5 Reasons to Swaddle Your Baby

January 11, 2011 |  by  |  0-3 Months, featured, fussy baby, newborn, swaddling
5 Reasons to Swaddle Your Baby

I’ve heard a million reasons why people DON’T swaddle their newborn babies:

  • My baby fights the swaddle.
  • She pops out anyway so why bother.
  • I don’t want her to get addicted to it.
  • She cries when we try to swaddle her.
  • I heard that it’s not good for them.
  • I want her to get exercise so her arms should be free.
  • I want her to practice getting her hands into her mouth so she can self-soothe.

These are all bunk. You should be swaddling your newborn baby. It will make them and you happier! Older babies may or may not need to be swaddled. Most are done by 3 months but don’t worry if your 6 or 9 month old still needs to be swaddled. There is no rush! I promise you will not be sending your 10-year-old off to summer camp with a giant Star Wars swaddle blanket.

Top 5 Reasons to Swaddle Your Newborn Baby

1

Reduce SIDS

In 2007 the Journal of Pediatrics did a meta-study of research on swaddling. One of the many positive results was that swaddling reduces the rate of SIDS. The current assumption is that swaddling makes it hard for newborn babies to inadvertently cover their heads or face with bedding and decreases their ability to flip over onto their stomachs, both of which have been linked to higher rates of SIDS in newborn babies.

Safety Note: Never put baby to sleep on their stomach. Never EVER put a swaddled baby to sleep on their stomach. If your baby is able to flip from their back to their stomach WHILE swaddled, then your swaddling days are over. Swaddling is only to be used for babies on their backs. Being swaddled while sleeping on their stomach creates a greater risk of SIDS than sleeping on their stomach alone.

2

Basis for soothing

Swaddling your baby may not immediately soothe your crying baby or lull them instantly to sleep. In fact the process of being swaddled may make them frustrated and thus (briefly) cry more loudly, convincing some parents that their babies “hate” the swaddle. But swaddling creates the foundation for which other soothing techniques (white noise, motion, etc.) build upon. Start with the swaddle and then layer on additional soothing techniques (pacifier, loud white noise, movement) to calm a crying baby and encourage sleep.

3

Improved neuromuscular development

Many people feel that a newborn needs to have their hands free so that they can practice using their arms, figure out how to get their hands into their mouths so they can self-soothe by sucking on fingers, etc. However most of the movement of your newborn baby’s limbs is actually unintentional and random. Immobilizing their arms actually helps them to develop better motor skill organization. Swaddling is especially helpful for premature babies.

4

Cry Less

Babies cry regardless of what level of mastery in baby soothing you have achieved or how easily soothed your baby is. However, in addition to helping other soothing techniques to work more effectively (See #4) – swaddling alone seems to result in a 28% reduction in crying.

5

Sleep Better!

Your newborn baby will sleep better and sleep longer if you put them to sleep while swaddled. Swaddling prevents newborn babies from startling themselves awake with random arm movements. And swaddling “stimulates sleep continuity.” This is a quote from the Pediatrics study that is a fancy doctor way of saying that it helps them to sleep longer. While newborns are renowned for their ability to take itty bitty naps all day long, certainly our goal is to help them settle into longer continuous windows of sleep. And swaddling will help them to do that quite effectively!

Subscribe to our mailing list

Email Address *

39 Comments


  1. So true! Many people tell me their baby didn’t like being swaddled but then I swaddled their baby and put him to sleep pretty quickly. They were shocked.

  2. I’m right there with you! I am by no means a baby whisperer (my sleep partner Kellie is however) but even I can wrangle one of those “I hate swaddles” baby into a swaddle and then off to sleep.

  3. I am a TOTAL fan of swaddling! Both my children have been/are much happier when they were/are swaddled!! I like to use the wraps that come with velcro on them-they never come undone by themselves if done right, no matter how much wriggling my little one does!!

