Why using a baby sleeping bag is pretty much compulsory …. and it’s not what you think!
Forget the first smiles. Of all the milestones a new mom is most desperate to reach is the elusive and oh-so-evasive goal of “sleeping through the night”.
I am yet to reach it.
The other day, my sleep deprivation sanity was hanging by such a loose strand that I had to check in with my mom gang (we call ourselves the MANG) for some peer reassurance. My kid screamt for an hour at bedtime because I told him he needed to wear pyjamas to go to sleep.
A fellow mom reassured me that I was not alone. Her kid was sick recently and her heavy hand - that’s usually reserved for her glass(es) of wine - poured a few extra millilitres of Calpol and Deselex in the spoon just to try buy herself a couple hours of sleep.
We beg and plead for constant sleep tips from our mom tribes. We crave it like crack cocaine. We exchange numbers for sleep trainers like we would dealers (if we were indeed crack addicts, which I am fast on my way to becoming). We prescribe remedies from essential oils to magnesium syrup (this was last week’s suggestion so I rushed off to buy a bottle).
And of course, baby sleeping bags or sacks are often recommended to help improve baby sleep quality, supposedly because “the cozier your baby, the better they’ll sleep”.
There may be some merit to that now that it’s winter and your baby might be waking up from the cold, having wiggled and wangled their way out of their blankets.
Many of us have already cottoned onto using sleeping bags from boutique baby brands such as Grobag, Puckababy & Perlimpinpin (our personal fave).
Perhaps we love the idea of using only the softest, finest, 100% organic cotton on our baby’s delicate skin. And we love the beautiful prints that match our perfectly colour coordinated nurseries. After all, it’s the “on trend” way to put your baby to sleep, so it’s now included on the infamously informal 250 page “Baby Essentials List for First Time Moms”.
Some have even whispered that sleeping bags can be linked with mystical Sleep Association Cues so that your baby can develop the association that bag = bedtime. You can even take this one step further and hope to Gd that sleeping bags act as a familiar “comforter” for your baby, making sleep times easier even when away from home, or during travelling, and eases transitions from basket to cot, and cot to bed. Talk about hyping the thing up.
If none of these reasons have sold you yet… (and they do make for a pretty valid argument for the use of sleeping bags)… here’s the actual kicker:
Unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury death among infants from birth - one year of age, with 82% being attributable to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.
That’s right… cause of death: accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed from factors including soft bedding and blankets obstructing the airway.
Sadly, these deaths are preventable.
And by many of us already using sleeping bags, we’ve eliminated loose sheets, cot duvets and blankets from our baby’s cots. Thereby making it the safest possible sleep environment for our babies.
Sleeping bags also delay baby from rolling into the high-risk tummy position during sleep and prevent the baby’s legs from dangling out of cot rails.
Even though we may not have been aware of the why, our use of sleeping bags is a total blessing in disguise.
And if a sleeping bag can give us that extra bit of reassurance that our babies are sleeping safely, even if not soundly, I’m happy to use one.
What moms have to say about the Perlimpinpin:
“Reverse zip also allows baby to stay warm and cozy during diaper changes without disrupting sleep”
“The bag zips down at an angle making it exceedingly challenging for curious babies to unzip themselves. My little girl could easily get herself out of every other sleep sack brand we own – but she still hasn’t been able to Houdini her way out of the Perlim. And we’ve been using it for months”.
“It has a smaller neck-hole than other sleep sacks, so you’ll never worry about your little one’s head dropping through during restless sleep periods”
“The bamboo is sooooooooooo soft and is a temperate – regulating fabric”
“It washes and dries really well”
“Lots of room for baby’s feet”
“I have four of them!”
