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Have you ever stood in the baby department at the mall with a swaddle blanket in one hand and a sleeping bag in the other? They both assist your baby in sleeping, therefore what is the difference between a sleeping bag and a swaddle blanket?

A swaddle blanket has become one of the most famous baby items ever.

All of us have seen images of newborns in the hospital, swaddled in a cozy blanket. This is a swaddle blanket, and its origins date back hundreds of years when parents recognized that babies like to stay snug and cozy.

Modern parents face more possibilities than swaddling blankets, including sleeping bags, yet what is a sleeping bag? And what distinguishes it from a swaddle blanket?

You have to pick what’s the best for your baby; we understand that. To discover the distinctions between a sleeping bag and a swaddle blanket, continue reading.

What is a swaddle blanket?

A swaddle is a thin blanket that is used by parents to swaddle their babies. The concept behind swaddling is that it reminds your baby that he or she is inside the mother’s womb, making things feel snug and warm. Keeping your baby snug and warm also keeps them from waking up during the night because of the Moro reflex (or startle reflex).

When you notice your baby twitching or flinching while throwing his or her hands in the air, that’s the startle reflex. Whereas all infant reflexes have a significant use, this one has a tendency to wake our babies up in the middle of the night. What our ancestors recognized is that swaddling decreases this reflex and can help your baby remain asleep longer and deeper.

Size of the swaddle blanket

Pick a swaddling blanket that is at minimum 44 x 44 inches (111 cm x 111 cm) – 47 x 47 inches (120 cm x 120 cm) is the standard size.

  • Shorter than this size is “receiving” blankets or spit-up sheets that are approximately 30 x 30 inches.

Those smaller blankets are great for a tiny newborn, but they quickly get too big and then won’t hold the arms tightly and snugly. In a matter of minutes, you will have an escape artist on your hands.

What is a baby sleep sack?

A sleeping bag is a portable blanket that can have features that allow parents to turn it into a changing pad. Most sleeping bags leave your baby’s hands and arms free, while your baby’s torso, legs, and feet remain in the bag.

A number of hybrid models of sleeping bags allow for puckering. These have panels that wrap your baby’s arms and restrict movement but restrict feet less than a traditional sleeping bag.

This is important:

Many parents are using a newborn sleep sack since the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its recommendation that parents keep all blankets out of the crib. Blankets dramatically increase the risk of SIDs, so using a sleep sack is a safer option. It keeps your baby cozy and warm while avoiding any problems.

Sizing Swaddle sleeping bags or sleeping bags for newborns

Because of the fitted nature of a Swaddle sleeping bag, they are usually sized according to your newborn’s weight and/or length (a disadvantage of Swaddle sleeping bags over Swaddle blankets, as mentioned earlier). This can be a small disadvantage of swaddle sleeping bags, as you only need a couple of weeks or so before you need to go out and buy the next size.

Sleeping bags are not adjustable, which means you’ll probably find one that will last through the newborn stage.

With both types of sleeping bags, it’s crucial to choose the right size for your baby, both for effectiveness and safety. As mentioned earlier, a sleeping bag that is too small will be too tight and not allow for free movement of the legs and proper hip formation, while one that is too large will create the risk of SIDS if it slips over the baby’s head.

Sleep sack or swaddle

Parents (especially moms) have a whole lot of choices when it comes to choosing a quality sleep material for their baby. Well, many differences will make it easier for you to make a decision for or against one of the two products presented here. Below you will find a detailed comparison of swaddling blankets and sleeping bags.

1. Swaddles restrict the baby’s freedom of movement

The first difference you will find between swaddles and sleeping bags is that swaddles are mostly used to restrict the baby’s movement. As you already know, babies between the ages of 2 months and 8 years are prone to falling out of bed during sleep. Therefore, it is preferable to use swaddles to limit the movement of babies in these age ranges.

Whereas sleeping sacks are perfect if your baby is 6 months and one year old already. The surprising thing about it is you can keep using the sleeping bags when your baby is a toddler already. Moreover, a sleeping sack offers your baby a wide range of freedom of movement (during sleep), thus decreasing the chance of developing dysplasia.

2. Swaddles are for infants

Also, you have to use swaddles when your baby is an infant. When the baby becomes a toddler, you need to move to a sleep sack. This is crucial because the continuous use of a swaddle instead of a sleep sack once your baby is a toddler might limit the motion of your baby’s limbs. This would in turn lead to your baby suffocating, particularly if he or she turns onto his or her tummy during sleep.

Swaddle or sleep sack for newborn

There are so many awesome baby-wearing choices to help keep your baby snug and comfy while sleeping. From swaddling blankets to sleep sacks, deciding what’s best for your little one at any stage might be quite overwhelming. What might be most appropriate for a newborn may not work so great for an older baby.

