Struggling with a newborn that hates the swaddle? Don't despair! Here are 6 tips for babies who don't like the swaddle and some great alternatives to try!
I will never forget the first time I tried to swaddle my newborn baby. There I was, a fresh new parent, trying to wrap a muslin blanket around my baby, and…it was a complete fail.
My baby had her arms free within seconds. I mean, it looked so easy in the video, and the baby seemed so happy. Unlike mine.
I finally figured out how to swaddle my baby, but she didn't seem to be a big fan. And after trying a couple of times, I was convinced she hated the swaddle! And the swaddle hated her…
But I was not yet ready to give up. I ordered another swaddle, tried a few times, watched a couple million more videos, and ta-da! After a two-hour nap, I was greeted by a happily swaddled baby.
Now a swaddle does not guarantee that your baby will sleep 12 hours straight, but it can help in several ways. So if you think your baby is one of those babies who thankfully declines the swaddle, then continue reading this article because I have some great tips for you!
This article covers:
The Different Ways A Swaddle Can Help
Swaddling can help improve infant sleep in a few different ways.
Comforting Feeling: A swaddle can help to calm and soothe the baby. The feeling of being snug and secure can be very comforting for infants. A study revealed that full-term infants cried less when swaddled compared to other techniques. So if you have a fussy baby on your hands, a swaddle can actually help them calm down.
Longer Naps: Swaddling can also help your baby nap for a longer stretch. Newborns have the Moro reflex. It's a startling reflex that makes them flex their arms and legs due to sudden noises or movements. Sometimes newborns will startle themselves awake with their own movements. Swaddled babies are less able to flail their arms and legs around, which can help them stay asleep for longer periods.
Easier Crib Transfers: If you are practicing sleeping in the crib, the swaddle can help too. Even if you wait until your baby is in deep sleep, they can wake when transferred to the crib because of their startle reflex. The swaddle will help to keep the reflex in check so you can easier transfer your baby to the bassinet or crib.
How To Find The Best Swaddle For My Baby
When choosing a swaddle for your baby, there are a few things to consider:
Size: Make sure the swaddle is the right size for your baby. It should be large enough to wrap around your baby comfortably but not so large that it poses a risk of suffocation.
Material: Look for a swaddle made from soft, breathable materials such as cotton or muslin. Avoid fabrics that are too thick or heavy, as these may cause your baby to overheat.
Design: Consider the design of the swaddle and whether it will be easy to use. Sometimes a swaddling blanket or a traditional swaddle can be too complicated for some parents (I am some parents). There are other swaddles that have Velcro closures or snaps and are very easy to use. Choose a design that works best for you and your baby.
Safety: Make sure the swaddle is safe for your baby. It should not have any loose strings or other small parts that could pose a choking hazard.
Comfort: Consider whether the swaddle will be comfortable for your baby. Look for a swaddle with soft, smooth edges and plenty of give to allow for movement, especially in the hip and leg areas.
Overall, it's important to choose a swaddle that is the right size, made from breathable materials, easy to use, and guarantees safe sleep for your baby. I also suggest having at least one extra swaddle to use when the other one gets dirty or spit on.
Is It Necessary To Swaddle?
Of course, swaddling is not a must. It's absolutely ok not to swaddle your newborn. It's totally up to you. Some parents don't like to use the swaddle themselves.
The swaddle is not THE KEY to ideal newborn sleep. It can just be a helpful addition to help your baby sleep. Babies are different, and it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. So don't stress about it.
Also, remember that newborns are not supposed to sleep for a too long stretch. They are designed by nature to wake regularly. Wakings are a protective measure against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
On another note, it is also worth mentioning that the swaddle can only be used for a short time (until your baby rolls over). So don't spend a month trying to convince your baby how great the swaddle is, only to use it for just another month.