    • I tried swaddle blankets for AGES because I thought that it was what “cool” mommies did. I would reswaddle, baby burst out, reswaddle, burst out, reswaddle. So I figured it was OK to be the uncool mommy if it meant I could sleep for 4 solid hours so voila – velcro swaddle blankets!
      Alexis recently posted..What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through the Night – Part IMy Profile

      • My mom taught me to swaddle when my son ( now 13) was a baby and i am a super fan of the blankets although i have certain fabrics i prefer over others. I made my blankets for him. I have seen the new swaddlers with the velcro and they look pretty neat. With my next baby i may try it.

  4. Hello
    I stopped swaddling my baby weeks ago and she does sleep like a dream at night but my main problem is she will only have 30-40 minute naps in the day and seems exhausted when she wakes.

    My question is… Can I start swaddling her again or have I left it too long?

    She is now 9 weeks old and at night she goes down
    7-10pm (feed at 10)
    11-4am (feed at 4ish)
    Wakes at 7or 8

    This is all good for my sleep but I want her to feel happier and more rested in the day….

    • 9 weeks is pretty early to stop the swaddle so I would definitely re-introduce it and see how things go. They may NOT make things better but I doubt they’ll make anything worse. Short naps are a common problem. Are you also using other soothing aids to help her sleep (white noise, pacifier, swing)? Those combined may help her take longer naps.

      You might want to check out the article below on short napping….
      Alexis recently posted..Your Nemesis, The Short NapMy Profile

  5. Does swaddling get easier? For example, if my 8 week old fights it but I remain persistent will he eventually come to expect it with out all the cajoling that comes with it? Do I have to be consistent as well? Can some naps be without swaddling or say I’m too tired in the middle of night to reswaddle after feeding, will that impact the protocol ?? Thanks!!

    • Let me not really answer your question and ask YOU a question – does your 8 week old fuss in the swaddle and then sleep better/longer than she does WITHOUT the swaddle? The key to the swaddle is not how they respond to the immediate swaddling process but the outcome of swaddling (longer better sleep).

      If not swaddling here and there makes NO difference in the quality of the sleep then maybe you don’t need to swaddle. If having her NOT swaddled doesn’t make it HARDER for her to fall asleep at nap time/bed time, then maybe it’s OK for her NOT to be swaddled.

      But if you don’t do it and she’s up more often? Then I would fight the swaddle fight.

      Consistency will start to bite you in the butt in a few months but for now, you should have some flexibility around routines/swaddling, etc. to play with. Good luck!
      Alexis recently posted..Baby Sleep: What is Normal?My Profile

      • Hi Alexis. Firstly, thanks for this awesome website. It has really opened my eyes and wished I had read all of this before giving birth! To answer your question, I am struggling to get naps/sleep in especially later in the afternoon through midnight without the use of a bouncing ball. At bedtime, we try the sidebed co-sleeper but baby invariably awakens within 40 minutes (about 7-8PM) then he comes in bed with me either after bouncing on an exercise ball (swaddled) or nursing (non swaddled). I have not found, especially at night that the swaddling increased the sleep time. He does flail his arms and i’m not giving up yet on the swaddling but last night in desperation, I let him sleep in the crook of my arm (not swaddled) and I at least got some hours of deeper sleep. I have also tried the swing and white noise but the sound of the swing drives me and my husband crazy. I may use it as a daytime took but the baby seems more amused by the swing (no music etc) than sleepy. Still hoping that he’ll turn the corner soon…

        • Late afternoon naps are often a struggle. I would probably opt for a walk in the stroller, car ride, or baby wearing. But if ball bouncing suits for you then OK.

          But I swear, when you tell me this kid LOVES to sleep while being bounced on the ball I think, “Baby is a motion junkie! Put him in the swing!” The swing will be a much more effective way to keep him happy AND will give you a nice tool to help him learn to sleep without you. Pulling him into bed is great if you’re happy co-sleeping but if not, embrace the swing.

