Meg Casano BSN MA and Erin Evans PhD ALM
(written at the request of our Facebook followers in response to our Swaddle Transition Blog )
Transition and Regression: Expectations
Making the transition out of the Magic Sleep Suit is similar to making the transition out of the swaddle. In fact, in many ways it’s a better transition since your baby is likely older than four months, perhaps older than 5 or even 6 months, and so your options for managing the potential post-Merlin sleep regression are vastly increased from what they were when your baby was just 3 or 4 months old coming out of a swaddle.
Let us be clear – you will likely experience at least a slight sleep regression whenever you make a big change (this is not a Merlin specific outcome); out of swaddle, out of parents’ room, into a new bed or crib, etc. Although the Merlin suit really is “magic” to many people, there is no “magic” time to stop using it! Whether you stop it at 5 months, 6 months, or 8 months, it will still be a big change for your baby and likely to result in a brief regression as he figures out something new. We like to tell you things like this not to be deflating, but so you can anticipate a probable outcome and be prepared with your response!
When to Stop Using the Merlin
The Magic Sleep Suit is not intended for babies who can roll in it onto their tummies, so if your baby is getting strong enough to do this, it’s time to stop using it. For those babies who are perfectly content on their backs in their Merlin for months and months, you’ll just make the transition decision for your baby – usually around 6-7 months. See, the Merlin serves a GREAT purpose for young babies who are getting too big and strong for a swaddle, but who still have a pronounced startle and who lack body control. But, when the startle subsides and your baby starts to move more freely you can consider her ready to take the next step towards independent sleep.
Bedtime/Full Night/Split Night Options:
You’ll probably want to transition your baby into a sleep sack for warmth and/or comfort since your baby is still too young for a blanket and wouldn’t keep it on anyway! A sleep sack has additional benefits of providing some coziness, keeping feet covered (a must for sleep!), and later can help prevent toddlers from swinging a leg up over the bars to climb out of their crib. So, how to do it?
Just like with a swaddle, stop the Merlin for the first time, at bedtime, when your baby’s two drives for sleep (the Circadian Rhythm and Homeostatic Pressure) are working in your favor. It may even be helpful to put her down 15 mins later than you thought you should on that first Merlin free night, assuming naps were typical for the day.
For babies who can roll in the Merlin, it should be stopped for all sleep episodes as directed by the manufacturer. For babies who cannot yet roll in the Merlin, but who may be rolling soon, you might choose to do a partial night Merlin. This is when you use a sleep sack during the first half to 2/3 of the night during times of higher sleep pressure and deeper sleep (typically easier to sleep), but re-Merlin your baby after a feeding for those last few, more REM sleep dominated, difficult hours of sleep during the night. Similarly, you may continue to use the Merlin for your baby during the day to help protect and maintain adequate day sleep while you are working on transitioning out of the Merlin at night. Babies are exceptionally good at compartmentalizing how they sleep during the day vs. how they sleep at night so these can be great options for easing the transition into completely Merlin -free sleep!
What If My Baby Resists The Change?
If you’ve been reading our blogs you can probably guess what we’re going to say! You should expect your baby to be a little uncertain about what to do on that first Merlin-free night. She will most likely resist her drive to sleep for as long as she can which for most babies is, yes, 40-60 mins! This is a normal occurrence and you’ll want to plan to begin a predictable series of interactions with your baby to help him navigate this uncharted territory. This is your Sleep Training technique! Different families will choose different approaches to this – some preferring to be in the room and very interactive with their baby, and some preferring to be less so. Whichever way you choose, it’s important to be patient and consistent and expect 3-5 nights for your baby to complete the transition into a sleep sack!