Parents of babies and toddlers will do almost anything to get their kids to sleep. Stand on my head while singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” backwards? You got it. For my daughter Ellie, one thing that always seems to do the trick is gently patting her back.
I have no problem rubbing and patting her back to comfort her, but it becomes a problem when her eyes would pop wide open the second I take my hand away. Before I had the Nested Bean Zen Sleep Sack, I would keep my hand on her back until I was sure she was asleep, then I would very, very slowly lift my hand off her back so she wouldn’t notice the difference. It was a time consuming and exhausting process.
When I decided to try the Nested Bean Zen Sleep Sack, it made putting Ellie to bed so much easier. The Zen Sack has a very light weight made out of non-toxic poly-beads that actually mimics the feeling of my hand on her back. Gone are the days of hovering and patting until I’m sure she’s completely asleep.
The Zen Sack is a sleep sack, or wearable blanket, that comes in many sizes — 3 to 6 months, 6 to 12 months, and 15 to 24 months. The brand also offers swaddles, bodysuits, and footie pajamas with the same weighted feature.
For the Zen Sack, there is a Classic, Premier, and Winter version, each with a different TOG, or thermal insulation. The higher the TOG, the warmer the sleep sack. The Premier has the lowest at .3, the Classic is .5, and the Winter is 2.5. The Premier is also made with a blend of bamboo and cotton, while the Classic and Winter are both 100% cotton.
We have the Classic version in the Grey Mist and Flying Adventures of Bunny prints, and we layer it over a long-sleeve footed pajama. We keep the room around 70 degrees, so Ellie always seems to be comfortable at night.
The material is really soft, and it’s simple to get the sack on and off. The top snaps at the shoulders with a looser and tighter option. There is also a two-way zipper that starts under one armpit and follows the outside seam around to the opposite bottom corner; it’s a nice feature for middle-of-the night diaper changes.
For the smaller sizes (12 months and under), the weight is concentrated in an oval on the baby’s chest. Ellie is a tummy sleeper and was starting to roll on her own, so we actually put the Zen Sack backwards so that the weight is on her back when she sleeps — which the brand says is fine to do for babies who are starting roll. For the 15 to 24 month size, the weight is evenly distributed across the chest (or back, depending on how you use it).
I do my best to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines, which rule out many comfort items in the bassinet or crib for infants such as blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. So the thought of putting Ellie to bed with a weight on her really scared me at first — what if it weighed her down and she wasn’t strong enough to roll over?
Nested Bean addresses this fear on its website: “The weight is light and flexible, so it will nearly flatten underneath your baby’s body. Physiotherapy standards were used to determine the appropriate weight in the Zen Sleepwear. These weight requirements ensure that the weight to body-weight ratio is maintained well below the recommended physiotherapy standard of 1:10. Depending on the size of the product, the weighted parts range from 1 to 5 ounces.”
Nested Bean also cautions parents to not put babies or toddlers in the weighted sack and the weighted pajamas at the same time.
Once I actually felt the weighted beads inside the Zen Sack, I could tell that it was not too heavy, but just enough to help Ellie feel secure. Sometimes she even sleeps on her back with the weight underneath her, and it never seems to bother her that she is lying on top of it.
But all babies are different, and although I’m confident Ellie can easily move around in the Zen Sack, please check with your pediatrician first if you have concerns or questions.
What really sets this sleep sack apart from all the others is the weight feature. Nested Bean calls this the Cuddle Effect — babies are naturally calmed and soothed by touch, and feeling that gentle pressure activates that effect.
It’s basically like keeping your hand on top of your child’s tummy or back to put them to sleep, but a lot easier.
You never really know how your baby is going to respond to a product; some babies may show no improvement in his or her sleep by using this product.
And although Ellie never seems to mind the weight underneath her if she sleeps on her back, it does seem to me like the lump the weight forms might be mildly uncomfortable.
The bottom line
If you’re struggling with putting your baby or toddler to sleep, or are trying to transition out of a swaddle, the Nested Bean Zen Sleep Sack might be able to help. I personally found it helpful with Ellie, but understandably, every parent and child is different so check in with your pediatrician first and make sure you understand how the weighted feature works.
If you’re deciding between the three styles offered, consider the Winter line for very cold climates or bedrooms, otherwise, the Classic and Premier options would be ideal. Most importantly, make sure you’re buying the correct size for your baby so you don’t get a product with a weight that is too heavy and can lead to potential suffocation.
If you’re looking for other sleep sacks to try, Burt’s Bees Baby has a line of wearable blankets made with 100% organic cotton. You could also try the HALO Early Walker Sleep Sack for babies who insist on pacing in their crib.
Nothing is a replacement for loving human touch, but the Nested Bean Zen Sleepsack was the next best thing so that Ellie and I could both get some rest.
Pros: light weight mimics parent’s touch, follows safe sleep standards, keeps baby warm
Cons: weight could be uncomfortable for some