Baby Swaddles: Why They’re Helpful & Which Style To Choose
We’re big fans of swaddling at our house! It worked so well for our now-4-year-old daughter, and we are rinsing and repeating with our infant son.
I highly recommend swaddling your baby – even if they don’t seem to be into it at first. In fact, our pediatrician told a funny story about one of her own kids, and how he fought the swaddle when they first tried it on him. She talked about how even though she knew the benefits of swaddling, she questioned it and they let the baby sleep swaddle-free for a night or two. She was quickly reminded of how amazing swaddles are, though, and they started swaddling her son ASAP – and he grew to love it!
So why is swaddling so wonderful for babies? How long should you swaddle? And what kind of swaddle should you go with? We’ll dig into all of those topics in this post.
If you’re a parent to be, you’ve probably been given the advice to swaddle your baby, but it helps to know why everyone recommends it. Here are several benefits to swaddling your newborn:
Swaddling makes a baby feel more like they’re still in the womb (so they’ll be relaxed and comfortable, given that this tight, cozy positioning was their reality for several months!).
It controls a baby’s startle reflex, helping them sleep better (since their flinging arms won’t wake them up as easily).
Swaddling imitates the feeling a baby gets when being held by a parent, so swaddling babies while they sleep helps them learn to self soothe (since they feel more supported and comforted even though they’re alone in their bassinet or crib).
Putting a baby in a swaddle helps to keep a baby from scratching itself on the face while they sleep.
Swaddling helps to keep a baby on its back while sleeping (the safest position for baby, helping to reduce the risk of SIDS).
A firm swaddle can help to calm an overstimulated baby.
How long should you swaddle?
Swaddle your baby immediately after birth (they’ll start doing this for you in the hospital, if you give birth there) and keep swaddling until your baby is able to roll over OR until your baby is eight weeks old – whichever comes first. (That recommendation comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics.) At that point, a swaddle can become dangerous because they prevent a baby from being able to turn BACK over once they’ve flipped. You can transition them to a sleep sack once they can roll over, which doesn’t inhibit movement in the way a swaddle does but can help keep your baby warm and cozy since they shouldn’t have a blanket in their bassinet or crib for safety reasons. Unlike swaddles, sleep sacks also – importantly – keep a baby’s arms free, allowing them to turn over independently.
Which kind of swaddle should you choose?
In my humble two-time-mom opinion, there’s one correct answer here: GO WITH THE ZIPPER SWADDLE. That said, there are four main types of swaddles, so in order to be fair and balanced I’ll list them all here. 🙂
traditional swaddling blankets
These are large, thin (often muslin) blankets, and require some training and finesse to transform into an effective swaddle. (The nurses at the hospital are amazing at this skill, so you can learn from them while you’re there! You can also watch this helpful video to see how it’s done.)
guided swaddling blankets
These swaddles work without Velcro, zippers, or snaps.
These are swaddles that are more like a pouch for the legs that then hold the baby’s arms in with Velcro wings.
These swaddles hold the baby in a single compressive pouch using a zipper (a.k.a. my recommendation!).