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Weighted Sleep Sacks: Everything You Need to Know
December 21, 2023

Weighted Sleep Sacks: Everything You Need to Know

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Weighted Sleep Sacks: Everything You Need to Know.
Weighted Sleep Sacks: Everything You Need to Know

The moment you become a parent, all things sleep quickly consume your every thought. How much sleep should your baby be getting? What’s safe, and what’s not? And the biggest sleep question of all: how can you get more of it?

Much like weighted blankets for adults, weighted infant sleepwear—weighted sleep sacks and swaddles—come with a promise to help calm your little one and help them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Advocates and manufacturers stand behind their safety, and many parents swear by them. But many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have spoken out against them. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering weighted sleepwear for your baby or toddler.

What Is a Weighted Sleep Sack?

A sleep sack is like a mini sleeping bag for your baby and toddler, and a safe alternative for keeping them warm without using loose blankets in the crib. A weighted sleep sack is a specific type of wearable blanket that’s lightly weighted to provide gentle pressure on your child’s body while they sleep.

How weighted sleep sacks work

The idea behind weighted baby sleepwear is that the added weight—anywhere from a few ounces to about 1.5 pounds, depending on the sleep sack or swaddle—will help your baby sleep better and longer.

That idea is what inspired the creation of both brands of weighted infant sleepwear that are on the market currently. Dreamland Baby was created after the founder discovered that her son calmed instantly after she placed a heavy throw blanket on him while he was lying next to her. The founder of Nested Bean, also a mom, was inspired when she figured out that she could help her son stay asleep by resting her hand gently on his chest.

Each brand uses the additional weight in different ways. Dreamland Baby’s weighted sleep sacks feature weighted pockets that are spread evenly across the front of the sleepwear from the shoulder area to the toes. Their weighted sleep sacks and swaddles range in weight from 0.8 to 1.5 pounds. Nested Bean features concentrated weighted pockets in the center of the chest area and on either side of their swaddles and sleep sacks and weigh between one and five ounces. Both companies outline specific weight minimums and usage instructions for each of their products.

Weighted Sleep Sacks Safety

Are weighted sleep sacks safe? What are the benefits of weighted sleep sacks and what are the risks? If you’re considering a weighted swaddle or sleep sack for your baby, here’s what you should know.

Weighted infant sleepwear manufacturers say their products are safe

Dreamland Baby and Nested Bean weighted sleepwear products both pass the current safety standards set by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent federal regulatory agency that serves to protect the public from unsafe products.

Dreamland Baby’s weighted sleepwear was designed in partnership with pediatricians, NICU nurses and sleep consultants and is put through a variety of safety, material and durability tests. The company is currently working on a clinical study to examine the efficacy and safety of weighted sleep products, according to their website. They have sold over 500,000 weighted sleep sacks to date with zero adverse events.

Nested Bean markets itself as a “safe alternative to all-weighted sleepwear” since their products contain only a few ounces of additional weight and only in concentrated areas. On the market for over a decade, the sleepwear has undergone a number of tests and complies or exceeds all mandatory and voluntary children’s product standards for construction, flammability and product safety. The company also conducted its own CO2 rebreathing and suffocation test.

But, the research is very limited, and the evidence is mixed

“There are currently no studies that definitively prove that weighted sleep sacks are unsafe for babies. The issue lies in the absence of clear evidence for their safety,” explains Laura Hunter, LPN and founder of Moms on Call.

Dreamland Baby cites several studies on their website, including two specifically that report lower anxiety associated with using a weighted blanket (and no negative effects on vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse rate and pulse oximetry) and a positive correlation between weighted blankets and decreased insomnia. However, these studies were conducted with adults, not babies or toddlers.

They also point to a study that found weighted blankets were a safe and more effective way to calm infants when compared to non-weighted blankets. This was based on a 2020 pilot study on infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome. (NAS is a group of conditions caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs they were exposed to before birth and can cause sleep problems and excessive fussiness, among other symptoms.)

However, the study enrolled only 16 patients for 30-minute, supervised intervals. While “no adverse events were observed,” the authors also stated that there is “little rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic interventions” and “larger studies are needed to thoroughly study the use of weighted blankets” in infants.

