Here’s what we know from over 10 years of observing babies through sleep training – with our own eyes!
What your baby wears for sleep training is crucial for their safety, and your chances of sleep training success. For example, a swaddle or weighted sleep garment might help your baby sleep better now, but they’re not safe for sleep training.
None of the baby sleep aid products are safe for sleep training (read more safe sleep training tips in last week’s blog).
When your baby is swaddled or in weighted sleep wear, their ability to move is limited. And, babies move a lot when they’re learning to self-soothe. If your baby’s bound in a swaddle,, the fabric might end up covering their face. (At which point you’ll freak out, rush in to remove the swaddle, and scratch your head and think, “OK now what?”).
Your baby also needs access to their hands to suck for self-soothing, and full range of movement so they can get into a comfortable position.
Think of it from your baby’s position: How would it feel to be wrapped like a burrito at bedtime and couldn’t move around to get comfortable?
Here’s where it can be dangerous. If your baby wants to roll and suck their hands but can’t, their cries are real and will escalate. If your baby’s crying while stuck on their back, excess mucus can cause them to gag or choke, especially at bedtime after a full feed. They can’t sit up and blow their nose like we can, so your baby might need to vomit up all the extra phlegm stuck in their throat. (Then you’ll be so traumatized that you’ll probably just just throw in the towel and rock your baby to sleep again.
Weighted sleep garments like the Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit and the Nested Bean Zen Sack should also not be used for sleep training. I know you might be terrified about rolling and rely on these products to keep your baby safely sleeping on their back, but you really shouldn’t use them ever for sleep training. We’ve tried the Merlin and Zen sack for sleep training (parents request) but it’s always a version of this:
Mommywise Coach: I know how much you love the Merlin, but we don’t recommend it for sleep training because of XYZ (see above). Would you be willing to try a sleep sack or those really cute footed pajamas?
Parent: But he sleeps so much better in the Merlin! Before we used it he startled himself awake all night. And what if he tries rolling to his tummy?
Mommywise Coach: Yep, I hear you. All of that is true. So let’s look at the facts. Your started with the Merlin when he was 3 months old. He still had a strong moro reflex then. He’s over 5 months old now, he’s already already rolling tummy to back, and your pediatrician said that it’s fine for him to sleep on his tummy when he knows how to roll. But he’s your baby, and you get to choose: We can try putting him down Merlin tonight and then observe. If he’s mad or in distress, his voice and body language will tell us. We can go in and change his outfit if that’s the case. Would that feel more comfortable?
Parent: Yes, I would feel better starting with that if you don’t mind.
Coach: Of course not! Look, every baby is different. Maybe your guy will do really well in the Merlin tonight, and *I* will learn something new. But nothing’s a tattoo, and I’m here to help you decide what to do in each moment based on what we hear and see. So let’s give it a try!
Three minutes after bedtime: Gut-wrenching tears escalate. Baby is trying to suck his hands but can’t hold onto them. He’s trying to get comfortable on his side, but can’t stay there. Cries harder each time he flops to his back. Coach explains what she sees, and believes her baby is saying. Reviews pros and cons of intervening or waiting a few minutes more.
Parent: Rushes in and takes off the Merlin after cough sounds like possible gagging.
Baby: Falls asleep peacefully on his side in a onesie and sleep sack, sucking his hands. Makes it to his tummy at 1 am and sleeps better than he’s ever slept in his life.
How Should I Dress My Baby for Sleep Training?
So what’s the lesson? Simple:
Don’t: Restrict your baby’s movement for sleep training. No swaddles, weighted sleep garments, or transitional sleepwear of any kind.
Do: Dress your baby for sleep training in garments that allow them to easily move around and get into a comfortable position. Think of what you would want to wear
If your baby won’t sleep no matter what method you try, it might be time to consider a more tailored approach. Schedule a call and let’s work toward a sustainable solution together.
Ready for a happy, rested family? Let’s talk!
Hi, I’m Natalie, founder of Mommywise. I’m a Brooklyn mom of two (now) teenagers, PPD survivor, still humbled by the early years of parenting. I started this blog in 2004 as a way to help other parents who felt as dark and lonely as I felt to feel less shame, normalize the feelings of not loving parenthood, and raise awareness about postpartum mood disorders. I’m passionately committed to helping new parents feel more joy, offering sustainable employment for women and mothers, and contributing to positive change in the world.