Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit Review: NOT RECOMMENDED

Last Updated: Jul 11, 2017 @ 8:24 pm.  Added response from Baby Merlin to this review at the bottom.

Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit Review: NOT RECOMMENDED. Quick summary: We do not recommend the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. After consulting with pediatric sleep experts about the sleep suit’s intended use, we believe safety concerns regarding overheating and the possibility of developmental delays outweigh any benefits of the product.

Quick background: The Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit sells for $40 directly from the company’s web site, as well as in independent baby stores and on websites like Amazon in both the US and Canada. The Sleepsuit comes in cotton and microfleece versions.

We purchased a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit at full retail price from Amazon in order to evaluate the product in person. In case you haven’t seen one yourself, the Magic Sleepsuit is a thickly padded one-piece sleep garment made by the Baby Merlin company based in Uwchland, PA. (See the end of this post for a gallery of photos of the Sleepsuit we purchased).

Once safely tucked inside the Magic Sleepsuit, a baby can bare a striking resemblance to the Michelin Man:

The Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

 

What it claims to do. The makers of the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit say it is an “innovative swaddle transition product” that is “designed for babies who are ready to transition from the swaddle, yet still need that cozy and contained feeling to aid in their sleep. The Magic Sleepsuit is designed to be used for back sleeping only in the crib.”

On a tag attached to the Sleepsuit, the creator Maureen explains its back story: “Like so many parents, I struggled with my baby not sleeping well in his crib. What I did know was that he sleep well when cosy and secure, such as when held or nestled in his car seat. So, by using my instincts as a mother and experience as a pediatric physical therapist, I created the Magic Sleepsuit to simulate this calming and comforting environment in the crib.”

The Baby Merlin is part of a wave of new sleep products marketed to parents as part of that age old dilemma: how to get baby to go to sleep? And once asleep, how to keep them that way? Given the popularity of these products on social media, we’re taking a close look at these products and their safety claims. We did an in-depth review of another controversial sleep product, the DockATot, in a recent post.

What fans say about the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. Parents who’ve used this product say it helped their babies sleep through the night. “This sleep suit saved us,” said one mom. “When he turned 3 months old, we desperately gave the magic sleep suit a shot and he slept 10 hrs straight…in his crib! He has slept through the night every night in his crib for the last 3 weeks (8+ hours a night). We can even put him in his crib awake, and as long as he’s in his sleep suit he can fall asleep on his own. This would’ve never happened before the sleep suit!” Overall, the Magic Sleepsuit has 77% positive customer reviews (four and five stars out of 2200+ reviews) on Amazon.

Swaddling: does your baby need a transition product out of the swaddle?

Swaddling—stop after two months!

Swaddling, wrapping a baby tightly in a blanket, soothes most newborns since they love tight, snug spaces. After all, they just spent nine months in a tight, snug place.

In our Baby 411 parenting book (co-authored by pediatrician and nationally renowned child health advocate, Dr. Ari Brown), we noted a BIG CAVEAT to swaddling:

Newborns like to be snug for the first six to eight weeks of life.

Swaddling works well, until baby wants and needs to stretch out. But, after eight weeks, ditch the swaddling trick. It is important for a baby to move and turn during sleep—otherwise you will end up with a flat-headed baby.

You read that right—the recommendation of pediatric sleep experts like Dr. Brown is to STOP swaddling a baby after EIGHT weeks of life. If you continue, there is a risk to your baby of flat head syndrome.

That’s the first problem we have with Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit—the product is designed to mimic swaddling’s benefits AND be used from three months to nine months of age, long after it is recommended to STOP having your baby sleep in a restricted movement garment. The thickly padded sleepsuit is intended to continue to provide the benefits of swaddling to babies too old to swaddle. But babies that age don’t need it.

And continued swaddling or restriction can be harmful, say pediatric experts. Why? If your baby can’t turn or move after eight weeks of age, they may be at risk for flat-head syndrome (positional plagiocephaly), which can be expensive and time-consuming to treat.

How expensive? One web site estimates the cost of helmet or band therapy to treat positional plagiocephaly at $2300 to $4000. Therapy can take four months of doctor and therapist visits. Not including the time you might spend haggling with your health insurance company that may deem your baby’s flat-head to be non-covered treatment.