          Why is your swing so loud? Is it made out of wood? Did you buy it from a bazaar in Turkey? I find the Fisher Price Pampasan to be relatively quiet (especially if you’re using white noise you’ll barely hear it). Long term this is going to be a great way to help your baby sleep without you. Unless you are happy co-sleeping in which case ignore everything I just said.

  6. My 3 month old just started busting out of the miracle blanket! She was sleeping like a dream at night, and recently I just started swaddling her for naps in the crib (to get her to nap in the crib). If she is breaking free of the miracle blanket, is it safe to say the swaddle days are over? I’m silently freaking out about this as I am not sure she can handle falling asleep in the sleep sack.

    I have been able to put her down awake in crib and she will fall asleep on her own (without needing to be soothed). Now that the swaddle seems like its days are numbered, I’m feeling like she won’t continue this! Should I just continue to keep trying with the miracle blanket?

    • Loren,
      I have the exact same problem. My little one loves to be swaddled and just turned 4 months. He is busting out of it throughout the night and will not get back to sleep when he does this. He finds his hands and will suck away at them, but will not be able to get back to sleep. I am very afraid of just using a sleep sack as well. I use a pacifier and white noise as well. Does anyone else have suggestions on this? What do you think Alexis?

    • You can also try doing a half swaddle where you swaddle their legs and tummy but their arms are free for thumb sucking etc. There is a lot of room for creativity here. Every baby is different. While swaddling works wonders on many babies sometimes things need to be adjusted to keep the baby happy.

  7. Thanks so much for this article and the rest of your sleep guide! My question is about swaddling and middle of the night nursing. I have found that my 6 week old often falls asleep while nursing, making it very difficult to burp him once he does. If he doesn’t burp, he spits up on himself in his sleep. It is even more difficult to burp him when he is swaddled. Suggestions? If I unswaddle him, he is likely to get upset all over again in the middle of the night.

    • anne, i found that its best to unswaddle while nursing because the combo of swaddle and nursing are both comforting things for baby which will cause him/her to fall asleep. try unswaddling before nursing, tickle the feet etc to keep them alert enough to eat and burp (i always had to feed my son more after burping). then reswaddle and voila! baby is back to bed.

  8. I am a huge fan of swaddling. I used it with my older daughter until she could roll over in it. My second baby likes being swaddled (usually) to fall asleep. However, she is 6 weeks old and catnapping like crazy during the day. She is grunting and trying to get her arms out toward the end of her 30 minute cat naps. It seems like this is one of many things waking her up. Should I leave an arm out, see if this is a growth spurt (it started last week, before that she slept great during the day), or do you have any other suggestions. Thanks!
    Shannon recently posted..How and Why to Use and Lose the PacifierMy Profile

  9. I never swaddled my baby before…… she is now 5 weeks old…….. she has reflex and tonight im starting it….. is this ok? She usually sleeps 3-4 hrs and then wakes up for her milk.

  10. Hi Alexis, I have never swaddled my baby so far – he is 10 weeks old. But I just ordered a velcro swaddle and am thinking to start swaddling him for naps as he is waking himself up with startle reflex… And not sleeping for a long time. Nights are great though. My one concern though is that he has learned to self-soothe already with his hands/ thumb, and perhaps will find being swaddled frustrating for this reason? Or maybe if he is swaddled he will have no reason to self-soothe as he will not be waking himself up… Not sure, what do you think? Thanks!

  11. I love your sit…I have a question…my twins will be 4 weeks tomorrow…right now I tandem nurse, and they both fall asleep while doing so…OK, so when is it best to swaddle, before I feed or after…so different with 2, seems like a walk in the park with my first now!