0-3 months

Newborns are getting used to the external world. Lights, noises, and motions are completely new for them. Babies are moreover born having a reflex known as the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex happens when your baby looks frightened, flings his or her arms out, brings them back in, and then normally begins to cry. The Moro reflex can happen while your baby is sleeping, and this can be a factor in waking him or her up. These are a few of the many reasons why newborns commonly like to be wrapped. Swaddling can aid in decreasing the Moro reflex and imitates a cozy, womb-like experience. Swaddles can be calming for newborns, and this can promote a sound night’s sleep.

3-6 months

The Canadian Society of Pediatrics suggests that you discontinue swaddling your baby once he or she begins to show signs of rolling. This usually happens at about 3 months of age. It can be a tough adjustment for a lot of babies. Accustomed to the cozy surroundings of swaddling, they still have the Moro reflex, which diminishes as they grow older but is not fully resolved by about 5-6 months of age – which can cause issues with getting to sleep and staying asleep. If this is the situation, a transitional wrap/sleeper sack might be beneficial to gradually get the baby accustomed to stop being swaddled.

6 months and older

It is advised not to place loose blankets in the crib for babies younger than one year of age, since the use of covers is connected with an elevated chance of SIDS and suffocation.

Swaddle for newborn

How long can babies wear sleep sacks?

All good things have to end, and the day will come when your baby will grow out of even the biggest size. Whereas some babies like to be cuddly and safe, some fight with all their strength to be free.

As soon as your baby begins to turn and crawl, he or she may like to exercise these newfound abilities often in his or her crib. But while rolling shouldn’t be an issue due to armholes, it can be too tight for crawling. If your baby is becoming increasingly frustrated with his restricted mobility, you can assume that he will strongly dislike being put in the sack.

Most families notice that their baby quits using the sack by the first birthday, though a number carries on until toddler age. As long as you keep checking the size and changing it as your child gets bigger, it is completely okay.

Which should I get?

We realize that you might be in doubt about which of the two items you need to get. You may be questioning whether it’s a wise choice to consider investing in a swaddle instead of a sleep sack if you should have bought one. Well, we would like you to take an educated choice – a choice that would help you buy the best sleeping swaddle for your baby. On that note, below are a few of the facts you need to take into account before you decide to buy either a swaddle or a sleep sack.

1. The comfort of the blanket

The comfort of your baby’s sleeping blanket is measured not just by how loose the blanket is. It may also cover the softness of the fabric. As we are speaking of babies now, you do not want to get a blanket that would cause your baby’s skin to become itchy. So make certain that the material of a swaddle or sleeping sack is tender. You must also consider the temperature at various times of the year because this will assist you in coming up with a smarter choice. For instance, if the temperature is cool, consider getting a swaddle or a sleeping sack that is snugger and thicker. Simultaneously, you should test the sleeping sack a couple of times to be certain the baby would not suffocate inside it after a while.

2. Safety

In addition to ensuring that your baby gets a great night’s sleep, the blanket needs to have a design that promotes the baby’s safety. The last thing you want to do is to invest in a swaddle or sleeping sack that limits your baby’s ability to breathe by excessively wrapping him or her up. Your care for your baby’s safety also needs to include arms. For instance, some parents choose to go with a sleep sack as it features designated holes through which you can guide your baby’s arms. You might also like to get a high-quality swaddle. The most significant thing is that you should get a sleeping swaddle that ensures the mobility of your baby’s body to some degree. With time, your baby will grow out of the blanket, particularly if you are using a swaddle. Therefore, remember this and keep checking your baby’s growth to see when you need to change to a sleep sack that guarantees more movement.

3. Usability

It all comes back to comfort. How convenient is it going to be for you to look after your baby, particularly at night when you have to do diaper changes? On one side, the sleeping sack offers the comfort you need since it can be unzipped with ease. On the other side, a swaddle might not be a bad option, as it usually comes with leaders and bindings that allow you to change and take care of your baby easier whenever you need to.

4. The size of the blanket

Another important factor to consider when choosing a swaddle or sleeping bag for a newborn is the size of the blanket. Although there is no one size fits all, you should make sure that your baby can fit adequately in the blanket. For example, babies from 2 months to 3 months would be comfortable in a Swaddle. The swaddle you choose should be big enough to fit your baby’s size and weight. On the other hand, you should consider investing in a swaddle when your baby’s weight starts to increase. Ideally, by the age of 3 months, babies tend to tear their swaddle blankets, and that’s not what you want. Therefore, consider purchasing a sleeping bag when your baby starts to grow

feeding your baby

Are sleep sacks and swaddles the same

A swaddle blanket and a sleeping bag share the same characteristics when it comes to providing comfort for the baby and assistance during sleep, yet they are used during various periods of the baby’s life’s growth, and never simultaneously. In a nutshell, a swaddle blanket is a big, thin blanket used to swaddle the baby like a burrito and limit the freedom of motion, and is normally used for the first three months or so of life. A sleep sack is made from thicker fabric and is commonly used after three months of life, as it offers increased freedom of motion, though still keeps the baby swaddled. A sleep sack is a more wearable blanket and is a more secure choice for babies who are yet at SIDS risk (under a year).
In fact, a swaddle and a sleep sack would both keep the baby feeling warm and cuddly just like being in the mother’s womb; and when you check out the baby journals, this is just the place where your newborn would love to be.

