When you’re expecting a baby, it can be overwhelming to search through all the advice you are given to find the best way forward for your family.
Soon-to-be grandmothers and grandfathers will give well-meaning advice (often whether you asked for it or not) about how they used to do it with their children, but a lot of this advice is outdated and considered bad practice by modern standards.
Not that anyone intends to give you bad advice, it’s all very well-meant, but when you announce a baby is on the way it can feel like everyone is suddenly an expert on child-rearing, and they’re all professing different opinions.
It can be maddening! Where do you go for up-to-date information and advice on what you actually need for the new arrival?
Even the advice you get from midwives and doctors can differ from one medical professional to another.
Fortunately, we have done some of the research for you. You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know (and probably a bit more besides) about baby swaddles with different fastenings in this informative article.
We’ll also give you the lowdown on how safe they are to use for newborn babies and any associated dangers and alternatives.
Swaddles are a particular sticking point for a lot of self-professed baby experts. In many parts of the world, they aren’t recommended due to the risk of the baby overheating.
In other parts of the world, it’s considered neglectful to keep newborns unswaddled.
So who’s right? Well, at the end of the day, yours is the only opinion that matters. It is up to parents to make an informed decision about what they choose to do with their own children.
Having said that, it is very important to note that all babies are different and what works to soothe and calm one, will make another scream louder.
It’s also worth pointing out that whatever decisions you make about the safety of your baby before you get to finally meet them, are allowed to change when your circumstances do.
We’ve personally known parents who swear they’ll never use a swaddle, only to give birth to a very fussy baby who just wants to feel encapsulated to feel safe.
The baby would not stop crying until they were tightly swaddled by a passing nurse, who suggested an experiment.
Thank goodness for next-day delivery. They had one delivered the day after, and they never judged another parent who decided to use a swaddle or a pacifier or who choose to bottle-feed again.
Each baby is unique, and we can only take their cues as best we can finger them out.
Firstly, let’s look at some of the swaddles on the market at the moment.
Then, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about baby swaddles and see if we can debunk some myths with current advice and statistics.
These are essentially large muslin squares that you use to wrap the baby up into a neat bundle. That’s the theory, anyway. If you do decide to swaddle your baby, then it’s not advised that you use a blanket to do this.
This can lead to overheating and increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Large muslin squares are the best material to use to swaddle because it’s cool and extremely breathable. Some examples of these are:
This is a gender-neutral print muslin swaddle with a cute rainbow design. It is slightly stretchy, which will come in handy when you try to wrestle a crying baby into one for the first time.
It can also be used as a milestone blanket to commemorate your little one’s growth and development.
This traditional swaddle blanket is a budget-friendly example of a breathable muslin swaddle. It’s organic, too, which gets a big tick from us for your baby and for the planet.
They are also available in a beautiful range of colors and have a purpose-made storage bag.
A square swaddle wrap should be around 47” x 47” (120 cm x 120 cm) in size to effectively wrap your baby.
Pros And Cons Of Traditional Swaddles
- Breathable and lightweight muslin swaddles are widely available. (do not get thick swaddle blankets)
- Inexpensive, depending on the brand.
- Multi-use- you can use them as regular muslins while not in use as a swaddle, they can be used for nursing covers, burping clothes, or play mats.
- They can be very tricky to get the hang of. You’ll be surprised at how much physical strength and practice it will take to make the swaddle tight enough that the baby can’t unwrap themselves by accident.
- It is difficult to ensure that the material is tight enough not to move over the baby’s face while they sleep. This can cause difficulty in breathing and lead to a lack of oxygen. Once you get the hang of it, it’s much less of a worry, but because they are square, it’s just a little tricky to mold them to Baby’s body shape precisely without having excess fabric gathering around the neck or face.
These are a modern invention and are fairly easy and quick to fasten.
This is especially useful if Baby needs a clean diaper in the night, and you have to unwrap them, undress them, change them and then reverse all the steps so get them ready for bed again, Velcro is a way to save yourself some sleep.
It’s also easier to maneuver in the dark as you can feel it. Keeping the room semi-dark is a must if you want your little angel to go back to sleep this side of the morning. Here are some examples of Velcro swaddles.
This pack of three cute swaddles is great value for money. The designs aren’t gender-specific, which is great if you don’t know whether you’re having a tiny prince or a little princess yet.
The Velcro fastening will ensure that baby feels safe and secure. These swaddles are made from soft cotton, which is more breathable than a thick blanket, but possibly less lightweight than muslin.
Most babies will grow out of the stage of wanting to be swaddled well before they get to the toddler stage. It would be a rare toddler indeed who would tolerate being restrained with a swaddle.
These are for newborns up to three months. After that, you would need to decide whether your baby should still be swaddled, and if so, buy a bigger size.
Once your baby can roll over on their own, you should not use a swaddle like this, as this will prevent their arms from being able to support their head off the mattress and increase the risk of suffocation.
Many types of Velcro swaddles come in multipacks.
