It’s just after 6 a.m. when you hear the door creak open. You shift in your hospital bed, groggy and sore, and crack open your eyes just a slit. The sun is starting to sneak in through the blinds as you watch someone attend to your hours-old baby.
The blurred figure hums softly as she checks vitals and changes the diaper. Then, in a motion of incredible speed and dexterity, she tightly swaddles your sweet babe and returns him to the bassinet beside you.
As she slips out, basically unnoticed, you wonder, “Was that an angel?”
The Ultimate Swaddlers
Of course it was an angel! It was your nurse, one of the heroes of the labor and delivery floor.
I have always been in awe of the nurses’ ability to wrap up a baby like a tight little burrito in basically no time at all. Give me a receiving blanket, and, eight tries later, I’ll hand you a baby with both hands already broken free.
At 2:30 a.m. when I’m awake for the third time and in the depths of exhaustion? Forget it. I either need my nurse back or another option besides the blanket.
Unfortunately for all of us, most nurses aren’t available for middle of the night house calls, so if your swaddle skills are anything like mine, you’re going to need to figure out a plan. To help you out, I did a little research for you.
Here’s absolutely everything–the why, the how, and the how long–you need to know about swaddle blankets.
Why You Should Use
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Not every baby needs to be swaddled.
Like most areas in parenting, this isn’t a situation where there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, you will have to weigh the pros and cons and use your common sense in order to figure out what will be best for your beautifully unique baby.
First, let’s talk about some reasons why you should consider swaddling:
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a swaddle blanket mimics the tight feeling your baby’s body felt inside your womb which is soothing for her.
- In the same article, the AAP suggests that swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants down.
- This helpful resource tells us swaddling keeps babies from startling themselves awake thanks to the moro reflex which is present until they’re about two months old.
- Finally, this article notes that swaddling can help ensure that babies fall asleep and stay asleep on their backs.
The common theme here is sleep. Generally speaking, swaddling helps many infants (and new moms) develop healthy sleep habits.
That being said, it’s also important to know some of the potential risks when it comes to swaddling:
- According to the AAP, “swaddling may decrease a baby’s arousal, so that it’s harder for the baby to wake up.”
- Swaddles that come undone increase the risk of suffocation in the crib or bassinet.
- This Harvard Medical article notes that swaddling could cause hip problems if babies are swaddled too tightly.
- If a swaddled baby happens to roll to her belly, she might not be able to get her head up if she is face-down and unable to breathe.
Consider all that information in combination with your baby. If you decide swaddling is going to help promote sleep for your entire household, then let’s talk about how to achieve the perfect baby swaddle.
How to Swaddle Your Newborn
Swaddle blankets are the key to that perfect burrito wrap. If that’s your style, then this resource has an easy step-by-step guide.
However, if you have the same level of confidence in your middle of the night wrapping abilities as me, then I have great news: Receiving blankets aren’t the only way to swaddle a baby.
Here are some of the best-rated and most-loved options available to you:
- Classic Swaddle Baby Blanket: If classic swaddling is your style, these blankets are lightweight and large which makes it easier to get a tight wrap.
- SwaddleMe Original Swaddle: The velcro on these makes them super easy to keep your little one’s arms in tight. The one downfall is that you have to take the entire thing off in order to change a diaper.
- Halo Sleepsack: This option keeps baby’s arms tucked in tight while leaving his legs a little more free. Plus, you can keep using it even when you don’t need the arms swaddled anymore.
- Woombie: Your baby will be able to move his arms slightly in this swaddle, but not enough to startle himself awake in the middle of the night. It’s both stretchy and snug which makes it a great option.
- Love To Dream Swaddle: Similar to the Woombie, this swaddle allow your baby some arm movement while also restraining that moro reflex. Plus, the arms in this one come off which makes the transition out of the swaddle easier.
- Zipadee-Zip: Speaking of transition, this option will help your little one who is starting to gain a range of motion and is ready to transition out of the swaddle. It provides the enclosed feeling she is used to while also allowing her to move around freely. It can be even be worn until age three.
- Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit: This is another transitional swaddle meant to help provide that cozy, secure feeling they are used to. It’s super easy to get on and off, but should not be used once baby starts to roll over.
Every baby is different. Between my four kids, we have utilized five of these seven options only because each of my babies had clear sleep preferences. If your baby is struggling with sleep, try a different swaddle.
- Never put your baby in a bed with loose blankets. If you’re worried the swaddle you’re using will loosen in the night, then don’t use it.
- Make sure the swaddle you’re using doesn’t cause your baby to overheat. Slightly warm and not sweaty is perfect, but if she is sweating and her fingers and ears are hot, then she’s overwrapped.
- Make sure baby’s legs can bend up and out at the hips which will help avoid potential hip problems.
When to Stop Using
Again, this will look slightly different for each baby, but you definitely need to be done with the swaddle wraps when your baby starts rolling onto his belly. Without the use of his arms, rolling becomes a dangerous suffocation risk.
I’m guessing, though, that you’re less worried about when and more worried about how? Especially when swaddling has become to key to your sleeping success.
Well, good news! Heather (our certified sleep guru) wrote an entire article about how to stop swaddling, and it’s super helpful. Make sure you check it out when it’s time to make the transition.
Oh, and here’s some more good news: She also teaches a Soothing Webinar which might further help you in the transition out of those swaddle blankets.
Swaddle Blanket Success!
You might never develop the deft ability of a nurse to tightly swaddle a baby with a blanket alone.
Thankfully that’s not your only option.
Hopefully now, armed with the whys and hows of swaddling, you’ll land on an option that best fits both your baby and you.
Which, I think, means more sleep for everyone.
Have You Read These Yet?
- 8 Insanely Simple Ways to Stop Swaddling
- You Need to Try These Surprisingly Fun Newborn Activities
- Baby Not Sleeping? Here’s What You Do…
- Everything a New Mama Warrior Needs to Know About Baby Care
- Why Is Your Newborn Baby Crying? Here’s a Good Guess.
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Molly is the mom of three kids under the age of four and the wife of a busy (and extremely handsome) resident doctor. Mostly though, she’s a particularly average person just trying to live each day well. She spends most of her days perfecting the messy bun, drinking all the coffee, and observing every piece of beauty she can find in the mundane. Read more about Molly in her full bio here.