by maipham

May 24, 2020

should i swaddle my baby

Should I swaddle my baby? Will it help with his sleep?

Before Ethan was born, I sure did read a whole bunch of books about newborn babies. And to my surprise, they suggested swaddling baby. I never had a baby before, so I didn’t even know what it was.

Where I live, people don’t generally swaddle their babies, unless it is winter. But even in winter, they still allow free movements. So I was very skeptical. 

Then I had Ethan, as soon as when we returned home from the hospital, he started catnapping. Or whatever the heck it was. 

Like, other babies, they took a straight 2 hours nap for every of their nap. But our son only slept for 1 hour and then he woke up crying. He was hungry for milk. We knew it as every time he woke up, if we didn’t shove a bottle or my nipple in his mouth, he would open his mouth and screamed so loud that the whole neighborhood heard him. We could even see the dang-a-ling thing in his throat (just kidding). But then he was falling back to sleep in our arms while drinking the milk and woke up crying again if we put him down on the bed.

I kept a notebook and recorded his schedule to see if he slept enough. And that f’king stressed me out.

It was such a stupid decision to do that. And by that, I mean the f’king notebook and tracking shit.

Instead of sleeping with my son and relaxing to increase my milk supply, I read and read and f’king stressed myself out. So dumb.

So out of the chaos, I bought a swaddle, in the hope that it would help my baby to sleep longer than 1 hour, and sleep enough to develop. 

So if you are also dying like I was before, and thinking of swaddling your baby, or maybe you are just preparing things to welcome your newborn, here are all the things you need to consider about swaddling.

What the heck is swaddling?

First off, swaddling is not something new. It is a super ancient method. Here’s what they say in Wikipedia:

Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants in blankets or similar cloths so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted. Swaddling bands were often used to further restrict the infant. Swaddling fell out of favor in the 17th century.

Hah! So yell out to all people and swaddle-obsessed moms out there who roll their eyes when I say I didn’t know what swaddling was, it fell out of favor in the 17th century. 

But I’m sure we all agree that being swaddled helps our little ones feel snug and secure, like how they felt in your womb. Hopefully this can calm a baby, and reduce the Moro reflex or startle reflex. 

Often people say swaddling seems to help calm their little one, helping them settle more easily and sleep for longer. Yet there is little research to support these theories.

Opinions from experts (doctors, nurses, grannies, and moms) on swaddling is also divided. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this.

My son did sleep a little better with the swaddle. Although his cat nap continued to be a thing for us, there were few naps he slept for 2 hours. And at night, after swaddling him, I just backed off and left. This strategy worked for him until he was 4 months old.

All the cons of swaddling

Brain development

According to Intermountain, moro reflexes, or primitive reflexes, are essential for development. Throughout a baby’s first year, the baby performs these reflexive movement responses over and over which assists the brain to develop.  As the brain matures, these reflexes become “integrated” and are no longer active or needed.

When you swaddle your baby, it reduces the moro reflexes, ie, somehow reduce the assistant for your baby to develop his brain. However, there is no proven research or study for this, just a common sense thought.

Hip dislocation

If you swaddle your baby tightly, chances are, he will not be able to move his hips and knees well. 

Some swaddling techniques actually recommend that.

However, there is some evidence suggesting that tightly swaddling a baby could increase their chance of developing hip dysplasia (a developmental problem with a baby’s hip joint). 

Risk of suffocation

If the swaddle is too loose, or your baby makes it lose, when he kicks, it can go over his face and make it harder for him to breathe. 

Make sure this doesn’t happen.

Overheat

Too many layers of clothes will easily overheat your baby. Constantly check your baby’s neck and belly to make sure there is no sweat or overheat risk.

Overheating is very risky for babies as they can’t reduce their temperature as effectively as adults. This can cause some serious trouble if your baby is overheating (I don’t want to say it out or even write it down, but it’s the SDID).

How to safely swaddle your baby

There are many different swaddle brands out there. But as you follow their instruction on how to use the swaddle, make sure you also follow these following safety tips.

  • Your baby might not need swaddling. If your baby is happy to sleep without swaddling, don’t bother. If your current method works, don’t change.
  • Wrap your baby firmly but gently. Make sure your baby is able to move their hips and knees freely to kick. A newborn baby’s legs should be able to fall into a natural position in a frog style.
  • Put your baby to sleep on his back all the time, being swaddled or not.
  • The swaddle can’t come loose.
  • The material of the swaddle is a thin, breathable materials like cotton.
  • Leave your baby’s head and neck should never be swaddled. The maximum swaddle level is the shoulders.
  • Constantly check your baby’s neck and belly to make sure he doesn’t get too hot. Make sure you follow my tips on how to dress your baby to sleep in a 70-degree room.

