One of the great loves of my life is sleep. I was so excited when we learned we were expecting the twinblings, but one of my biggest anxieties about their arrivals was the looming loss of sleep. So I have always been extremely curious about any product that claims to help babies sleep longer and better.
I was made aware of the Merlin Magic Sleepsuit when I was still pregnant. Two of my friends who had twins absolutely swore by the Merlin and they said that they could not have gotten through the first year without them. I mentally filed this information away during my pregnancy, and when our pediatrician advised against swaddling at the two-month mark, I went on Amazon and purchased a Merlin suit the very same day. More recently I also purchased a Zipadee-Zip. From my limited research on mommy Facebook groups and blogs, the Merlin and the Zipadee seem to be the most popular sleepsuit solutions for babies to transition out of their swaddles so I figured a comparison might be fun, based on my own experience with them.
How does it work?
I have to preface these explanations by saying that I am no expert in baby sleep so please take these explanations with a huge grain of salt. (Although let’s face it, products with “magic” in their name imply that even the creators of these sleep outfits are not quite sure how they work either!)
The Merlin suit is puffy and somewhat stiff. My understanding is that it works by weighing down baby’s arms and legs so that she feels a bit restricted (albeit nothing like the restrictions a baby feels in utero, or even in a swaddle). I like to think of the Merlin the way that I think of my big cushy down comforter; I love to get all snuggled in under the weight of that puffy comforter and the Merlin is sort of like the safe baby version of that!
The Zipadee solution is made of lightweight thin fabric so it doesn’t have the puffy comfort of the Merlin. But the Zipadee restricts the space for baby’s arms so when she is startled in her sleep, the suit restricts some of that movement and baby is not fully awakened and/or can get back to sleep more easily. I would compare a Zipadee to an adult’s sleeping bag; you can’t move around very much in there and your movements are far more limited than if you’re sleeping in a bed.
Baby preference tied to swaddle preference?
One of my babies took better to the Merlin and one to the Zipadee, and I’ve done a little bit of thinking about why. I finally came to the conclusion that their preferences could be tied back to how they preferred to be swaddled as newborns.
As a newborn baby, Lilly always preferred to be swaddled with one or both arms out and she preferred being swaddled with SwaddleMe’s; she took to the Merlin suit instantly. On the other hand, Audrey always needed to be swaddled tightly because she very frequently startled herself awake and we nearly exclusively swaddled her in the Woombie as a newborn; she responded better to the Zipadee.
With Lilly one month older than Audrey, we started with Lilly in the Merlin first when she was around two months old. It worked so well that we naturally assumed Audrey would take to it just as well one month later. While she did fine in the Merlin, we never got long 8+ hour stretches of sleep with her until we tried the Zipadee. On the other hand, we never tried the Zipadee with Lilly considering our great initial success with her and the Merlin.
When we first put Lilly in that adorable pink Merlin suit, I laughed so hard that I cried. Lilly looked like the cutest pink marshmallow that I had ever seen! She immediately took to the suit and was so comfortable in it that her face took on a very serious contented look, which just made us laugh even harder. When we later transitioned Audrey to the Merlin suit, we likewise had a good laugh at how adorably puffy she looked in it!
As for the Zipadee-Zip, I can’t say that I’ve ever laughed out loud zipping Audrey in to the outfit. But the cuteness factor definitely was there the morning after her first night when I walked in to her nursery as she was waking up. She stretched out all her arms and legs and she looked like a cupcake-covered starfish! I laughed out loud but sadly was too slow with the camera to capture the moment.
Cost and access
The creators of these products have certainly done their pricing strategy homework because they cost approximately the same amount.
I purchased our Merlin suits on Amazon for $39.95 each and got free 2-day shipping with our Prime account.
I purchased the Zipadee-Zip for $36.95 at the company’s website and had to pay $7.95 for regular 7-10 day shipping. The total cost came to $44.90.
Quality, durability and variety
I have found the Merlin suit to be sturdy and high-quality. There are two zippers on each suit and I’ve never had a difficult time with the zippers. The fabric has held up well. My only beef with the Merlin is that it is so puffy that it takes a long time to dry. I remember one night right before bedtime when I almost broke down in tears when I realized that our nanny had washed Lilly’s Merlin suit that day and it hadn’t properly dried in our machine. We always had to run the Merlin suit through the dryer, but then also remove it from the dryer, turn it inside-out, and allow to air dry for even longer. I also will say that the Merlin only has three color choices (pink, yellow, blue) and is heavily branded on the front, which I don’t love.
On the other hand, the Zipadee-Zip has a larger offering of available prints. Organized by boy, girl, or neutral categories, there are different options available on their website. For my taste, however, I wasn’t really drawn to any of the prints – they all seemed very bright and garish; I wished they had some more subtle options. Like the Merlin, the Zipadee also has a zipper and I have never had trouble with it. I like that it zips from the bottom so I don’t have to fiddle with getting the tab in-line when both me and the baby are tired. The Zipadee is made of lightweight fabric and so it washes easily and dries quickly. However, I found that the Zipadee fabric started to pill right away, especially where Baby Audrey’s hands fit. I also dislike that the fabric is not 100% cotton, which I would expect for a product that cost me nearly 50 bucks.
When I took Baby Audrey in for her 2-month pediatric appointment, I was expecting to hear that it was time to transition her out of the swaddle because that is what we had heard one month earlier at Lilly’s 2-month appointment. When the question came up, I proudly declared that we were ready for the transition and that I had already purchased a Merlin suit for her.
Unfortunately, I was pretty devastated to hear the pediatrician say that she does not like the Merlin suit. She even went so far as to note this on our take-home papers so that I definitely couldn’t miss it! Her explanation was that the suit is too restrictive and she especially didn’t like it for babies who have poor muscle tone or coordination, an area that has always been more challenging for Audrey.
I hope my pediatrician doesn’t read this but I actually decided to keep using the Merlin on both babies despite this advice. But only a few weeks later, we had a physical therapist evaluate Lilly for the flat head she was developing and I received the same advice. The therapist told us that she also does not like the Merlin because it stops babies from rolling, which is good for their development and especially good for babies like Lilly who need to be encouraged to sleep on their sides more to stop the flat head from worsening.
After hearing negative reviews from two medical professionals, I decided the time had come to move out of the Merlin suits. Mr. Starfish and I, as well as our nanny, were downright terrified to stop the Merlins. We all braced ourselves for a rocky sleep road, but we decided that quitting cold-turkey was the best approach.
I can honestly say that the transition out went much smoother than I anticipated. Lilly didn’t miss a beat, and she continued to sleep well and we didn’t really notice any difference. We hit the 4-month sleep regression with her around the same time but even that went better than we feared. Audrey, on the other hand, continued to wake 2-4 times during the night and we knew that she was not hungry or in need of a diaper change. It was then that I purchased the Zipadee and she has been sleeping in that for about 3 weeks now. She is sleeping her best right now, and the first night in the Zipadee she went nearly nine hours without crying.
In the end, I have mixed feelings about both of these products. On the negative side, I think that they are both vastly overpriced, and I also will repeat that two medical providers cautioned me against the Merlin (so far, no negative feedback from doctors on the Zipadee). On the positive side, both products did work for us and I credit them with happier and longer nights for the Starfish family. Any other pros and cons to these products that I’m missing?