Before we begin I would like to introduce you to my alter ego; the swaddle queen.
I am a swaddle pusher. Uh huh you read that correctly. I push people and encourage them heavily to try swaddling correctly and try different swaddles until they find one that works best for them.
Okay, okay, I hear you loud and clear. You want to know how I became the crazy swaddle lady right? Let’s just say the swaddle life found me and I have embraced it. Let me rewind the clocks just over 9 years now and start at the beginning.
My first baby was 3 days old. You may or may not know that day 3 is a wild day for all parties; mom's pregnancy hormones are starting to come down and her breastfeeding hormones are starting to really increase. Baby is losing the initial birth exhaustion and beginning to ‘wake up’ and realize “hey, I am not in my warm womb anymore what the heck is going on??”. It is always a really overwhelming day for me in my postpartum journey, but it was the first time and I had no clue what was going on. My inconsolable baby screamed all night long for the very first time and I was alone. All by myself (well until my panicked call to my mom finally guilted her into driving over to my house to help me I was alone at least) and absolutely panicked at a complete loss at what to do. Eventually she finally exhausted herself in my arms and fell asleep in my bed, but the night scared me beyond scared me. I suddenly completely understood why Rachel called Emma ‘it’ when screaming “it’s been hours and it won’t stop crying!”
The next morning my midwife came to do a home visit and I told her of the horrors of my previous night. She asked me if in my attempts I had attempted to swaddle her. I proudly stated “Yes! I did and it didn’t work, she hated it, it made her more upset and I will never ever try that torture again”. She asked me to show her how I swaddled her which I proudly showed her. She took one look at my swaddle job and said “yea that's not how you swaddle a baby.
I was absolutely floored. She showed me how to properly swaddle with a loose swaddle and in essence? I was hooked.
From that day on I swaddled her every time I put her to sleep and the proof was in the pudding. My baby was falling asleep way faster, sleeping much longer stretches and *the best part*...was sleeping alone in her bassinet beside me without needing me to touch her constantly.
So I mean…what's the big deal with swaddling anyways? How and why is it so magical?
Babies are born with what's called the moro reflex (often referred to as the startle reflex) which causes babies to throw their arms and legs out dramatically when they hear a sound or a quick movement or if they are startled. Swaddling helps with the moro reflex as it holds your baby's arms and legs against their bodies nice and tight, not allowing them to jolt themselves awake. Additionally it can help return your baby to a place of comfort and calm…which for them is the womb. Being wrapped up all nice and tight reminds them of being in the womb and let's face it, the new world can be really scary!
The moro reflex usually starts to fade after 2-3 months of age, however is different for every kid. All of our babies thus far have had a really delayed moro reflex and we have actually continued swaddling most of them until 5/6 months of age. *note; once your baby can roll over you should consult with your doctor before considering to swaddle*
Now this is the thing about the swaddling world….there are a million and one different kinds of swaddles and yes…it is overwhelming. So many people (ugh seriously so. many. people.) try swaddling their baby once, their baby squirms and complains, so they never do it again and say that their baby hates being swaddled. That is NOT true! I mean sure, I am sure there are a few babies who genuinely dislike being swaddled, but it is a normal natural reaction for babies to try to fight the swaddle at first. Especially when they are tired and cranky! It doesn't at all mean your baby hates the swaddle! However! Some babies most definitely prefer some swaddles more than others. Fortunately for you there are a lot of options. Unfortunately for you, it's hard to know what to start with.
*Pro tip; if your baby is fighting the swaddle try tipping them over onto their side in the swaddle, bouncing them a bit and shhhhhhh them beside their ear for 4 or 5 minutes. This should help them calm and settle into the swaddle. And yes…sometimes it will take 4 or 5 minutes of a crying, fussy baby. This is normal!
So let’s take a look at some of the available swaddle options and talk about some of the pros and potential cons that each one brings to the table. Add a few different options to your registry so you have a good selection of swaddles to try out right from the beginning!
-the original swaddles.
-you can make them as tight as you need them to be
-there are so many different materials to choose from
-they are fairly easy for babies to squirm out of
-you have to learn how to properly swaddle with them
-don’t work great with older babies
-really easy to use
-keeps baby really snug in there
-hard for baby to break out of
-you can only tighten them as much as the velcro will allow (which often isn't tight enough)
-they tend to be short in length not allowing for much growth
-majority of them are in the same, thicker material
-a one step swaddle
-really easy to use
-fit babies of pretty well all shapes and sizes
-baby can still squirm around inside the pod and move their arms around
-baby can get stuck in an uncomfortable position inside the pod
-can’t make any adjustments to the fit/tightness
Arms up swaddles
-keeps babies arms in a more natural upwards position
-can help them get better adjusted to sleep outside of a swaddle all together one day
-still allows baby a good range of natural movement
-doesn't fully stop the moro reflex
-a lot of babies don’t like sleeping with their arms up
-babies of a certain size don’t fit into them as well
-you can tighten to your chosen tightness
-fits babies of all sizes
-small and compact
-easy for baby to get out of
-risk of baby removing the strap
-not super comfortable
Editor’s top swaddle recommendations
I always start my newborns off with muslin loose swaddles. They are my absolute favorite to swaddle with for tightness, comfort and even just the overall appearance.
Once our babies are about a month to 6 weeks old I find they can break out of the loose swaddles too easily so I switch over to the Ollie wrap, which is my all time favorite velcro wrap. It is a crossover of a velcro wrap and a pod wrap, with a custom material that helps regulate babies body temperature.
Finally, when we are ready to start transitioning out of the swaddling days, we use our Love To Dream Transition Up swaddle. It is an arms up swaddle but with removable arm pieces so I can start transitioning the baby to one arm out, slowly transitioning them out of the swaddle all together.
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