  12. Alexis – you are my guru in all things baby. :-)
    I have two quick questions.
    1) 5 month old is not swaddled at night anymore and sleeps fine, but her naps are really short without the swaddle so I swaddle her for naps. I assume since day & night time sleep are separated that this ok?
    2) She just learned to roll over two days ago. She shows no signs of being able to do it while swaddled, though, so can I keep swaddling her for naps? She will often get a hand up and out of the SwaddleMe anyway, but she still just sleeps so much better.

    Thank you!

  13. Swaddling has been a blessing for us from the very beginning. However, our baby is now 6 months old and still needs to be swaddled to sleep (we use the miracle blanket). We’ve tried taking an arm out at a time a few times but she either won’t fall asleep because her arm keeps flailing, or if we put her down asleep, she’ll get through one sleep cycle, wake up because of the free arm and then not be able to fall asleep again. Any suggestions to help us break the habit? We’re scared we’ll have to invent a miracle blanket for our baby when she heads off to college!

    • Noren. I swaddled my son until he was 9 months old. Its a myth that the child will need it for their entire life. Honestly, just do what the baby needs/wants. Babies needs are simple “make me happy mommy!” If swaddling works then use it until it doesnt. Too many parents in my own world try to make their baby do what they want while we as parents need to be doing what baby wants. Babies dont understand “this is for the best” when we do something. All they understand is this hurts, this is bad, this is good, i am happy. Very black and white mentality so keep it simple and it’ll make YOUR life simple aswell. ;)

  14. Hi Alexis,
    Ever since I have found your site I am constantly reading and re-reading all of your wonderful advice! I am also posting questions all over the place! Here’s my newest question. Swaddling worked to help our little one sleep through the night at 9 weeks old…but only for five days. Now, though swaddling helps our little one fall asleep, it seems to constantly be causing a problem in the middle of the night. It’s not that he can bust completely out of it but that he can shove his little hands up through the top/neck of it. He then tries relentlessly to shove his fists in his mouth. This seems to get him all in a tizzy and then he’s awake and unable to fall back to sleep. He is now 11 weeks old, weighs a little over 13 pounds, and eats like a champ all day long. I honestly don’t think hunger is the issue. I’m not really sure where to go from here. Do you think it would be a good idea to attempt to swaddle over night??

  15. Our son truly dislikes the swaddle. Once he’s in, even with a tight swaddle, he struggles agaist it for quite a while – as long a 30 minutes – to try to move his arms out (with only occasional success). He has always been a “raise the roof”, hands up baby, awake and asleep and we have found during naps that he sleeps happily wih his arms above his head. Last night, now that he is 8 weeks and 12 pounds, we tried a swaddle alternative with our 8 week old son – the Merlin magic sleep suit. It worked really well. He slept for 4.5 hours and then 4 hours – a new record. He had his arms happily above his head. So, it makes sense for us to ise his moving forward. My question – is there any reason we shouldn’t be using a sleep suit? He is on his back, not too warm, and in a bassinet next to us. Is there a risk we are unaware of? Thanks!

  16. you people should be jailed, or at the very least swaddled yourselves. straight jackets for dummies, no wonder there are so many messed up people on this planet “oh I’ll restrain my child to make life easier for myself” unbelievable

    • Is that honestly what you think we’re talking about here? Making my life easier?

      Go back and read the post. Click on the links – I promise it all links to credible science and research that explains WHY we swaddle. Honestly it has nothing to do with restraining our children. Also? We’re not talking about children. Nobody is advocating for swaddling your 6 year old. I AM advocating for swaddling babies and definitely newborns.

      Why? Because it helps THEM. Because it makes THEM safer. It reduces the incidence of SIDS and provides enormous soothing. It reduces THEIR discomfort and dramatically lessens crying.

      I don’t know why there are so many messed up people on the planet but I can guarantee you that swaddling has nothing to do with it.
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Is Your Crib as Safe as You Think?My Profile

  17. First of all, I’ve really enjoyed reading your website but I’m nit sure that I believe you when you say that babies won’t get addicted to swaddling. My daughter is almost 10 months old and she WILL NOT sleep without her swaddle, not even in the car or stroller. I don’t know what to do I think that she should be sleeping without because maybe if she could sleep without it at home she could fall asleep else where? I don’t know what to do, help!