We asked the Baby Merlin company about whether they’ve received complaints about developmental delays or flat-head syndrome. “The Magic Sleepsuit has been on the market for almost 9 years and we have not had any reported cases of developmental delays or positional placeography,” owner Maureen Howard told BabyBargains.com an in email.

Bottom line: a baby does NOT need to transition out of a swaddle into anything but a lightweight cotton t-shirt or one-piece sleeper. That way a baby is free to move around and stretch out, which is crucial to development.

Awake during the day but mummified at night?

Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit

Credit: Amazon

The manufacturer of the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit claims that babies can be restricted at night, yet gain gross motor skills during the day. In a response to a Sleepsuit user who claimed the product caused developmental delays, the company essentially argued that night time movement isn’t as necessary for a baby’s growth and development:

It is during their wake periods, that babies should be moving around a lot to gain strength and achieve their gross motor milestones.

Not so, says pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown. “When a baby is spending 13-15 hours a day sleeping (both naps and night time sleep), they need to moving around in their sleep as well.”

In an email conversation with BabyBargains.com, Baby Merlin company founder Maureen Howard argues the Magic Sleepsuit is not as restrictive as a swaddle:

“Babies can move in the Magic Sleepsuit and we recommend to parents to transition babies out of the Magic Sleepsuit as soon as babies are showing signs they are ready for more freedom of movement in their sleep (e.g. rolling over or trying to roll over in the Magic Sleepsuit or “fighting” it in any way).”

There’s one problem with that argument: babies learn to roll over on average around four months of age. And even before a baby rolls over, they try to move and turn. In our opinion, the thick fabric and construction of the Magic Sleepsuit can prevent or delay this from happening—and babies can’t tell their parents they need more freedom.

And rolling over is just one gross motor milestone. At the same time, babies on average can also push their chest up when lying on their stomach. And babies can even sit alone as early as five months (average five to eight months). All of these gross motor milestones can’t be easily accomplished if a baby sleeps for many hours in a padded sleep garment that restricts movement, in our opinion.

Overheating: the #1 safety concern

The biggest safety concern we have with the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit is overheating. While the thick padding is supposed to comfort baby and help with sleep, an obvious risk is overheating.

The National Institute’s of Health warns that overheating is tied to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:

Over bundling may cause infants to overheat, increasing their risk for SIDS, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Parents and caregivers should dress infants in light clothing for sleep (emphasis ours) and keep rooms at a temperature comfortable for adults,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., director of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Here’s the kicker from the NIH:

Infants are sensitive to extremes in temperature and cannot regulate their body temperatures well. Studies have shown that multiple layers or heavy clothing, heavy blankets, and warm room temperatures increase SIDS risk.

On this score, it is our opinion that the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit fails this key safety test.

In Amazon’s product review section, overheating is a key complaint for parents who’ve used the Magic Sleepsuit. Here’s a sampling of the complaints posted to Amazon:

The suit is too hot for my little one. … The suit is too hot for my little one. We had to turn the heat down to 64 degrees in order to keep him from sweating, but then his hands and feet were freezing

Did not help at all. It made my son too hot. He developed a rash on his neck, I am not sure if because of the material or not. I contacted the seller and they said they would get back to me, but never did.

Didn’t do anything but make my lil one sweat like crazy… even when he wore only a diaper underneath. it didn’t comfort him and he continued to wake up repeatedly throughout the night. was like a huge snowsuit on him.

In our review of complaints about the Magic Sleepsuit on Amazon, it didn’t matter whether the parent used a microfleece or cotton version:

I bought the cotton thinking it wouldn’t be as hot as the fleece but within a half an hour of having it on my son, he was burning up. I had only put a short sleeve onesie on him underneath of it.

So how does the company respond to these complaints?

Parents “are responsible to make sure that the baby does not overheat”

Baby Merlin has an extensive online FAQ with tips on using the Magic Sleepsuit. After advising parents on what to wear under the Magic Sleepsuit, the company says rather starkly: “It is up to the parent or caregiver to monitor the baby in the suit and determine an appropriate room temperature . . . Parents are responsible to make sure that the baby does not overheat (e.g. your baby should not feel sweaty to the touch).”

