Do I really need a...sleeping bag?
It’s hard to find a cosier item than a sleeping bag, but are they really necessary? Grace Nixon, aka the baby lady, has the answer all zipped up.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: a sleeping bag for your baby is an absolute essential!
Whether your baby is in a cot, bassinet or Moses basket, as soon as he starts to roll, you must unswaddle him so he has his arms free to be able to push himself up if he rolls onto his tummy. This prevents his face getting buried in the mattress, which is a suffocation risk. Sleeping bags are a safe alternative to sheets and blankets, which baby can slip underneath or get tangled up in, thus posing another suffocation risk.
The biggest benefit of sleeping bags is that baby will stay warm and cosy (and hopefully asleep!) all night as there is no chance of him kicking the covers off and waking up because he’s cold. Sleeping bags also have the same sleep association for baby as a swaddle, aiding the transition out of swaddling and into a sleeping bag.
There are many different sleeping bags on the market. The important things to consider when you’re shopping are:
Getting a sleeping bag in the correct size for your baby is crucial. A sleeping bag that is too big runs the risk of your baby slipping down inside the bag and having breathing difficulties. A sleeping bag that is too small will obviously be uncomfortable, plus your baby will grow out of it very quickly.
Most sleeping bags run in sizes zero to three months, three months to two years, and two to four years. It is common, and in my opinion recommended, to swaddle a baby until they are three months old, and then purchase a sleeping bag in size three months to two years to use from then on.
Weight and materials
Many sleeping bags have a tog rating that describes the warmth and thermal resistance of a product, with the exception of those that are made completely from natural fibres such as merino wool. In New Zealand, sleeping bags with a tog rating of 0.5 to 1 or below are good for spring and summer, and sleeping bags with a rating of 2 to 2.5 are good for autumn and winter. Pure cotton sleeping bags are lightweight and perfect in the height of summer, and merino wool sleeping bags are still one of the warmest options available for winter.
Zips and domes
Front, side or diagonal zip – which is better? Everyone has a different opinion! The front zip is the easiest to use; just pop baby in and do it up – no shoulder domes that could pop open, and they generally have smaller armholes for a closer fit. Side and diagonal zips mean your older baby doesn’t sleep on the zip if he is a tummy sleeper. They also offer a larger opening for night-time nappy changes, and because they open up wide, they generally dry faster after washing.
If you’re planning on doing a bit of night-time travelling, either long distance or just home from evenings out, then this feature is a life saver! Your baby will seamlessly transfer from portacot to carseat, as you can thread the seatbelt clip through the flap in the sleeping bag between baby’s legs. He’ll be securely strapped in without you having to strip his warm sleeping bag off (and then put it back on again when you get home) while you pray he stays asleep in the process! Very occasionally a baby can push their foot through this flap during a nap and get a cold foot, but this is rare.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one sleeping bag that can be used all year round. Seasons change, so baby’s clothing and sleeping bag combinations need to be adapted accordingly. Most people find it works well having just summer- and winter-weighted sleeping bags, and adjusting baby’s layers of clothing underneath. You’ll need two sleeping bags for each season, so that one can be in use while the other is in the wash. Baby sleeping bags are expensive, but definitely worth investing in. Your child will use it every time they go to sleep from the age of three months until two years old – that’s a lot of sleeps! My advice: buy the best you can afford, and keep an eye out for a sale!
Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based nursery specialist. Go to practicalparentingantenatal.com to learn about her antenatal classes.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 42 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW