7 Things I Learned About Swaddling

One of the things I found daunting to research before my baby was born was swaddling. There are swaddle blankets, zip up swaddles, velcro swaddles, transitional swaddles, and a zillion types of sleep sacks. (I’ll save that last one for another post.) When to swaddle, how to swaddle, when to NOT swaddle… it was a little overwhelming.

Here’s what I understand now that my baby is 5 months old and we’re well past the swaddle days.

7 things I learned about swaddling:

  1. A swaddle is any sleeping cover for your baby that wraps around them and compresses their arms and/or chest.
    Usually it constrains their arms against their body so they can’t startle themselves awake. The light compression provides them a feeling of security that helps them calm down and may improve their sleep.
  2. Your baby may or may not like to be swaddled, and there’s no telling until you try.
    Our baby was firmly in the “do not like” camp as he desperately wanted his hands on his face.
  3. You don’t have to swaddle.
    In some places, swaddling is not even recommended. If you’re not comfortable with it, there is no need to swaddle. But it can be a useful tool for sleep and soothing for many parents.
  4. You can’t swaddle for long in the grand scheme of things, so don’t spend all your money on swaddles.
    It’s recommended to swaddle your baby for no more than eight weeks or until they show the first signs of rolling, whichever comes first. (Some parents consider this overly conservative and will use a swaddle longer if their baby isn’t rolling.)
  5. If your baby does like to be swaddled, they may only tolerate a specific type.
    We tried the Love to Dream zip up swaddle, and a few velcro swaddles. Our baby hated all of them, but hated the Halo velcro swaddle the least. The nice thing about that one is that you can wrap the velcro wings under their arms to provide the feeling of compression without restricting their arms, if need be. A lot of babies exclusively tolerate the Love to Dream ones which lets them have their hands up near their face.
  6. Don’t bother with swaddle blankets.
    A nurse or experienced grandparent can do it, sure, but a new parent will find it hard to securely and safely swaddle a baby in a blanket, especially in the middle of the night. We used and continue to use our swaddle blankets for a million other things, but not for swaddling.
  7. If your baby loves the swaddle, transitioning them out of it can be painful for everyone involved.
    It’s fantastic if your baby enjoys being swaddled, as it will likely provide you with precious extra sleep in the early days, but when they start to roll or age out of it, you need to drop it for safety. Products like the Merlin or Zipadeezip can help transition a baby out of a swaddle, or some parents go cold turkey to the sleep sack. 

So given all this uncertainty and before you’ve even met your own baby, what’s an expectant parent to do to prepare? Here’s what I’d recommend.

  1. Only buy swaddles in newborn and 0-3mo sizes… unless you know you’re having a giant baby.
  2. Have at least 2 types of swaddles – ideally, borrow them! – and only one of each type. Then if your baby has a preference, order more of that type ASAP so you can swap them out when there’s a leak or blowout in the night.
  3. Be ready with newborn and 0-3 sized sleep sacks (again maybe only 1 or 2 as you may not need them) in case your baby doesn’t like the swaddle. 

Tell us in the comments – did your baby like to be swaddled? If so, what worked for you?

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