How to wean from swaddling

When your baby starts showing signs of trying to roll over, you can gradually wean from swaddling. One thing for me is that I don’t like sudden things, like any sudden things. That’s why I’m scared shitless of scary movies and all the jump-scare shit they do.

And I believe my baby is the same. At least for now.

So Ethan was a slow flipper. He didn’t flip himself on his back until he was 5 months old. However, he did increase arm movement a lot before that.

When I noticed that, I started weaning from swaddling for him. I started by swaddling him with one arm out of the swaddle, then both arms out. Then both legs out. Eventually I only use the swaddle to wrap around him as a cover, no arm or leg restricted movement.

If your baby shows signs of rolling over earlier than my son, you can even start by leaving both of his hands out of the swaddle.

Top 6 best swaddle for babies

Miracle Blanket Swaddle


This is my favorite swaddle. As there is no velcro or zipper on it and it means no scratching your baby’s face. 

You wrap the wings around your baby for a few times and tuck the end in. This swaddle grows with your baby. You don’t have to upsize or buy another design or brands once your baby gets a little bigger.

However, in the middle of the night, when it’s time for a diaper change, you have to unwrap your baby and this easily wakes him up.

What we like

  • No Velcro or zipper
  • Simple design and versatile
  • No need to buy extra once your baby gets bigger
  • If you have a similar cloth, you can copy this swaddle without buying one.

What we don't like

  • Hard to unwrap without waking the baby up.
  • It takes more time to use this than other zipper swaddles.

Aden + anais Swaddle Blanket

Another no zipper or Velcro swaddle in the shape of a blanket, almost. You can use this swaddle-blanket for many things: swaddle, blanket, burp cloth, play mat or stroller cover. 

The material is cotton muslin that is thin, breathable, versatile and soft. They also come in different cute prints that make them great baby shower gifts.

Again, it takes more time to get used to this swaddle-blanket, because it is more like a blanket. So if your baby moves too much, he can break free.

What we like

  • Material is great
  • Versatile

What we don't like

  • It’s more like a blanket design
  • Harder to use.

SwaddleMe

Basically, the SwaddleMe’s design is quite similar to other wings swaddle. It has wings that you can use to easily wrap around your baby.

This swaddle has a Velcro to support the wrapping process. Very easy and quick wrapping. 

As there is no zipper, you still have to unwrap your baby to change his diaper mid-night. However, the Velcro is a game-changer, you can change him quickly and less likely to wake him up.

What we like

  • The Velcro makes it easier to swaddle.

What we don't like

  • The Velcro (again) can scratch your baby’s face.
  • Still need to undo the swaddle for a diaper change.

The Ollie Swaddle

One thing about swaddle is that we parents always worry about overheating. But this Ollie Swaddle can help to reduce (not completely remove) our worry.

It is made of moisture-wicking material: 86% polyester and 14% Spandex that is breathable to prevent overheating. It is thin, light and soft.

It consists of a Velcro tabs up top to keep it secure while the bottom is left open so you can adjust the length, or simply leave it open to allow some air in. This feature is great for a diaper change at night.

What we like

  • It has a Velcro to allow easier use
  • The bottom is left open.

What we don't like

  • The Velcro (I told you I don’t like Velcro).

Love To Dream Swaddle


Many babies prefer to keep their arms up like their favorite position in the womb rather than nestled beside or across their bodies. This Swaddle allows them to do just that, but also help to calm their startle reflex.

It has a simple twin-design zipper that keeps it secure and allows super easy diaper change.

What we like

  • Easy diaper change.

What we don't like

  • I don’t like the zipper as it can scratch the baby when you put it on or take it off.

How to make a swaddle for your baby

One day when Ethan’s swaddle was in the washer and we were out of the swaddle, I used a big piece of cloth to make a swaddle for him.

I used a non-velcro-non-zipper swaddle that is very simply designed. All I need to do is to copy the shape of it, and cut my fabric in a similar shape.

However, not all fabric is the same. You should get a cotton, stretchy cloth so it allows blood circulation and baby movements.

Final thought

All the swaddles I mentioned above don’t guarantee their work on every baby. Some babies love to be swaddled while others hate it big time. 

If your baby is fine without it, don’t even think of changing anything. But if your baby needs some help with his sleep, I definitely recommend you give it a try.

Do you use a swaddle? Which type works for you?

About the author 

Mai Pham

Mai Pham discovered her passion for writing a few years ago and she never stop thinking about it ever since. She finally took the leap and created Live a Worthy Life to brag about her smart ass (mainly just for fun). Enjoyed the fun writing brings, now with her new interest in everything-baby-related, she created Mommy Instinct, to tell mamas that it's ok that they mess up, that they don't know what the hell they are doing, and that it's okay to sit back and relax for a while.

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