Swaddling Your Newborn


We all hear the stories about new parent exhaustion; we also hear those stories about that baby who “slept through the night from day one” and we often wonder what the secret is to avoid the first and dare we hope, get the second.

I want to share with you one tool that can help with avoiding some of that new parent exhaustion and while it won’t likely get you a newborn sleeping through the night on the first day home (this is actually not ideal for a newborn; I will address why in another blog), it will significantly improve the chances that your newborn will begin to develop solid sleeping habits and have a much greater chance to sleep through the night sooner rather than later. And that is swaddling your baby.

Before we dig into this, I want to address a piece of misinformation that is running rampant on the internet and in parenting groups so you have the correct information and can make the best informed decision for your family. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not state a specific age at which you should stop swaddling. A statement was put out by one of their doctors (Dr. Moon) that said she tells her patients to stop swaddling at 8 weeks. That is her personal recommendation. But it made the rounds in parenting groups on social media and became the ‘rule’ according to many. However, it is not the official recommendation of the AAP.  

The AAP official recommendation is: When an infant exhibits signs of attempting to roll (which usually occurs at 3 to 4 months but may occur earlier), swaddling is no longer appropriate, as it could increase the risk of suffocation if the swaddled infant rolls to the prone position.

Now that we have that cleared up, let’s take a deeper look at why swaddling works for so many babies.  

Essentially, babies, who are often considered to be complicated little creatures, are actually frequently quite simple to please. Feed them, love on them, keep them warm and dry and let them get their sleep and they tend to be happy overall. And swaddling, a practice that has been happening in cultures all around the world for millennia, is a key component of that for many babies. It is essentially a method of wrapping your baby snuggly in a blanket in order to keep them warm, control their Moro (startle) reflex and make them feel secure.  When all of these things happen, along with being well fed and comforted by their caregivers, babies will tend to sleep better and for longer stretches. Their needs are met and they are not awakened by their bodies randomly startling because that reflex has been dampened by the swaddle. 

However, we sometimes hear that swaddling isn’t “good” for your baby or even that it is dangerous and there is partial truth to both of those statements. Swaddling that is done for anything other than sleep or to, on rare occasions, help calm an overstimulated baby is not good for your baby. Your new baby needs plenty of unswaddled time in direct contact with you, ideally skin-to-skin, which has massive benefits in helping calm their nervous system, promoting nursing and much more. In addition, lots of unswaddled time in a safe play area helps with gross and fine motor development for your baby and should be practiced often when your baby is awake. Essentially swaddling should really be for sleeping only. And as far as dangerous; swaddling done improperly can be dangerous for your baby, so if swaddling is chosen for your family, then learning how to do it correctly is important.  


The essentials of safe swaddling: 

  • Swaddle with the blanket no higher than the shoulders to eliminate the risk of your baby turning their head and getting under the blanket and not having good airflow.  
  • Swaddle snugly, but not so tightly that you hyperextend your baby’s shoulders (i.e. arms can be at their sides, never behind their body/under their hips.)
  • Ensure your swaddle is loose around the hips and legs to ensure “frog leg” position for your baby to prevent increasing the risk of hip dysplasia.
  • Use the proper size and material of swaddle blanket to ensure the swaddle does not come loose and present a hazard within the crib.
  • Learn how to swaddle properly and safely; ask a professional for help if needed.
  • Never use a weighted swaddle; the AAP has determined these are dangerous.
  • Ensure anyone else working with your baby also knows how to swaddle properly.
  • Know when it is time to stop swaddling. As soon as your baby begins showing those early signs of pushing with their feet and having a hip rise up off the floor when they are on their back, it is time to start weaning off the swaddle.  And if your baby can roll over, then stop immediately; it is very dangerous for a baby who can roll even to their side to remain swaddled. 


Finally, there are dozens of swaddles on the market, what should you use?  Well, like a car seat, the answer is: use the one you can use correctly.  But that does not mean I don’t have my favorites. So, from a Master Newborn Care Specialist, my favorites are: 


  • The Butterfly Swaddle. Newer on the market, but designed by a pediatric nurse and NCS, this one has small “wings” that help control your babies Moro reflex while still allowing some movement and comes in multiple sizes and even now a sleep sack for when it is time to transition.
  • Love to Dream Swaddle Up is an arms up swaddle (one model has zip off arm pockets to become a sleep sack) for those babies who want or need their arms up.
  • Miracle Blanket.  An oldie but a goodie and often a parent favorite as it is easy to learn to use but be sure to dress your baby lightly if using this one as the 2-3 layers of fabric can get warm.
  • Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddles–great so long as you know how to get a snug, secure swaddle and your baby does not wiggle a lot as these can stretch and come loose.
  • Woombie–easy to use with a simple zip.


While swaddling is not for every family or every baby, it can be a huge help! If you decide swaddling is right for your family, no matter which swaddle you choose, using it correctly can make all the difference and help you and your baby get a great night’s sleep.


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