Tips When Baby Hates Being Swaddled
If you think your baby is not interested in being swaddled, you can try the following things:
Adjust the fit: In most cases, the swaddle is too loose around the arms, and then it will not work as effectively. But make sure the swaddle is not too tight, either. After swaddling, you should be able to fit two fingers between the swaddle and the baby's chest. Overall, the swaddle should be snug enough to provide a sense of security but not so tight that it restricts movement or causes discomfort. Also, the swaddle should always be loose around the hips to prevent hip dysplasia or dislocation.
Use a different material: Some babies may be more sensitive to certain materials. If you're using a swaddle made from a thick or heavy fabric, try switching to a lighter, more breathable material like cotton or muslin. Also, check for labels inside the swaddle. Sometimes those can bother babies, too.
Try a different swaddle design: There are several different swaddle designs available, including wrap-style swaddles and swaddles with snaps or Velcro closures. If your baby doesn't seem to like one design, try another to see if it works better.
Check the timing: Newborns are very sensitive when it comes to the right timing. They can get easily overtired and then cry while being swaddled. Try swaddling your baby as soon as you see the first tired signs.
Try a different swaddling technique: If your little one likes to suck their fingers, fist, or thumb, you can also try swaddling with one arm out. Instead of putting their arms on the sides, you can also try to cross them over their chest.
Signs That My Baby Really Hates The Swaddle
Sometimes we think our baby doesn't like the swaddle, but this is actually not the case. The same thing often happens with the carrier. Babies often cry when placed into the carrier and then suddenly sleep for hours in there. So even though your baby might fuss when you are swaddling them, it doesn't necessarily mean they hate it! So that is not the best indicator.
Instead, watch how your baby behaves while swaddled or after waking up. If they free their hands every single time or constantly kick with their feet, it might be an indicator that they don't like it. Also, if you find them often sucking on their hands or sleeping with their arms up, it can mean that they would rather have their arms free. My baby boy, for example, would always need one arm close to his face.
When To Stop Swaddling
Babies usually outgrow the need for swaddling as they get older and become more active. This typically happens around the age of 2-4 months but can vary from baby to baby. Some signs that your baby may be ready to stop being swaddled include:
They are able to roll over: Once your baby is able to roll over or shows signs of rolling over, it's no longer safe to swaddle them as it increases the risk of accidental suffocation.
They show signs of wanting to be free: If your baby is always breaking free from the swaddle or seems to be uncomfortable while swaddled, you should just stop swaddling them.
You're stressed out: When the swaddle starts to stress you out, you should definitely stop swaddling. Even if a swaddle is recommended, it is not the ultimate solution or a must! Just let it go and never look back. It's not worth stressing about a piece of fabric!
Alternatives To Swaddles
There are some great alternatives to swaddles that you can also use until toddlerhood:
Baby sleeping bags/Sleep sacks: I love sleeping bags! A sleeping bag is like a wearable blanket with a zipper closure. It allows your baby to move their arms and legs freely while still providing some restrictions in the leg area. They can be a good option for babies who need a little extra warmth at night. You will find sleeping bags usually until the age of 3.
Sleep sacks with feet: A Sleep sack with feet is like a onesie but with a very wide fit around the leg area. They are made with a thicker fabric to provide enough warmth during the night. They are a good option for babies who are very active. What's great about them is that you can find them even for 4-5-year-olds. Believe it or not, those guys still throw off their blankets. And why not grab one for yourself, too?
Baby wraps: While a baby wrap is not really similar to a swaddle, baby wraps and carriers can help your baby sleep really well. And isn't that the reason why we use swaddles? Newborns feel super comfortable and secure snuggled up to their parent. So if you are open to trying a carrier, then this is also a great method to get your baby to nap well.
Ultimately, the best alternative to swaddling for your baby will depend on their age, needs, and preferences.
A loose blanket is not safe for a baby because of the risk of suffocation. If you use a blanket, make sure your baby is supervised the whole time they sleep.
Believe it or not, there is a life beyond the swaddle! Swaddling will work great for some babies, but for others, it just won't be a thing. And that's perfectly fine!