CHOOSING THE RIGHT “TOG”
Shopping for a sleeping bag means that you need to learn the lingo. Many sleeping bags are designed in different thicknesses, commonly referred to as the tog rating. It’s basically a warmth rating: the higher the tog, the warmer the bag. South Africa’s climate is relatively moderate; our winters aren’t as brutal as those in other parts of the world. So it’s not really necessary to change bags with the seasons. A sleeping bag with a 2 or a 2,5 tog rating is generally ideal for the SA climate. A 3,5 tog would be too thick for SA.
HOW TO SAFELY USE A SLEEP BAG:
- Never use an additional blanket with a sleep bag as this may cause baby to overheat. Baby sleep bags are designed to replace traditional blankets. Therefore, the only other bedding required is a fitted cot sheet.
- Most sleeping bags are sleeveless. You’ll cater for climate fluctuations by dressing baby accordingly. If additional warmth is needed you can dress baby in layers of clothing within the sleep bag, but make sure this is appropriate to room temperature (dress baby as you would dress yourself). Ideal nursery temperature should always be between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.
- Be sure to buy the right size. If it’s too big, your baby may slip down into the bag during the night.
- Never use a sleep bag with an attached hood – this increases the risk of SIDS.
- Feel the nape of your baby’s neck – if it is damp then your baby might be too warm. Rather too cool, than too warm
A FINAL TIP:
From my experience, you really want to own more than one bag. You never know when a wet nappy will leak at 2am and you need to have a backup bag when the other is in the wash. Might be an expensive exercise but worth it.
Read here to find out more about creating the safest possible sleep environment for your baby, plus the most common questions about how to position your baby in their cot (can they really choke on their own vomit?!)
WHAT IS THE SAFEST SLEEP ENVIRONMENT?
The safest sleep environment for a baby, experts say, is a firm, flat mattress with nothing but a fitted sheet on it. Nothing else should be in the bed: no stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, bumpers, or positioners of any kind. So invest in a sleep sack rather than a blanket. Remove all wedges and loose objects. And put baby to sleep flat on their backs.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Babies sleep safest on their backs. Babies who sleep on their backs are 6 times less likely to die of SIDS than are babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
The safest sleep environment for a baby, experts say, is a firm, flat mattress with nothing but a fitted sheet on it. So invest in a sleep sack rather than a blanket.
Ideally, nothing else should be in the bed: no stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, bumpers, or positioners of any kind. Remove all wedges and loose objects. And put baby to sleep flat on their backs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Why should I place my baby on his or her back to sleep?
Research shows that the back sleep position is the safest for babies. The back sleep position carries the lowest risk of SIDS.
Will my baby choke if placed on his or her back to sleep?
No. Healthy babies naturally swallow or cough up fluids—it’s a reflex all people have to make sure their airway is kept clear. Babies might actually clear such fluids better when on their backs because of the location of the windpipe (trachea) when in the back sleep position. Healthy infants protect their airway when placed on their backs, provided that swallowing and arousal mechanisms are normal. Cases of fatal choking are very rare except when related to a medical condition. The number of fatal choking deaths has not increased since back sleeping recommendations began. In most of the few reported cases of fatal choking, an infant was sleeping on his or her stomach.
Is it okay if my baby sleeps on his or her side?
Side sleeping is not recommended as a safe alternative to sleeping on the back and increases the risk of SIDS. Much (but not all) of the risk associated with the side position is related to the risk of the infant rolling onto their tummy. For this reason, babies should sleep wholly on their backs—the position associated with the lowest SIDS risk.
What if my baby rolls onto his or her stomach during sleep? Do I need to put my baby in the back sleep position again if this happens?
No. Rolling over is an important and natural part of your baby’s growth. Most babies start rolling over on their own around 4 to 6 months of age. And by this stage, baby’s brain is mature enough to alert her to breathing dangers. If your baby rolls over on his or her own during sleep, you do not need to turn the baby over onto his or her back. The important thing is that your baby starts every sleep time on his or her back to reduce the risk of SIDS, and that there is no soft, loose bedding in the baby’s sleep area.