Despite extensive online information on Baby Merlin’s web site, there are no warnings about overheating on the actual Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit product we received—no hang tags, sewn in warnings or instruction sheet. When asked why this was omitted, the company said “we will take that under consideration.”

Ironically, the Baby Merlin company touts the possibility parents could save on heating bills since putting baby in its heavily padded garment would enable a lower temperature in baby’s nursery:

Is the Magic Sleepsuit a good value?
The Magic Sleepsuit replaces costly bedding and the need to supplement the heat in the baby’s room or raise the temperature in the house, which makes it an exceptional value. Additionally, it eliminates the need for other sleep aides.

Despite all the online instruction about making sure baby is not too hot, the company does admit that babies struggle with temperature regulation:

Please remember that babies have immature circulatory systems (emphasis added), so cool fingers or toes are not a good way to gauge body temperature. A quick way to check if your child is comfortable is to place your hand underneath their clothing on their stomach or back. If they feel hot and sweaty, remove a layer of clothing or remove them from the suit. If they feel cold, add a layer of clothing.

In our opinion, not putting your baby in a thickly padded sleep garment to begin with would be the best way to avoid overheating!

Reflexive startles: Solving a problem that isn’t a problem?

One of the claims that the maker of the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit makes in helping babies to sleep is keeping babies from startling themselves awake:

Magic Sleepsuit offers the next step from the swaddle as it provides babies with a cozy, secure sleep environment to help muffle their reflexive startles and aid in their sleep

However, pediatrician and child development expert Dr. Ari Brown points out that babies older than two or three months no longer startle themselves awake. “Most babies lose their newborn startle reflex by 2-3 months of life, so they don’t really need to be swaddled anymore.”

The take home message: the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit aims to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem for the vast majority of babies.

Developmental delays?

Does the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit cause developmental delays? That’s what one parent accused the product of doing in a recent product review posted to Amazon:

Does the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuite cause developmental delays?

In case you can’t read that review, here is the text:

This is being studied for potential delay of motor skills. My 12 month old is not yet crawling or really moving around. All genetic risks are ruled out. They think he is just behind. However I used this for months and I regret it as I may have contributed to his delay. Please until further studies are done…skip this.
 In response to this accusation, Baby Merlin responded to the Amazon review with this comment:
We are not aware of any studies being conducted on the Magic Sleepsuit. The Magic Sleepsuit is designed for sleep only in the back sleeping position which is the recommended safe sleep position for babies.
Babies should be taken out of the Magic Sleepsuit as soon as they wake up. The Magic Sleepsuit is recommended for a specific developmental window when babies should be back sleeping – from the swaddle transition until they are ready for more freedom of movement in their sleep.

Our sizes only go up to 9 months so babies should be transitioned out of the Magic Sleepsuit by that time, if not prior to that if developmentally appropriate. If used for sleep only during the appropriate developmental window, it should not be affecting your baby’s gross motor development.

In our reading of this response, it appears the company is blaming the extended use of the Magic Sleepsuit for the possible delays, since the user said her baby is 12 months old. However, there is no warning label, hang tag or use instructions that are sent with the Magic Sleepsuit that indicates discontinuation of the use after nine months of age. (And, of course, many smaller babies can fit in nine month old clothing long after that age).

To be fair to the Baby Merlin folks, this is the only complaint we’ve seen that alleges developmental delays after using the project. A search of the SaferProducts.gov didn’t return any complaints filed by parents against the Baby Merlin’s Magic  Sleepsuit.

We have reached out to the parent who posted that review to Amazon to gather more information about her story. We will update this post when we get that info.

The take home message: Magic Sleepsuits aren’t the answer

After reading many parent reviews and comments on the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit, we see an obvious pattern: babies that once sleep well when swaddled suddenly become fussy about two months of age. At that age, babies start to rebel against the swaddle, but can’t soothe themselves to sleep yet. (That doesn’t happen until four months to six months of age).
So now everyone’s miserable: babies aren’t sleeping and neither are parents. A sense of desperation sets in. We know—we’ve been there as parents ourselves.

