Swaddle vs. sleep sack

Nursery

Infants may have their own preference between sleep sacks and swaddles, so don’t commit to buying too many of either before trying them out.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Should you get a sleep sack or a swaddle for your baby?

Babies shouldn’t sleep with loose bedding in their cribs until at least 12 months of age, according to the American Association of Pediatrics. Without loose blankets, you have two main options to keep your child warm while they sleep — swaddles or sleep sacks. 

Swaddles wrap infants up tightly to help them sleep more soundly but are only suitable for young babies who can’t yet roll over on their own. Sleep sacks are like wearable sleeping bags for babies that allow them to stretch out and are suitable for a wider age range.

Swaddle 

Traditionally, swaddles are thin blankets that you wrap and secure around a baby in a particular way to keep them snug. However, many modern swaddles have a fastening system to make life easier, and eliminate the chance of securing the swaddle blanket incorrectly and having it come loose.

Swaddles secure the arms, which can help newborns sleep more soundly. Depending on the type of swaddle you opt for, they can cost anywhere between $5 and $15 a piece. For more information, check out the guide to swaddles at BestReviews. 

Swaddle pros

Newborns have a reflex called the Moro reflex that causes them to jerk their arms and can lead to them waking themselves up. Because swaddles secure the arms, they can help young babies sleep sounder for longer. The light pressure from a swaddle blanket also mimics the feeling of being held and can help babies feel safer and calmer. This means that some parents find that their newborn babies who aren’t good sleepers are more likely to fall asleep and stay asleep when swaddled. On top of this, basic swaddle blankets are extremely affordable, which is great for parents on a budget. 

Swaddle cons

Once babies are able to roll over by themselves, swaddles are no longer safe as babies may need the use of their arms to roll themselves back into a safe position. As such, you can only use swaddles on babies up to around 2 months old. It can also be tricky to learn how to secure traditional swaddle blankets, especially if you have a wriggly baby. Additionally, some babies simply don’t like being swaddled. 

Best swaddles

Comfy Cubs Swaddle Blankets 

Comfy Cubs Swaddle Blankets 

This pack of three swaddles have straps to secure them, making them easier to use than standard swaddle blankets. They’re made from 100% cotton, which is breathable and allows for better temperature regulation.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Babebay Baby Muslin Swaddle Blanket

Babebay Baby Muslin Swaddle Blanket

These simple muslin swaddle blankets are great for parents who want to swaddle the old-fashioned way. They’re lightweight and breathable so your baby won’t get too hot at night.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

SwaddleMe Original Swaddle

SwaddleMe Original Swaddle

Easy-to-use swaddles available in a range of colors and prints with an organic cotton option. They’re well-made and crafted from soft 100% cotton.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Sleep sack

A sleep sack is effectively a wearable sleeping bag for babies. It’s similar to a vest or romper at the top, with either long sleeves or arm holes, while the bottom is a loose sack with room for babies to stretch out. 

Sleep sacks are easy to put on babies and are closed with a zipper either down the front or around the side. They’re suitable to use from birth all the way up to around 18-24 months. These are more expensive than swaddles, costing roughly $10-$30 each. 

Sleep sack pros

Sleep sacks are safe to use because they’re designed in a way where there’s no chance of the sack covering a baby’s face or a baby getting tangled up in a sleep sack. It’s essentially a romper with a sleeping bag bottom. Since sleep sacks keep babies’ arms free, they can keep on using them once they’re able to roll over, unlike swaddles. In fact, babies can wear them up to 18 to 24 months, depending on the sizing. Some newborns prefer having their arms free while they sleep and don’t like to be swaddled at all. In this case, a sleep sack is a far superior option and can be used for newborns as well as babies who are a little older. There’s no learning curve when it comes to sleep sacks either. They’re extremely easy to put on and take off, and they also allow easy access when you need to do a diaper change in the middle of the night. 

Sleep sack cons

Sleep sacks aren’t one-size-fits-all, so you’ll need to keep buying larger sacks as your baby grows for as long as you want to keep using them. You won’t necessarily notice improved sleep using a sleep sack compared to a swaddle as they don’t suppress babies’ startle reflex or exert light pressure the way that swaddles do. 

Best sleep sacks

Burt’s Bees Baby Baby Beekeeper Wearable Blanket

Burt’s Bees Baby Baby Beekeeper Wearable Blanket

A cute sleeveless sleep sack made from 100% cotton that’s perfect for mild nights. You can choose from three sizes to fit babies up to 18 months and a wide range of colors and prints, so you’ll find something for most little ones.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Simple Joys by Carter’s Baby Wearable Blankets

Simple Joys by Carter’s Baby Wearable Blankets

Made from a soft, cozy microfleece material and with long sleeves, these sleep sacks are great for when the weather’s cold. They come in three sizes to fit babies up to 9 months and come two to a pack, offering excellent value for money. 

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Nested Bean Zen Sack

Nested Bean Zen Sack

The Zen Sack is a sleep sack with a twist — on the chest of the sack is a gently weighted area that works in a similar way to a swaddle applying light pressure to soothe babies and help them sleep better.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Should you get a swaddle or a sleep sack? 

Swaddles and sleep sacks each have their good points and bad points. If you’re buying for a newborn, it’s worth trying out swaddles. Some newborns love them and sleep much better when swaddled, which is excellent news for sleep-deprived caregivers. Older babies shouldn’t be swaddled, in which case sleep sacks are a safe alternative to loose blankets, which shouldn’t be used for babies under 12 months old. Whichever you opt for, we’d recommend buying a couple to try before stocking up, just in case the baby isn’t a fan.

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.