Dressing Your Baby for Sleep When Your Husband Is a Polar Bear

On our honeymoon, Andrew and I stayed at a beautiful little bed and breakfast in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The whole time we were there, he kept the door to our private balcony open all night – which doesn’t sound odd, until you know that we were married in mid-November. It was SO COLD. I slept with my long-sleeved pajamas on under his zip-up fleece footie pajamas, which I appropriated for my own use. He slept shirtless. 

All this is leading up to say that it’s been quite a challenge having a baby with a man who likes the house kept around sixty-five degrees (lower at night). They tell you in the hospital not to let your baby overheat, but James was in significantly more danger of frostbite. Add to that the terror of using a blanket – I took that warning so seriously that I wouldn’t even swaddle him for a nap after we left the hospital, lest he wriggle free and suffocate himself in the 30 seconds I wasn’t popping into the room to check on him – and I had to do some serious digging to find a solution. Most of the little “sleep sacks” that are sold as a blanket-free solution to keeping your baby warm are sleeveless (which seems a little counterintuitive), and I was worried about his little arms and hands getting cold.

So here are my solutions to the cold-baby problem in case there’s anyone else out there hyperventilating over tiny, frosty fingers. Just as a note, none of this is advertising and I’m getting paid for nothing; I’m just posting as a reference for anyone who might find it helpful. 🙂

1. The Swaddling Stage

As I’ve already said, I didn’t do traditional blanket swaddling. The nurses in the hospital swaddled James, and I assumed they knew what they were doing, but when we got home I was less confident in my own ability to swaddle him tightly enough to prevent him from breaking free but loosely enough to still allow him to draw breath. We had a couple of little cotton “Swaddle Me” blankets from Walmart that I tried to use at first, but the material was very thin and the top portion wasn’t big enough to keep his arms in securely – he always had one sticking out when I checked on him. I turned the thermostat up, but then Andrew was miserable, so it was back to the drawing board.

Thankfully, I found the Halo SleepSack Cotton Swaddle, which is made from a heavier material and has generously sized swaddle “wings” on top. When I strapped James’s arms in there for the night, they generally stayed (at least for a couple of hours until he was hungry again). And the material was thick enough that, together with fleece pajamas, he stayed nice and cozy.

2. The Post-Swaddling Stage

Experts say to stop swaddling your baby as soon as he can roll over, but James was breaking out of the swaddler much sooner than that. (He’s also strong as an ox, so the rolling-over rule may hold true for most babies). We kept him in the Halo swaddle sleep sack for about two months, but then I started finding him with both arms out and of course assumed that he was going to freeze to death – although, in retrospect, it bothered me much more than it seemed to bother him.

It took a couple weeks to find another solution that worked. We tried a microfleece sleep bag with arms, but it was a little thin and his legs were usually chilly when I took him out to change his diaper. I found the Halo Plush Dot Velboa SleepSack, which was almost perfect – warm, soft, a good weight. The only drawback was that it didn’t have arms. Enter the Merino Wool Snuggle-Arms, which are on the pricey side (about $55.00 at the current conversion rate) and ship from New Zealand but 100% worth it. We called them his “sleep arms” and they were worth every penny – we’ve been using them since he was about 2.5 months old. They fit kind of like a bolero jacket (remember way back in the early 00’s when those were popular?) and are so warm and soft, AND have foldover hand warmers. Also, I love that the website says that there are “no fiddly buttons.” Fiddly may be my new favorite word.

3. The “I Want to Use My Legs” Stage

Recently, two things happened: 1) James outgrew the arm warmers, and 2) he decided that sleep sacks were cramping his style. He’s not walking – barely even crawling, and lifts up his arms when he wants to sit or stand instead of trying to do it himself, because he is the definition of spoiled – but he really, really likes having his legs free. He usually sleeps on his tummy (no matter how many times I roll him over onto his back, because suffocation omg), and the sleep sack ends up all twisted and cattywampus underneath him. His pediatrician told us that we could start giving him a blanket to sleep with at night, but I’ve been too afraid to use anything but a light one, and he usually kicks it off anyway. So, what to do?

Ta-da, the Flying Squirrel. With jammies underneath and his blanket tucked over him, James is cozy AND can flop around and kick as much as he likes. Plus it has hand and foot covers, which I really love. I don’t use the hand covers anymore in case he needs his hands to pull the blanket off his face (because suffocation omg), but I like to use the foot covers so his tootsies stay warm. Plus it’s super adorable and goes up to a size 5T, which at the rate James is growing he’ll hit around 18 months, but at least we have a solution until then!

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