“The AAP and CPSC (United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the independent federal regulatory agency that serves to protect the public from unsafe products) have raised concerns about these products and are conducting further investigations to establish their safety,” Hunter explains. “There are no studies that demonstrate the safety of weighted sleep sacks for babies or toddlers and there are no studies that prove their unsafety either.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other organizations and experts, recommend against weighted sleep sacks

In 2022, the AAP updated their safe sleep guidelines for the first time in five years to recommend against the use of weighted items for babies. The current 2023 guidelines advise parents and caregivers to avoid the use of “weighted blankets, sleepers, swaddles or other weighted objects on or near your baby.”

The agency’s main area of concern centers around the lack of evidence available at this time to deem these products safe.

“There is no evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature evaluating the safety of weighted sleep products on typical, healthy infants, and there is also nothing published regarding their use in an unmonitored setting,” stated the AAP in a June 2023 letter to the CPSC. “A lack of substantial evidence about the possible harms of weighted sleep products should not serve as evidence that they do not cause harm.”

The agency also noted that the current evidence does not support the manufacturers’ claims that demonstrate that weighted sleepwear is effective in helping babies sleep longer or with fewer disruptions and that these products may potentially pose a risk. “It is hypothesized that impaired arousal may contribute to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), so a product that decreases arousal may increase the risk of SIDS.” They also cited preliminary, non-peer-reviewed literature that may suggest that these products are associated with reductions in oxygen saturation levels in infants.

Further, the CPSC cautions parents against the use of “weighted blankets or weighted swaddles.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health) (NIH) have issued similar warnings. “Weighted products such as weighted sleepers, weighted swaddles, weighted sleep sacks, and weighted blankets are not safe for infants,” states the CDC’s guidelines on helping babies sleep safely.

Many pediatricians and experts echo these sentiments. Their concerns center around the lack of safety studies and the potential dangers of weighted sleepwear.

“There is a lack of empirical evidence to support the safety of weighted sleep sacks for infants,” says Dr. Nilong Vyas, board-certified pediatrician and founder of the sleep consulting service Sleepless in NOLA. “It is also important to consider the potential risks associated with weight on an infant’s chest, particularly when their body is still growing and developing. This could make it difficult for the infant to take deep breaths, ultimately resulting in serious harm or even death,” she explains.

Safety regulations around infant sleepwear still have a long way to go

There are no federal safety regulations or standards around infant sleep sacks at this time. There is an ongoing effort by a group of advocates to create a voluntary standard for wearable infant sleep products at ASTM, the international voluntary standards body, according to a story by NPR. However, the AAP opposes these voluntary standards and instead is urging the CPSC, not ASTM, to conduct oversight on these products.

“The AAP is concerned that ongoing efforts to develop a voluntary safety standard for these weighted infant products through ASTM International will send parents and caregivers the incorrect message that these unnecessary products are safe,” wrote Sandy L. Chung, MD, FAAP and President of the AAP. “While voluntary standards are appropriate for certain products, given the AAP’s clear policy regarding the danger of weighted infant sleep products, we oppose the development of any voluntary standard for these products,” she said.

Current Safe Sleep Guidelines for Babies

The AAP currently recommends the ABCs of safe sleep: babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib or bassinet with a firm sleep surface and covered in a fitted sheet with no other bedding.

Other AAP recommendations include:

  • Room share—don’t bed share—for at least the first six months. Infants should sleep close to the parents’ bed but on a separate surface like a crib, portable crib, playard or bassinet.
  • Don’t bring your baby into bed with you for sleep and never let them sleep on a couch or chair.
  • Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from your baby’s sleep space. This includes things like stuffed animals, toys, teethers etc. and loose bedding like pillows, quilts, bumpers and blankets.
  • Don’t let your baby get overheated.
  • Swaddling is okay, but be sure the swaddle isn’t too tight or too loose and stop as soon as your little one shows signs of rolling over.
  • Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime once breastfeeding has been established, if breastfeeding.
  • Encourage tummy time every day while your baby is awake.
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