This is very handy in case of a milk spit-up accident or a leaky diaper in the night. Babies are all kinds of messy, and it’s handy to have a spare or two while one is in the laundry.
The SwaddleMe Velcro wraps come in a variety of adorable prints and colors and again, aren’t super expensive, but you have to weigh up the cost of them against how long you’ll be able to use them.
It’s unlikely you’ll be still swaddling your baby at six months old, but if you have a big baby or just a fast-growing one, they might outgrow these 0-3 month ones in a short time.
Then you’ll need to consider the cost of buying bigger ones.
It’s thought that babies who respond well to being swaddled do so because it replicates the feeling of being safely and warmly encapsulated in the womb.
Some babies take longer than others to adjust to the outside world.
SwaddleMe has three stages of sleep swaddling, going from tight wraps like these to wearable blankets where their arms are free for babies over six months.
Pros And Cons Of Velcro Swaddles
- Inexpensive - they are widely available and are generally low in cost.
- Firmly swaddles your baby with tricky wrapping techniques.
- Easy to use and adjust.
- If they are thicker than muslin, there may be a slightly increased risk of your baby overheating.
- If your baby outgrows the 0-3 month swaddles before they are ready to move out of swaddles, you will have to buy more.
Zip-up Swaddles come in many forms and varieties. Sleepsacks or grow bags are often used for infants who don’t mind having their arms loose for bedtime.
They are considered to be safer for babies than loose covers because it is harder for the cover part to accidentally cover the baby’s face.
Having said this, some newborn babies don’t quite get the same benefit of a traditional or Velcro swaddle that hugs them tightly to make them feel safe and secure.
You may also need different swaddles for different times of year too, as they are sometimes measured in togs like comforters.
Tog ratings tell you how thick the blanket part of it is. You’ll need to make sure it’s not too warm or too cool for your baby at that specific time of year.
This is less of a swaddle and more of a sleeping bag. It’s known as a transition swaddle because it bridges the gap between a tight wrap swaddle for young babies to a sleeping bag.
It covers the baby’s arms and has an inner swaddle wrap band to help the baby feel swaddled. Dreamland says their weighted sleep swaddles are safe for rolling babies too, so that’s good for your peace of mind.
This swaddle is 0.6 tog, so it is designed for year-round use as long as the room temperature is kept at a sensible level.
Bonus points to Dreamland because this has a two-way zipper. That means you can change Baby’s diaper without taking them out of their swaddle. You’ve got to admire their innovation.
SwaddleMe does it again by producing a multipack of useful products with a small price tag.
This twin pack of arms-in sleeping bags is handy for keeping those cold fingers warm while their circulation develops.
This also has a two-way zipper, so you can easily perform changes in the night without stripping the baby down to the skin.
These are safer alternatives to covers and blankets because they shouldn’t be in danger of riding up and gathering around your infant’s face.
The only thing we’re not sure about is the swaddle part of this design. Essentially, there isn’t one.
They are tight-fitting all over the body, but they don’t cuddle and wrap the baby in the same way as all the other swaddles.
We would say that these are good alternatives for a cover or blanket, but not for a baby who wants to feel snuggled up like a bug in a rug.
Pros And Cons Of Zip Swaddles
- Two-way zippers are a must for easy changing.
- A safer alternative to loose covers.
- Overheating risk- These are great for older babies, but newborns don’t have sweat glands yet and their ability to regulate their temperature is extremely limited. It’s up to you to make sure they are not too hot or too cold.
- Not a firm swaddle - the Dreamland one was a good combination of swaddle wrap and sleeping bag, but often zip-up ones are not as good at wrapping the baby to make them feel secure.
- Huge range of prices - $20-$90 is a big range.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Swaddle?
What to expect describes swaddling as an “ancient method for wrapping newborns in a thin blanket or cloth.
It’s adorable (who doesn’t love a baby burrito!), but it also serves the all-important purpose of helping your sweet pea stay calm and sleep more soundly”.
Essentially, anything that wraps your baby in a sort of bundle shape is a swaddle. Swaddles can help to calm a newborn baby because they emulate the environment they were used to in the womb.
Swaddles can make your baby feel less vulnerable and frightened of the big, open world they’ve tumbled into.
Are They Safe?
NCT is an English organization that helps soon-to-be parents prepare for their babies.
They are considered to be a reputable source of information for parents and have this to say: “Swaddling your baby carries some risks. It’s potentially unsafe if your baby is not swaddled properly.
There’s also a risk of your baby overheating if they are wrapped in too many blankets, in covers that are too heavy or thick, or if they’re wrapped too tightly.”
They advise that swaddling while breastfeeding is not a good idea, as babies can get hot quickly during feeding. They also state that research shows that swaddled babies feed less frequently.
Whether that is because breastfeeding is also a method of calming a distressed baby and swaddled babies are already calmer is not known.
Still, make sure you are feeding your baby as often as is recommended by professionals to avoid a deficit of nutrients.
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