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What is the Difference Between a Sleep Sack vs. Swaddle?

What is the Difference Between a Sleep Sack vs. Swaddle?

Giving your baby a bedtime as soft and soothing as a nest of blankets fresh out of the dryer is every parent’s dream. After all, getting in that shut-eye is important for your child to grow up strong and healthy, not to mention the benefits for your own sleep (and sanity). But knowing how to give your baby the best slumber isn’t always easy—and whether to choose a sleep sack vs swaddle can be a puzzle.

To put it simply, a swaddle is a type of blanket used to wrap up an infant before putting them to sleep. A sleep sack is a kind of wearable blanket.

While both can be excellent in providing warmth and comfort to your sleeping baby, there are a few more things you’ll need to consider before deciding which you should choose, whether looking for your own baby or shopping for baby gifts.

What Are Swaddles and Sleep Sacks?

Though their shapes are different, swaddles and sleep sacks have a similar purpose. They’re both intended to keep a baby warm and toasty when asleep in their crib, and both eliminate the need to use loose blankets to ward off any chills.

While loose blankets are oh-so-cozy for snuggling up on Grandma’s lap or getting in some tummy time, they can pose hazards to a sleeping baby. If the baby moves in their sleep, they could become tangled in the blanket, making it difficult to breathe.1 Thus, both kinds of infant sleepwear are important for sleep safety reasons.

When it comes to choosing one, however, sleep sacks and swaddles have some fundamental differences.

Intro to Swaddles

A swaddle is a type of baby blanket used to wrap up a baby before sleep. Swaddling is believed to provide comfort to newborns because it mimics the snug, supported feeling of being in the womb. Because a swaddle blanket limits the movement of wiggly arms and legs, they’re also said to help soothe a baby’s startle reflex, which happens when a sudden movement of their arms or legs surprises them awake.

Swaddle blankets are usually square blankets made of soft, thin cloth and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Nurses often teach new parents how to swaddle their baby while in the hospital after birth, but if you missed the lesson, don’t fret. Learning how to swaddle your baby is fairly easy, and you can choose from several wrapping techniques to find which one works best for you.

Organic Arms-Out Sleep Bag

Sleep Sacks 101

If you ever had to participate in the potato sack race at your school’s field day, you can understand the basic concept of a sleeping sack—except that these are a thousand times cuter and the only race here is who can fall asleep the fastest. Like the swaddle, a sleep sack is a kind of wearable blanket, but that’s where the similarities end.

Rather than requiring you to swaddle wrap up your baby like the most adorable gift ever, a sleeping sack often has sleeves or armholes at the top. This makes it easy to slip the sleep sack on your little one at bedtime. The bottom portion of this sleepwear option is an enclosed pouch, providing plenty of comfort for little toes. A sleep sack also provides plenty of room for little feet to move around, making it a must for babies who constantly seem to be practicing for kickboxing class (in and out of the womb).

When Can You Use a Sleep Sack vs. a Swaddle?

Both swaddles and sleep sacks can provide the comfort your baby needs to glide off to sleep as smooth as a bubble at bathtime. However, there are guidelines to help you determine when it’s safe to use them, or if it might be time to switch to another option.

When to Use a Swaddle

The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, advises that swaddles can be used when:2

  • Your baby is still a newborn, or less than 2 months old
  • Your baby can’t yet roll over on their own
  • Your baby still has a startle reflex

According to the AAP, you should stop swaddling before your baby can roll over by themselves. Why? Because a baby who rolls over when swaddled might become trapped on their stomach, making it more difficult to breathe. A baby that’s already becoming mobile could also unravel their swaddle, making it just as dangerous as a loose blanket.

When to Use a Sleep Sack

According to the AAP, it’s safe to use a baby sleep sack instead of a swaddle at any stage. You can also switch to using a sleep sack once your baby is too old to be swaddled. Thus, you can use a sleep sack when:

  • Your baby is any age
  • Your baby is already rolling over

It’s important to note that some sleep sacks compress a baby’s arms and body just like a swaddle blanket. If this is the kind of baby sleep sack you choose, you’ll need to follow the same guidelines used for swaddles, and stop using it before your baby starts rolling over. However, as the AAP also notes, you can find plenty of sleep sacks without compression that leaves the arms free, and these can be used indefinitely.

How to Transition from Swaddles to Sleep Sacks

If your baby is already rolling over, it might be time to switch from a swaddle to a sleep sack. While you can make the switch all at once, it might make bedtime a little less restful while your little one gets used to the change.

If your baby still needs a lot of support in getting to sleep, you may want to try a more gradual and gentle approach to switching from swaddle to sleep sack. Below are two different methods to help ease them into their sweet new sleepwear.

The Little by Little Method

This method’s gradual approach allows your baby to slowly acclimate to sleeping unswaddled. To give your baby a gentle transition, follow these steps:

  1. Swaddle your baby as usual at bedtime, but leave out one arm or one leg. Let them sleep this way for a night or two.
  2. After your baby seems to have adjusted to their new wiggle room, leave both arms or legs unswaddled.
  3. Repeat on subsequent nights, or until your baby can sleep with both arms and legs free of the swaddle.
  4. You can allow your baby to sleep with the swaddle still on their torso. However, by this point, your baby may already be ready for a sleep sack.
  5. Finally, you can start using a sleep sack as a replacement for the swaddle.

With this approach, it’s important to ensure that the swaddle is still secure and won’t unravel, even after little arms and legs are released. Remember, a loose blanket can be dangerous in your baby’s crib. If your baby’s restless arms and legs keep unraveling their swaddle, it’s time to go ahead and make the switch.

The Naptime Method

This method allows you to gradually introduce the sleep sack by using it instead of a swaddle for short periods of time. To start using the sleep sack during nap time, follow these steps:

  1. Put your baby down to sleep during naptime, but use a sleep sack instead of a swaddle.
  2. Once your baby sleeps well in a sleep sack during naptime, start putting them to bed in a sleep sack for at least one or two hours each night.
  3. If your baby wakes up, you can then swaddle them instead of using the sleep sack.
  4. Allow your baby to sleep for longer periods in the sleep sack until they are fully accustomed to it.

With this method, you might find that your baby adjusts easily to the sleep sack and doesn’t need as long of an adjustment period. If that’s the case, it’s okay to go ahead and let them sleep in it all night long.

Monica + Andy: Sweet Dreams at Every Stage of Babyhood

Your baby’s sleep should be smooth and worry-free as a leaf on a gentle stream, gliding away amid the sounds of crickets under a smiling moon.

While making the transition from swaddle to sleep sack won’t always be quite that smooth, you can be sure to give your baby the softest experience with swaddle blankets from Monica + Andy.

Our Cotton Muslin Swaddle blanket comes in a variety of prints and colors, so you know they’ll fit right into the soothing colors of your baby’s nursery. And the Organic Wearable Sleep Bag is so cozy, you’ll be wishing you had one your own size. Plus, all of our options are ethically made,

sustainably sourced, and GOTS certified organic. That way you can rest easy knowing that your baby is in a cozy and safe sleep and the sleepwear your baby loves is also kind to the earth.

When it’s time to set sail to dreamland, tuck in those tiny toes and stay cozy with Monica + Andy.


Sources:

  1. "Sleep Safety." Riley Children’s Health. https://www.rileychildrens.org/health-info/sleep-safety
  2. "Swaddling: Is it Safe?" American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated 17 August, 2020.https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Swaddling-Is-it-Safe.aspx



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