Like many good stories, the development and design of The Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ was years in the making. Created in 1997 by pediatric sleep consultant, Angelique Millette, who recognized the need for a more natural way to swaddle and help babies sleep, the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ was originally called “the baby moose” when first introduced to the public.
Millette says that early on in her work helping babies (and parents) get needed sleep, she always swaddled babies hands up: “It just made sense. I always noticed that babies wanted to have their hands up close to their heart. I called it the “baby moose” position. Once we swaddled babies with their hands up, they always seems to fall right to sleep because they were in that classic fetal tuck position that many humans tend to sleep in.” One day, looking at an ultrasound image of a baby in the womb, Millette put it all together: “Babies have their hands up and close to their heart in the womb. That’s why the babies seemed to sleep so much better when swaddled hands up.” So, naturally, Millette began to wonder why babies were being swaddled with their hands down at their hips, the popular swaddling method.
It was Millette’s doctoral research, looking at the different ways that parents help their babies to sleep, that led to an important article looking at the effects of hip dysplasia from tight swaddling around the hips. The study suggested that there was a right way and a wrong way to swaddle babies and that too-tight swaddling at hips could be a factor in babies developing hip dysplasia. In her work with babies, Millette had observed the increasing rate of hip dysplasia and had wondered if it might be linked to the popular swaddling garments that often swaddled babies hands down at hips. Millette revised “the baby moose” swaddle design and with the help of her design partner and husband Mike, co-created the first Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ design on a sewing machine on their kitchen table. They began beta-testing the swaddle: “Right away we heard from parents about how well the swaddle was working. Babies were sleeping better, and that meant parents were sleeping better too.” With the help of a seamed-pocket and a wing design, babies could move their hands and arms with their “hands up.”
There was another unintended positive result of the early beta-testing of the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™. Millette explains that parents who may have given up on swaddling their babies in the traditional hands-down swaddles or popular swaddle blankets were now using the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ and finding that their babies liked it better than the other traditional hands-down swaddles: “Parents said that they had prematurely stopped swaddling their babies in the other hands-down swaddles because their babies had broken-out of the popular swaddle blankets. The other popular swaddles weren’t working because babies were trying to get their hands up to their mouths. Parents were telling us that not only was the hands-up position helpful for sleeping, but that babies were after their hands for sucking and soothing too.” Millette says that from that moment on, all future prototypes of the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ included only non-dyed, 100% cotton fabric: “We wanted to be sure that if babies were going to be sucking on their hands, the fabric of the swaddle needed to be free of any harsh chemicals and free of synthetic fabrics.”
With the help of the beta-tester babies and their parents, Millette created the final proto-type design complete with removable wing with a first-of-its kind hand-pocket. The two-in-one design enables parents to remove the attached wing from the sleep sack so that parents can continue to use the sleep sack long after their baby no longer needs to be swaddled. Says Millette, “So many baby products only get used for a few months before baby grows a little more and develops a little more, and the product gets put up on a shelf in the closet. We wanted to be sure that parents would get more than just two months use out of the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™. That they could use it as a sleep sack after their baby no longer needed to be swaddled. And they could save their money too by only buying one sleep product.”
The last two design changes came straight out of Millette’s many years as a pediatric sleep consultant. Millette not only wanted to help babies to sleep in a more natural way, but she also wanted to make nighttime parenting easier too: “I wanted to be sure that parents could do a diaper change without un-swaddling their baby. So we added an easy-access zipper to the bottom of the sleep sack. Parents no longer need to un-swaddle their baby to do a diaper change and parents don’t need to spend time after the diaper change trying to re-swaddle and soothe baby back to sleep. Many parents told us that their babies just slept right through the diaper change and from that moment on, we knew that we had to keep it! No parent wants to spend more time awake at night?!” Finally, the sleep sack needed to be easy to put on a tired and cranky baby at bedtime: “So many baby sleep garments go over babies head. Trying to put anything over a tired and fussy baby’s head just leads to an unhappy baby and worn out parents. So, we were sure that the sleep sack could easily open and close from the side and shoulder.”
With a completed product, Millette says “we couldn’t have designed the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ without all of those babies and parents’ help. They were so honest with us about what worked and didn’t work about the design. From the first babies I swaddled hands-up over 15 years ago, to the beta-testers who helped us to test the more than ten prototypes, they are directly responsible for the Hands to Heart Sleep Swaddle™ being available for babies and parents now. We can’t thank them enough!”