  18. I know that people say that almost all babies like to be swaddled, but my daughter is about a month old, and she really fights the swaddle. She protests while I swaddle, and then once I sooth her to sleep, I put her down, and she wakes up shortly after, and I can hear her fighting the swaddle, and then she starts crying hysterically. However, she also still has the startle reflex if she is just laid down loose on her back, so that wakes her up too. It’s making it very difficult for us to get any amount of good sleep ourselves. The only places she sleeps well are on someone or in her carseat, which she seems to love, and will fall asleep easily in. Sucking does sooth her, but she’s not able to keep a pacifier in her mouth for a long amount of time. Any suggestions for how we can get her to sleep better?

    • Sounds just like my 4 week old….what ended up working? Got any advice? Swaddling is making me crazy!

      • It was crazy, but what made it click for us is when my husband convinced me to put her in the nursery at 1 month old. I also started doing more of a bedtime routine and putting her down earlier. She’s in bed by 7, and if we delay, she gets cranky and starts rubbing her eyes. I think putting her in the nursery helped because I think she could hear every rustle we made when she was in the bassinet in our room. I rock her to sleep with a bottle in the dark. She’s sleeping thru the night now at 3 months, but I live in constant fear that that could change at any moment, haha. I also think we got her feeding under control at 1 month. It was a constant struggle the first month because I wasn’t producing enough milk, so I think she was hungry, and it took us a little while to figure out what was going to work for us. The first month it was milk with formula supplement. Then at one month I switched to all formula and she has been thriving so much more ever since. I’m not promoting formula over breast milk, but for us it was what worked. She finally seemed satisfied with how much she was getting. Even though she sleeps well in her crib at night, she won’t during the day. So she naps either in her swing or carseat. Sometimes I just take her for a drive, which usually puts her to sleep, and then I just bring the carseat up to her nursery and let her finish her nap up there, still in her carseat. Good luck!

  19. I swaddled from the get go, but then discovered that my baby prefers having her arms out. She loves sleeping with them above her head or straight out like she’s driving a motorcycle. Should I start tucking her arms in again until she gets used to it? Right now, I use a Velcro swaddler and just fasten it under her arms.

  20. Swaddling is making me lose my mind! My 4 week old is soooooo strong that I can hardly get him into the swaddle me sacks before he’s bent his elbows and started working his way up. I literally have to use my foot to hold 1 arm down while I do the other. How does anyone keep their babies arms straight? Also, he will grunt all night long trying to break free of the swaddle. I feel so confused as what to do. It does settle him to swaddle but then when he’s asleep it seems he hates it. I question wether or not he likes it every night so much that I’m swaddling and unswaddling all night long. So basically I’m asking, should I keep swaddling? Honestly I probably would’ve stopped already if it didn’t settle him so much. If he’s fussy and overstimulated it’s the only thing that works but then it doesn’t seem to make him sleep better or longer. It just helps him fall asleep. Got any advice ? I love your site by the way!!!

  21. I’m a HUGE fan of swaddling. IN fact, my 3rd child was swaddled until she was 15 months old! She asked for it at nap/bed time. I actually tied two of dh’s socks together and would wrap it around her after she was swaddled to keep the miracle blanket from coming undone! ;)

  22. My recent 1 yr old nephew has been fighting sleep hard. His hands are keeping him awake. I used the swaddling method to get him to sleep one night and it worked. Once he was in deep sleep, I took the blanket off and put him to bed like normal. He seems to sleep much better after that. Was it wrong to start that?

Trackbacks

  1. The Ultimate Baby Swing Sleep Guide For Swing Hating Babies | Troublesome Tots

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge