The Ultimate Guide to Baby Swaddles: Everything You Need to Know
As a new parent, you may have heard about swaddling and how it can help soothe your baby and improve their sleep. But do you really understand what a swaddle is, why it works, and how to use it safely? In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about baby swaddles, including the science behind the calming effect, different types of swaddles, how to transition your baby out of a swaddle, and recommendations for the best swaddles on the market.
Why do swaddles calm babies?
Swaddling has been used for centuries to calm fussy babies and promote better sleep. But why does it work? The answer lies in proprioception, which is the awareness of your body’s position and movements. When a baby is swaddled, their arms and legs are securely wrapped, which provides a sense of comfort and security similar to being in the womb or being held tightly. Imagine your baby is crying and the moment you pick them up and hold them tightly in your arms, that sense of being secure and held closely is mimicked when you swaddle your baby. Swaddles work best if your baby is calm before you wrap them in the swaddle. If your baby is very upset, try to calm them before swaddling or swaddle your baby and continue to calm them before laying them down.
Additionally, swaddling prevents the Moro reflex, which is the sudden jerking motion that can startle a baby and interrupt their sleep. The Moro reflex is present at birth and is your baby’s way of waking up if they experience the sensation of falling or unpleasant stimuli. By reducing these stimuli and creating a cozy cocoon, swaddling can help babies feel more relaxed and calmer. This reflex will diminish by 4-6 months of age as your baby begins to have more control over their movements and begins to roll from their back to their stomach.
Another benefit of swaddling is body temperature regulation. Infants need help regulating their body temperature until they are about 3 months old. As babies develop, they build fat stores which can help to regulate their body temperature. During the 1st 3 months babies can overheat or become too cold quickly so keeping the room temperature between 68-74 degrees is important.
Different uses for swaddles
There are a variety of reasons why a parent may choose to swaddle their baby aside from promoting better sleep. Swaddling can also provide a sense of comfort when a baby is experiencing colic or reflux. It can also be useful for calming a baby during diaper changes or other activities that may be stressful. Swaddles can also help regulate a baby’s body temperature, especially during the colder months. Some additional uses for a swaddle:
- Tummy time mat Burp cloth
- Burp cloth
- Nursing cover
- Diaper changing station
- Stroller or shopping cart cover
- Backdrop for photo shoot
- Lightweight blanket
How do I know when to take arms out of swaddles?
Most babies are ready to transition out of a swaddle between 3-6 months of age. However, it is important to pay attention to your baby’s cues and signs of readiness. If your baby is starting to roll over or seems restless in their swaddle, it may be time to transition. When transitioning out of a swaddle, it is recommended to start by swaddling with one arm out before fully transitioning to a sleep sack. Depending on the type of swaddle you are using, you can then take both arms out over the next few days to a week. Position the swaddle lower on the back so that baby’s torso
is swaddled with arms free. If you have used a swaddle from day 1, your baby will continue to enjoy and get a sense of comfort from the pressure of the swaddle. You may find experimenting with a sleep sack useful as well. Always consult your pediatrician and postpartum doula for guidance.
Should I use a swaddle?
Whether or not to use a swaddle is a personal decision for each parent and baby. Some babies may not like the feeling of being swaddled, while others find it comforting. It is important to ensure that the swaddle is used safely and correctly to prevent any risk of
suffocation or overheating. Additionally, some babies may not need to be swaddled at all and can instead sleep comfortably in a sleep sack or other wearable blanket. It is important to know that even if your baby seems to dislike the swaddle, you may want to expose your baby to being swaddled for short times so that they become comfortable in the swaddle.
Best Swaddle vs Weighted Sleep Sack
There are different types of swaddles available on the market, including traditional blanket swaddles, Velcro or zipper swaddles, and sleep sacks or wearable blankets. Each type has its pros and cons, and what works best for one baby may not work for another. Weighted sleep sacks are a popular alternative to traditional swaddles and can help promote better sleep by providing a gentle pressure similar to a hug. When choosing a swaddle or sleep sack consider your baby’s needs, preferences, and safety.
Many swaddles and weighted sleep sacks can be expensive, so I recommend that you look to purchase them from consignment shops or online resale sites. Experimenting with different types of swaddles/sleep sack doesn’t need to be cost prohibitive! Given that most babies use swaddles or a short period of time, secondhand swaddles are usually in like new condition.
This can be a cost-effective way to experiment with different options to figure out what works best for your baby.
Many parents start by using the hospital blanket that they were sent home with. This works for the 1st few days as the baby is still sleepy and not moving as much as they will after the 1st few days. At this point, I recommend that you begin to use a Velcro/zippered/snap type swaddle to prevent baby from loosening the swaddle and creating a potential smothering situation. Most babies can move enough to undo a typical blanket swaddle, freeing their arms and causing the blanket to become undone.
Here are a few of my favorite swaddles and sleep blankets
- Nested Bean
- Halo Sleepsack Swaddle & Ideal Temp Wearable Blanket SwaddleMe Original Swaddle
- Love to Dream Swaddle
- Baby Brezza 2-in-1 Breathable Swaddle Transition Sleepsuit Happiest Baby Sleepea
Swaddling can provide comfort and security for babies, but it is important to understand how to use it safely and effectively. By understanding the science behind the calming effect of swaddling, different types of swaddles, knowing how to transition out of a swaddle, and choosing the best option for your baby, you can help promote better sleep and a happier baby. Consult your postpartum doula for guidance and recommendations, and happy swaddling!