How to move from swaddling to sleeping sack

It is probable that your baby still likes the close confinement of swaddling and has grown used to it. Begin by swaddling your baby with just two arms for a day or two before you take off the second arm. It is completely okay to swaddle a newborn with arms extended while he or she is transitioning out of the swaddle.

By doing this, your baby will still feel the tight hold of the swaddle, yet will be allowed to roll onto his back with his arms free, or at a minimum, raise his head after rolling onto his tummy.

Standard sleep sacks, which work like portable blankets where the baby’s arms are loose and free to move around, will be safe for babies who can turn over, so after a couple of days of having both arms free, you can place the baby in a sleep sack, hopefully with no sleep loss.

When should I stop using a sleep sack?

There is no fixed age at which you must stop using the sleeping bag. Some children prefer to use it a little longer, while others prefer to use a blanket. Most children get out of the sleeping bag quite well and it is usually not a big adjustment. The only thing that can be an adjustment is that it may take them a while to learn to actually put the blankets on.

When you are doing the switch from a sleeping bag, the warmer months are a splendid time of year to do the transition as they might not need blankets. But if you have no choice and have to do the transition in the cooler months, simply ensure that you put them on a bit warmer in one-piece pajamas made of fleece or with an additional layer beneath like a singlet and socks (based on the temperature inside your home).

If you decide to switch your child who dislikes sleeping outside the sleeping bag, you have some choices:

  • wait until he/she is a bit older and give it another try;
  • or if you really feel like you need your baby to move out of the sleep sack earlier than they are willing, then take them out anyway and anticipate they may experience a couple of restless sleep or naps, but they’ll adapt to it;
  • Or take it in baby steps. Give it a try for one night with no sleeping bag, then if it is not going well, put the sleeping sack back on for a few days and go another night or day without a sleeping bag. Sometimes it’s simpler to retrain them for naptime, so you might test that out, too!

As the sleeping sack may be a wonderful sleep tool, there’s no need to push your child if they are not already prepared to put it down. Like with many things, every baby is unique and it’s completely up to you and your baby to determine if you want to use a sleeping bag or not and whether or not it’s time to let it go.

How to use a sleep sack?

You can choose to use sleeping bags or sleeping sacks for your little one. Following are the stages on what to do when you use one.

1. Open the bag

Sleeping sacks are known as one of the most basic and multipurpose blankets to put down your sleepy baby. The use of the sacks is pretty simple too. The very first thing to do is to unzip the sack from the top to the bottom.

2. Put your baby down

Now after you have unzipped the sack, put your baby down. Keep in mind that you need to place the baby in the center of the sack to give him/her sufficient space for movement.

3. Lead the arms

Leading your baby’s arms is quite easy. All you have to do is pass the arms through the holes in the blanket.

4. Close the bag

The final stage is to zip up the sleeping sack. Make sure you tighten the zipper as you do this to prevent the sack from loosening if the baby starts moving around.

Must I swaddle my newborn?

Absolutely no – it’s completely your choice. Yet, you’d be crazy not to try. A newborn will be able to sleep well without a swaddle, yet chances are he or she would sleep far more soundly with a swaddle.

Perhaps you may have a baby that is inherently cool, quiet, and calm, falls asleep readily, with a very gentle Moro reflex that barely disturbs him or her. If this is the situation, swaddling might not be so favorable for your newborn.

Or you may find that swaddling is not suitable for your newborn, the baby hates to be swaddled, or you just cannot get the silly thing to stay on and the baby struggles and fights and fights until finally he or she breaks out.

Do I need to swaddle my newborn the whole day?

Absolutely not. A newborn has to get accustomed to the newly gained freedom in the outside world. This makes it easier to develop their muscle tonus, sense of balance, and coordination.

This is also why you need to minimize the use of car seats.

Wrap your baby when he should be sleeping or calm him if he is gassy, excitable, or fatigued.

Are swaddle blankets & swaddle sleeping bags safe for a newborn?

Swaddling decreases nighttime waking – which is precisely the reason you would want to swaddle. Babies spend more time in their soundest stage of sleep, “quiet sleep,” and are less likely to show sudden bursts of excitement when swaddled.

But those arousal states serve as self-protection; they enable the brain to verify that all is well (this includes testing for a drop in oxygen levels) and to snap into full awareness when necessary.

So certainly there have been reasons for worry that swaddling may be a risk factor for SIDS, however, as long as safe sleep policies are adhered to, swaddling a newborn with either a swaddling blanket or a swaddling sack is considered to be safe for a newborn to sleep in.


We are confident that you have gathered more thoughts on how to pick either a swaddle or a sleep sack for newborns. No matter what you decide, you need to keep your baby’s safety, comfort, and sound sleep condition in the forefront of your mind.

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Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams

Hi! I'm Vanessa! I keep this blog about babies' products.

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