Sleep Bags and the Development of Healthy Sleep Habits
Helpful tips from Heather Lielmanis, a certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant with WeeSleep:
When I was introduced to sleep bags, upon the arrival of my first child, I thought they were so clever, and my baby just loved them. I used them for all 3 of my children, and I’m not over-exaggerating when I say that they became a treasured part of our sleep experience. Now, as a certified sleep consultant, I recommend sleep bags to families with babies and toddlers every single week.
There are so many reasons why sleep bags are such a good idea. More than just clever, they are, in fact, an important part of the development of a baby’s healthy sleep habits. Here’s why!
First and foremost, sleep bags contribute to a safe sleeping environment for babies. The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib, with a firm mattress and tightly fitted sheet. Nothing else! No pillows or blankets, no plush bumpers or overstuffed toys. It may seem stark, but it is truly all your little one needs to sleep, and the best way to prevent SIDS.
Babies tend to move around a lot when they sleep – they squirm, scoot, roll, and often cover all corners of their cribs. In addition to the fact that blankets are not recommended for safety reasons, given this movement, it would be extremely difficult to ensure that a baby is properly covered with a blanket throughout the night.
Sleep bags provide the cozy warmth of a blanket, without the risk. A well-fitted sleep bag allows baby’s face, arms and hands to be free, while the remainder of the baby’s body is enveloped in the soft, warm sack. The sack allows just enough space to allow baby to move naturally, without being cumbersome or unsafe.
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is a fundamental part of building proper sleep habits. Babies and toddlers thrive on predictability and consistency. A routine that is exactly the same, night after night, allows babies to understand what comes next, and ensures that they are not caught off-guard by what comes next, but instead ready and on-board with going into the crib when it is time to settle into sleep for the night.
I recommend starting with a soothing bath, followed by a gentle baby massage. The baby is then ready for you to put on a fresh diaper and pyjamas, followed by a sleep bag. After the baby is in the sleep bag, only calm activities that all lead towards sleep should follow - baby’s last feed before bed, a quiet bedtime story, a sweet lullaby and then into the crib for a nice, long, restorative night time sleep.
For consistency, sleep bags should also be used at nap time. The bedtime routine is shorter before a nap (most importantly because it doesn’t include a bath or a long feed), but should include the sleep bag as a cue that sleep is on the way.
The gentle sound of the zipper and snap that occurs when closing up the sleep bag can literally act as a cue that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Once in the sleep bag, the baby is cozy and ready for the final steps of the routine before being placed into the crib.
Sleep bags are designed to allow the baby free range of movement in his crib. A baby is able to roll, sit, crawl and even stand in his sleep bag. This is important because we don’t want a baby or toddler to feel restricted, instead it is best that he is able to find his most comfortable position for sleep. However, the one thing we don’t want baby doing in his crib is climbing. A baby in a sleep bag is less able to launch one leg over the top railing of the crib, and is thus prevented from climbing.
Of course, establishing good sleep habits early is another great way to prevent a baby from attempting to climb out of the crib. If a child is happy in his crib, enjoying sleep and understanding that mom or dad will be coming to get him soon after he wakes, it is not likely that he will attempt to climb.
If you haven’t tried a sleep bag with your little one, there is no better time to start than tonight. Ensure that you choose a sleep bag that is the appropriate size for your baby, and explain to your little one (yes, even the babies!) that this new sleep bag is going to keep you cozy at night, and help ensure a good night’s sleep.
Heather Lielmanis is a certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant with WeeSleep. At WeeSleep, we create customized sleep plans for families who are struggling with sleep, to gently develop healthy sleep habits so that the whole family can live rested. Reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION on how to achieve better sleep for your family!
Until July 31st receive 15% off Rescue Me or Toddler Time packages with Heather, or the sleep consultant of your choice, at https://www.wee-sleep.com/the-dream-team/. Book a free 15-minute consultation to learn more, and to receive your code for 15% off!