I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!

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Monday
Mar122012

Swaddle Series, Part 1: Five Swaddles I Love & One to Avoid

It's springtime, and babies are blooming! I know lots of new parents about to deliver in the next month or two, and I'm looking forward to snuggling lots of tiny babies. Thinking back to the newborn days with my own children made me appreciate the importance of a good swaddle, so I'm dedicating a few posts to the topic.

Why swaddle? Any parent who wants their child to sleep should learn to create a nice, snug swaddle. Swaddling supports sleep by calming infants with a tight, womb-like feeling, soothing flailing limbs (which are foreign and scary to newborns at first), and keeping little ones from "startling" themselves awake.

Fortunately, there are great options available that simplify swaddling. If you're expecting a baby, chances are you'll come across one soon. At some point, most new parents will find themselves either puzzling the strange swaddle-wrap they got at their shower or frantically perusing the selection at a local baby store while rocking a crying baby in the shopping cart.

But not all swaddling products are created equal. Here's the scoop on the best sleep-supporters (and one to leave on the shelf).

Miracle Blanket

This popular cotton swaddling blanket doesn't look like a "blanket" at all. It consists of a sack for baby's bottom half and a loooong strip of fabric to wrap around (and around, and around) baby's upper half.

Pros: Lightweight cotton fabric won't overheat baby. The fabric has some give, but not too much. Unique design is effective for swaddling stronger babies who "break out" of other swaddling wraps.

Cons: All told, this swaddle wraps baby is a LOT of fabric. Babies who roll or move often may end up bunched in layers of material. It's also not carried by most big-box retailers.

Best for: Newborns, strong babies, all seasons.

Summer Infant Swaddle Me

This wrap is as simple as they come, and completely goof-proof for swaddling novices. Simply plop baby inside the wrap and attach the velcro tabs.

Pros: The streamlined design is very lightweight, so baby isn't overwrapped or overheated, and the fabric is fairly stretchy, making it easy to get a snug fit. It's also widely available, so you'll probably find it at local retailers.

Cons: This swaddle is only as strong as its velcro closure—if the velcro loses its "grab," it's useless. (Carefully using the laundry tabs for EACH AND EVERY wash will help this wrap last longer.)

Best for: First-time parents, Grandma's house, babysitter, newborns, spring/summer babies.

Under the Nile Organic Cotton Swaddling Blanket

I was turned on to this blanket by a local doula, birth educator, and mom of four. It has something of a cult following, and once you try it, you'll understand why.

Pros: Swaddling blankets can't be too stretchy, or they won't hold. This one's organic buttery-soft stretch fabric manages to be just stretchy enough, encasing baby in a snug wrap that's both comfortable and firm. It's large, which is essential for swaddling, and organic. With no Velcro, decoration, or other bells and whistles, this blanket is very durable and will last through several kids.

Cons: This blanket requires some swaddling know-how, so it may flummox new parents or babysitters at first. As with other traditional swaddling blankets, babies will end up wrapped in several layers of this blanket, so it may be too warm for hot climates or summer babies.

Best for: Organic purists, strong babies, newborns, fall/winter babies.

Swaddle Designs Ultimate Receiving Blanket

This blanket is as goof-proof as they come: Swaddling instructions are actually printed on the tag! This blanket is very large, made of mid-weight flannel with no stretch. Some parents find that blankets without stretch "hold" best all night, especially for strong babies who kick or resist swaddling.

Pros: This blanket is simple, easy to use, and comes in a bunch of cute patterns and prints. At 42" by 42", it's one of the largest swaddling blankets out there, big enough to wrap larger, older babies who've outgrown other wraps. The sweet presentation makes it a good baby-shower gift, top.

Cons: Some babies in warmer climates might get a bit sweaty in this flannel wrap.

Best for: First-time parents, bigger babies, baby shower gifts, strong babies, fall/winter babies.

Halo Swaddle Sleep Sack

This half-swaddle, half sleep-sack is a good option for babies 3-6 months old who are outgrowing other swaddling wraps. The bottom half allows legs to be free while arms are snugly wrapped. The lightweight, stretchy cotton can easily layer over pajamas without overheating babies.

Pros: Versatile, lightweight, and can fit older babies.

Cons: Newborns may be more comforted by a full swaddle.

Best for: Babies 3-6 months old, babies who love to kick, all seasons.

And now, a swaddle to avoid: Microfleece Swaddle

Swaddling, by definition, wraps baby in layer upon layer of fabric. Parents quickly learn that a swaddled baby can get hot (most of us have unwrapped a sweaty, mad baby at some point). Swaddling a babe—especially one who's already dressed in a diaper and pajamas—should be done with care, to avoid overheating. Sleeping too hot is a recipe for poor-quality sleep and a risk factor for SIDS.

So avoid swaddling wraps made of fleece. Fleece is not breathable, and being trapped inside layers and layers of fleece is sure to make your baby hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable.

Next week I'll talk about how to tell if your baby is ready to ditch the swaddle, and how to make the transition to swaddle-free sleeping.

*Note: I am not paid to endorse any of these products. These reviews are for informational purposes only.

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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Malia,
This post is very helpful as a soon to be first time mom! I'm wondering how many swaddling supplies you think is a good number to start out with (how often do you wash them etc). I was planning on having a couple of swaddling blankets to try and also the more high tech versions with velcro. I'm excited that I've received a couple off your list as gifts already...so it looks like I'm on the right track!

Thanks!

Maren

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaren McCabe

Hi Maren! It's a good idea to have a few swaddling wraps on hand. They do get soaked through in the middle of the night from time to time, so you want to be able to pull out a fresh one quickly. I think the Swaddle Me velcro wraps are great "starter" swaddles to use while you figure out the more complicated ones. You can't go wrong with either the Under the Nile or the Swaddle Designs blankets--even if you don't end up using them as swaddles (or, once your baby outgrows swaddling) you can still use them as regular blankets. If you're into organic cotton I think you'll like the UTN ones. :)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMalia

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