Baby sleeping bags are a brilliant invention. Gone are the days of worrying about how many blankets your sleeping beauty needs in winter, and whether a single sheet will be enough in summer… and how many minutes it will be before said blanket and sheet are kicked off, knotted around or legs or slithered onto the floor. A sleeping bag does away with all that. Pop your baby into it, kiss her goodnight and away you go (you downstairs to the sofa and her to dreamland, with a bit of luck). In short, they’re a fantastic way of making sure your baby gets a good night sleep – safely and soundly.
As sleeping bags have become more popular, lots of different types, designs and functions have emerged which might leave a tired new parent feeling slightly overwhelmed about which one to buy. This guide should help clarify some of the things you need to think about before you buy.
What is a baby sleeping bag?
A baby sleeping bag is a replacement for blankets or a duvet that your baby “wears”, rather than “sleeps under”. It’s the shape of a vest but goes all the way down, past your baby’s feet and has a soft bag-like bottom with a bit of room for her to kick freely inside.
They usually have a zip from top to bottom, meaning you can quickly zip your baby up into it before putting her down to sleep, keeping her warm and cosy but without any danger of her slipping down underneath the fabric.
Sleeping bags are available in different tog ratings (thicknesses of material) so that you can choose the right one for the right season. They can usually be worn from a few weeks or a few months old, depending on the design.
Do you need a sleeping bag?
Most new parents will swaddle their newborn baby with a cellular blanket or muslin, but a few weeks or months in, you might find that a baby sleeping bag is more roomy and comfortable as she grows and is a better option, for several other very good reasons, too…
The main reason sleeping bags are recommended (by the Lullaby Trust among other bodies) is that they reduce the risk of cot death. By putting your baby to sleep in a sleeping bag she can roll about, kick her legs and move around inside the bag as much as she likes without any threat of her head becoming covered or her getting tangled up in sheets and covers and therefore overheating.
Your baby can’t kick a sleeping bag off in the same way she could a blanket, which means she’s less likely to wake in the night with cold toes. As long as you’ve picked the right tog weight for the weather she won’t be at risk of becoming too hot either.
The fact that a sleeping bag zips up around your baby, gives them a feeling of security (especially if they’ve been used to a swaddle) and if you do have a wriggler, she’s more likely to settle herself back to sleep if she wakes. They also help babies maintain a steady temperature throughout the night, again meaning they may wake less. Remember though – it’s very normal for a young baby to need a feed in the middle of the night. This is a sleeping bag not a miracle-worker.
They’re also great for a bit of flexibility if you’re on the go a lot. You can take one with you if you’re visiting friends or family and pop her into it for her nap – the familiarity might help her drop off. And many sleeping bags these days are ‘transitional’, meaning they have holes for seatbelts and straps so she can travel in a car seat or pushchair in it and you can move her easily from cot to pram or car without waking her first – ideal if you need to go out mid-nap or you’re on your way home at the end of the day and know she is likely to nod off in the car. Hello, sleeping bag… goodbye, loud screams as you remove her from her car seat in the cold night air.
Also did we mention that babies just look completely adorable in a sleeping bag? It’s the little baggy bottom and tiny toes kicking about in it. Nnnnaaaaaww.
What do you have to consider when buying a baby sleeping bag?
Think about what tog you need; this will depend largely on the time of the year and the general temperature of your baby’s nursery.
Consider size alongside tog – most bags come in different age ranges (eg 6-12 months or 12-18 months) so have a think about the time of year you’ll want it for and how old your baby will be at which stage. You might be able to buy one in her current size for this season and a bigger one in a different tog for later on when it’s warmer/colder. You might want to buy a couple so you use one and put another in the wash.
What size sleeping bag should I get?
It’s really important that you buy the right size to prevent your baby slipping down inside the bag. Always check the arms and neck holes aren’t too big or small, especially if your baby was premature or is small for her age. Most sleeping bags have extra poppers under the arms to make them fit securely and keep the sleeping bag in place.
It feels like there’s a lot of information out there, but manufacturers make it pretty easy to pick the right size with suggested age ranges. Just remember that your baby will grow so if you’re buying winter ones now, chances are by the time you get to summer and need a more lightweight version, she’ll be in a bigger size.
Although some bags may look incredibly long don’t be put off; the excess room at the bottom of the sleeping bag leaves them room to a kick a bit.
What qualities should I look for in a sleeping bag that will make my life easier?
If you tend to do lots of night-time nappy changes, look for a model that has a zip or poppers at the bottom of the bag and around the sides, so you can unzip the bottom half of the sleeping bag like a ninja to change a nappy, rather than having to take your baby right out of the bag for a change, which will likely wake her (and is less ninja-y).
If you want to be able to move your baby from a cot to a car or buggy in her sleeping bag, opt for one that has holes in the front and back of the bag – look for the word “transitional” on the packaging. This lets you feed a five-point harness through the holes without disturbing your baby.
If you have a wiggly, or slightly older baby/toddler, then you might find they try to break out of their sleeping bag occasionally. If your baby is over six months, look for a model that has a zip from the bottom to the top of the bag. This makes it harder for any mini Houdinis to break free, especially if there’s a fabric tag covering the zip pull.
What are togs?
Togs are a measure of how thick, and therefore warm, a material is. The higher the tog, the warmer the sleeping bag will be. A simple guide to togs are:
- 0.5 tog – for hot days and nights or holidays in hot climates
- 1 tog – for warm summer months and naps during the day
- 2.5 tog – for use all year round, except hot summer nights
The only sleeping bags that won’t have a tog rating are those made out of Merino wool, which traps and releases heat and moisture, keeping your baby at the perfect temperature, no matter how warm or cold it is outside.
How much do baby sleeping bags cost?
Anywhere from £15 up to £80, dependent on the quality, tog rating and materials used. Prices also tend to go up slightly the older (and bigger) your child gets.
Are there any rules when it comes to using sleeping bags?
- Never use a sleeping bag with a quilt or duvet as this may cause your baby to overheat and can be very dangerous
- Don’t use sleeping bags with a hood as this could increase the risk of cot death
- Make sure the sleeping bag fits well around the neck and armholes, so your baby doesn’t slip down inside the bag
- Ensure your baby sleeping bags conform to the British Safety Standard
What is the British Safety Standard?
The British Safety Standard is a voluntary standard for safety and quality assurance that all baby sleeping bags should adhere to, but not all do, so it’s worth being aware of what the standard looks for so you are satisfied the model you’re buying conforms.
The standard says baby sleeping bags MUST:
- Have an accurate tog rating and come with the relevant temperature information to avoid your baby overheating
- Have a neck-opening that fits accurately so your baby cannot slip inside the bag
- Use only zips or poppers as fasteners and fasteners must be tested to ensure they cannot be detached
- Be made from materials that conform to the same fire-safety requirements as children’s nightwear
The standard says baby sleeping bags MUST NOT
- Have any loops or long threads in the stitching, to avoid tourniquets
- Have any loop labels
- Use harmful dyes or strong fixing agents in their manufacture