

Swaddles are extremely safe! When wrapping them, you want to be sure that the top of the fabric is tucked in so as not to come loose and cover your baby's mouth and nose. Swaddles are a great way to help your baby have a more comfortable night's sleep.

However, the time will come when swaddles aren't safe anymore. When your baby starts to show signs of being able to roll over or is rolling over completely, it's time to stop swaddling. It's different for every baby but it usually happens around 3 or 4 months.

How Long Can You Use a Swaddle?

You can start swaddling your baby on day 1 and can continue swaddling until they show signs of rolling over or breaking out of their swaddle. When this happens, it's time for something new, and most parents transition to a sleepsuit. When your baby starts to roll over in the sleepsuit, it’s time to transition to the sleepsack. It's usually here that people get confused about the swaddle vs sleepsack debate because they're not sure which is better for their baby.

What is a Sleepsack?

A sleepsack is a wearable blanket for your baby. It looks like a little sleeping bag and is usually made with muslin, cotton jersey, or microfleece material. The fabric is like a loose bodysuit with holes for your baby's head and arms.

It will have a closure like a zipper to get your baby in and out. The Baby Merlin’s Magic Dream Sack has a two-way zipper that simplifies those middle-of-the-night diaper changes. The fabric is much looser than a swaddle, so it helps keep your baby warm without being too tight or constricting.

Are Sleepsacks Safe?

When used correctly, yes! Many sleepsacks have an armhole design that allows your baby to move their arms freely for comfort and self-soothing. The fabric is also meant to be loose enough to ensure your baby doesn't overheat.

Sleepsacks are made with cozy materials, so they won't pinch or discourage movement. And like swaddles, sleepsacks are designed to keep your baby safe while sleeping by keeping loose blankets and stuffed animals out of the crib.

How Long Can You Use a Sleepsack?

You can start using a sleepsack when your baby is just a few months old, after a sleepsuit. From there, you can use them until your baby starts to walk or becomes more active in their sleep. And the great thing about sleepsacks is that they come in different sizes and fabric weights so you can find one that's appropriate for any season or stage of development.

Sleepsack vs Swaddle: What Should You Use for Each Stage?

When it comes down to sleepsack vs swaddle, it depends on your baby. A swaddle is best for the first couple months of a baby's life. It reduces the startle reflex and can help them sleep better.

Once your baby starts to move around more in their sleep, transitioning to a sleepsuit is the way to go. It’s safe for babies once they’ve started breaking out of the swaddle or rolling over. It has a similar effect to the swaddle–it helps reduce the startle reflex and keeps your baby cozy as they sleep.

When your baby shows signs of rolling in the sleepsuit, it’s time for a sleepsack. The slightly looser fabric lets your little one move around comfortably and have their arms free for rolling over. If your baby is still in a swaddle when they start to roll, this could be very dangerous because they won't be able to use their arms to push themselves up.

For more information on transitioning your baby out of a swaddle, take a look at our step-by-step guide! So, the sleepsack vs swaddle discussion doesn't have to be a difficult one. Just keep in mind your baby's age and stage of development, and you'll be able to make the best choice for their safety and comfort.

Better, Safer Sleep for You and Your Baby With Baby Merlin

At Baby Merlin, we provide infant sleep support to help make those early days and nights a bit easier. We've got the best sleep suits and sleepsacks on the market with our patented Magic Sleepsuit and Dream Sack—the perfect swaddle transitions that help your baby sleep safely while staying cozy and comfortable.



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