Yet a baby’s newfound skill of rolling over and moving around at night (and during naps) is part of growing up—and an important milestone for baby’s development. One of the toughest parts of being a parent is recognizing your baby is growing and changing . . . and you have to change the sleep strategies along with it. We’ve got detailed sleep advice in our book Baby 411, but here’s the bottom line: quick fixes like the Magic Sleepsuit aren’t the answer.

Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit Review: NOT RECOMMENDED. The Bottom Line: We do not recommend the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. After consulting with pediatric sleep experts about the sleep suit’s intended use, we believe safety concerns regarding overheating and the possibility of developmental delays outweigh any benefits of the product.

Update July 10, 2017. Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit owner Maureen Howard emailed us to respond to the above review. Here are her comments:

We see that you have published your opinion about the Magic Sleepsuit.  Of course, you are welcome to your opinion, but we are disappointed with the manner in which you portrayed our product and do want to clear up items we feel were misinterpreted/misrepresented:

1) The Magic Sleepsuit is NOT A SWADDLE product. It is designed to be the next step after the swaddle.

2) The Magic Sleepsuit has separate arms and legs, and open hands and feet allowing the baby to move more freely and push up if they roll over to clear their airway, unlike the swaddle products.

3) Babies are able to move in the Magic Sleepsuit yet once they can roll over in the Magic Sleepsuit they should be transitioned out.

4) The fabric thickness provides babies with a comforting, secure feeling like a wearable blanket and does allow movement. The AAP does recommend using wearable blankets to prevent any loose bedding in the crib.

5) You mention that babies need to turn or move after 8 weeks to prevent flat head syndrome. Babies in the Magic Sleepsuit have freedom to move their heads. As we told you, we have not had any reports of positional plagiocephaly in our almost 9 years selling the Magic Sleepsuit.

6) As I’m sure you are aware, the AAP recommends back sleeping only as the safe sleep position for babies for as long as possible, up to one year. It is important to us that parents are following safe sleep guidelines when using our product, or any baby sleep product, so the Magic Sleepsuit is to be used for back sleeping only. We are clear that once babies roll over in the Magic Sleepsuit, or seems to be trying to roll over or move around more, it is time to transition them out of it. It is designed for a specific developmental window, and for sleep only.

7) “Awake during the day but mummified at night?” heading in your article is a misrepresentation of the Magic Sleepsuit.

8) We are adding a notation to our hang tags on our Magic Sleepsuit order currently in production stating the Magic Sleepsuit should be used in a room at the recommended temperature for babies. Parents do need to be aware of their baby’s room temperature for sleep whether they are using our product, or any sleep product. I would have appreciated my response to be included in its entirety to this concern.

9) I mentioned in my response to the Amazon review regarding developmental delay that “It is during their wake periods that babies should be moving around a lot to gain strength and achieve their gross motor milestones.” which you interpreted as “the company said that night time movement isn’t necessary for a baby’s growth and development.”, which is not what I said. Babies can move in the Magic Sleepsuit. It does not completely restrict movement. My point was that when awake, babies should be engaging in developmentally appropriate activities to promote their motor development. As a pediatric physical therapist, I am very familiar with infant development. Again, I would have appreciated my response to be included in its entirety.

10) We have many sleep experts, sleep consultants, nurses, and pediatricians that recommend the Magic Sleepsuit. So while we understand your opinion and that of your co-author Dr. Brown, please be aware that many others recommend our product especially after having first hand experience using it with babies.

11) The pictures you used from Amazon customers portray babies in Magic Sleepsuits that are too big. We stress to customers the importance of proper fit and encourage them to send us photos if they have any questions about fit so we can give them sizing input.

12) We strive to provide excellent customer service including replying to Amazon reviews, questions, etc. which you should see if you are looking on our Amazon reviews, FB page, etc. It is unfortunate you chose to include a review saying that we never got back to someone. We did reply to that comment on Amazon offering to resolve the customer’s issue.

There are many other points I could make from the article, but I understand and respect the service you are trying to provide parents. Please understand it is important to me that my product and my business be accurately represented. As I had mentioned in my previous emails, I welcome you to call to discuss your concerns about the Magic Sleepsuit.

The above comments were a response to our review of the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit from owner Maureen Howard.