How do I correctly position my baby in the Feet to Foot position?
Position your baby so that their feet touch the bottom of the cot / moses basket etc. This way, if they roll down in their sleep, their heads will not get covered by the blanket.
What about infants with reflux? Must I elevate the mattress?
Research shows that all babies, including babies with gastro-oesophageal reflux, should be placed on their back to sleep. There is no evidence to support the elevation of the head of the cot.
What if my baby’s grandparents or another caregiver wants to place my baby to sleep on his or her stomach for nap time?
Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed to sleep on their stomachs, such as for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS. So it is important for everyone who cares for your baby to use the back sleep position for all sleep times—for naps and at night.
Are there times when my baby should be on his or her stomach?
Yes, your baby should have plenty of Tummy Time when he or she is awake and when someone is watching. Supervised Tummy Time helps strengthen your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles, build motor skills, and prevent flat spots on the back of the head. At first, your newborn may not like being on her belly and will only tolerate tummy time for a few seconds without crying. That’s OK. Over time, she will become more used to being on her belly when awake and will probably even start to like it. Make sure to give her some tummy time every day, and always supervise her during these special times.
Will my baby get flat spots on the back of the head from sleeping on his or her back?
Some parents have heard that the back of a baby’s head may get flat from sleeping on the back. This is actually true. But a flat head is usually avoidable and not serious when it occurs. Nor are flat spots linked to long-term problems with head shape. These flattened head spots do not affect brain growth, and for most babies head shape becomes rounder as the baby develops. Flat spots typically go away on their own once the baby starts sitting up.
The most effective strategy to prevent flattened spots is to ensure baby spends time on their tummy several times a day (awake and supervised).
Other strategies include turning your baby’s head to the side when you put her to sleep. Sometimes turn her head to the left, and other times, turn it to the right. Position the cot to face a different direction or place baby to sleep at either end of the cot (always feet to foot of cot). This can help if she usually looks in the same direction of the room. Avoid prolonged periods in car seats and prams. Carry baby in a sling.
If her head does become a bit flat in the back, it usually is not serious.
Do breathing mat monitors prevent SIDS?
Normal healthy babies do not need a breathing monitor. Some parents find that using a breathing monitor reassures them. However, there is no evidence that monitors prevent SIDS.
What about co-sleeping?
The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in a room with you for the first six months. It’s lovely (and convenient) to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but it’s safest to put your baby back in the cot before you go to sleep. In some circumstances, sharing a sleep surface with a baby increases the risk of sudden infant death and fatal sleeping accidents. Current evidence has shown that it is not so much bed-sharing, but the circumstances in which bed-sharing occurs that carries the risk. No sleeping environment is risk free. It is recommended to sleep with a baby in a cot next to the parents’ bed for the first six to twelve months of life as this has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Is my baby at an increased risk if we’re smokers?
Yes. Over 60 studies from many countries have demonstrated a very strong relationship between smoking and sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk, while smoking after the baby is born increases the risk further. Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke from any household member are at an increased risk. The car and home should be smoke free zones. Reducing the number of cigarettes smoked in the household, reduces the risk. Room sharing for sleep is recommended for babies for the first 6-12 months of life, as long as this room is kept smoke free and is well ventilated. Sharing a sleep surface with your baby if you are a smoker is not safe and is not recommended.
How old are babies who die from SIDS?
The majority (90%) of SIDS deaths occur before a baby reaches 6 months of age, and the number of SIDS deaths peaks between 1 month and 4 months of age. However SIDS deaths can occur anytime during a baby’s first year, so parents should still follow safe sleep recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS until their baby’s first birthday.
Courtesy: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
The guidelines provided here are for information purposes only. Consult your health care provider before making any changes. Remember, SIDS cannot be prevented. But you can take steps to reduce the risk. Use of this information is at your own discretion. This website does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) which is provided on this website or incorporated into it by reference.