My daughter was a crier. From the second she emerged from my body and until she turned about six months old, she cried on a regular basis. (You may be thinking, “All babies cry!” And that’s true, but my second child cried maybe a quarter of the amount my daughter did. So there.) She cried because she was hungry. She cried because she was a “gassy baby.” I swear sometimes she cried just to mess with me! (I’m kidding.)
I tried everything: burping, singing, feeding, dancing, various baby swings… and of course, swaddling. If you’re a parent, you’ve swaddled your baby, or at least attempted to. And even if you’re a kid-free human, you’ve likely heard the term. Basically, to swaddle means to wrap your baby up in a blanket so that they feel cosy and safe, as if they’re back in the womb. Swaddling worked—not all the time, that would be too easy—but when it came to sleeping, my daughter slept longer and more soundly when swaddled up in her bunting.
But how exactly does one swaddle? Unfortunately, wrapping a baby up in a square piece of cloth isn’t easy; it’s not even intuitive. When you see pictures of newborns on social media, and they’re wrapped in a cream-coloured blanket with red and blue stripes? The nurses wrapped those babies up—and mere mortal mothers can’t do it like those maternity nurses can. I’ve literally never seen a mum have that kind of swaddling success.
Because of this, I always try to talk parents out of the standard, blanket-style swaddles. Your baby will undoubtedly wiggle out, and they serve no other purpose: they aren’t warm enough to be blankets and they’re too big to be burp cloths. And while the tres Brooklyn, muslin cotton ones from hip baby brand Aden + Anais are attractive, they are similarly difficult to work with.
Also: swaddling can be dangerous if you do it wrong. If baby wiggles out of the swaddle during the night, they are at risk of having their mouths covered by the fabric or getting tangled up in it. Recent research published in the journal Pediatrics found swaddled babies were at a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if they were placed on their stomachs or sides for sleeping. Of course, the current recommendation is that babies should only be placed on their backs to sleep.
(It’s also important to note that once babies can pull themselves out of the swaddle or when they start to roll over, swaddling should be discontinued. This usually happens between 4 and 6 months of age.)
But here’s the rub: Swaddling can be amazing for a crying baby! I did the research and tried out some non-blanket swaddles. These are the magical swaddles your kid won’t get out of and that won’t require YouTube viewing to master.
Simple, simple, simple
For the simplest swaddle, start with the Summer Infant SwaddleMe Original.
These swaddles are the absolute best. Just put the baby’s legs into the pocket — which is basically like a smaller pillow cover — pull the fabric up from the waist, wrap the left side of the top fabric over baby’s arm and behind their back and then wrap the right side over and fasten with the velcro tabs. Done and done. The cotton fabric is also super soft.
We used the SummerInfant with my daughter (the one who cried) and kept one arm out to help her self soothe (she sucked her thumb).
Both our kids were born in the summer, which made this swaddle perfect due to the lightweight cotton.
For the baby who moves around a lot
For a mover-and-shaker, try the Halo Sleepsack.
The Halo Sleepsack is great for babies who like to kick their legs and move their arms. It’s adjustable so the arms can be either swaddled in against baby’s body or moving freely outside the swaddle. The skirt of the sack is long, allowing for lots of movement from the waist down.
This one is also easy to use: put baby’s arms through the arm holes and legs into the sack and zip down. (It’s inverted to allow for easy late-night diaper changes.) Next, wrap the left swaddle wing under baby’s right arm and then wrap the right swaddle wing over baby’s left arm. Fasten using the velcro fastener strips.
This swaddle provides more of a cosy feeling thanks to the thicker swaddle wings and blanket-like skirt.
The most versatile
For versatility, try Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap.
This swaddle strap is amazing because you can simply put it over whatever your baby happens to be wearing. There’s no wrapping of any cloths and no placing of baby in a sack, you literally just place the baby on the wide piece of fabric, wrap the inner fabric around the arms and then repeat with the outer fabric. It feels secure and babies that don’t like the skirt on a swaddle will likely take to it nicely.
For the arms-up infant
Arms up? Go for the Love to Dream Swaddle Up Lite.
A common position for babies in the womb is arms up; their arms are bent at the elbow and their hands are close to their face. The Love to Dream is designed to mimic that position while also providing the comfort of being swaddled. Your baby is placed inside the swaddle, enclosing their entire body inside.
This swaddle has a dual zipper for easy diaper changes and is made with 7 per cent elastane in addition to cotton, which gives it a nice stretchy feeling. Another bonus to being fully enclosed is that baby can’t inadvertently scratch her face.
Swaddling is a powerful tool in a parent’s arsenal. Any—or all—of these options should give you the benefits of the swaddle without any of the struggle associated with traditional blanket swaddling.