Frustrated that your new baby seems to hate the swaddle even though you know it’s supposed to calm them? Or maybe you have a little magician-in-the-making and your baby can wiggle their way out of all the techniques your postpartum nurse showed you in the hospital. Well mama, I’m excited to share a nurse’s 7 secret tips for you to try!
First things first though, let’s chat a little bit about safety guidelines. I want you to keep these in mind for safe swaddling:
- Proper material for the temperature- one risk of swaddling is overheating, check the baby’s chest or back of the neck to tell if they are too warm.
- When wrapping baby keeps the blanket down toward their shoulders and away from the face to prevent covering mouth and nose.
- Keeping hips loose so babies can flex their hips up and down as too tight can lead to hip dysplasia
- Stop using the swaddle when baby begins to roll
- Always place a swaddled baby on their back on a firm flat surface to sleep
- Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you are following the proper guidelines in your area
Ok, now that we covered those, let’s get to the tips you are truly wanting….
A Tight Swaddle
Now this sounds counterintuitive; however a loose swaddle can be frustrating to a baby. The whole point to swaddling is to recreate the feeling they had in the womb. This helps them feel secure, cozy and diminish the startle reflex to help calm and bring about better sleep. Best practice is to fit 2-3 fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle as well as allow the hips to bend up and down. Too loose of a swaddle or not secure enough will not create the cozy cocoon we are looking for and they can break out of it too easily.
This takes some trial and error, but not all babies are created equal. Some will feel more secure with their arms down and less able to break out while others may prefer their hands up by their chest. Play around with it and see which one your baby prefers.
Making sure the swaddle is down by baby’s shoulders is important for breathing, but also is very helpful in not stimulating a baby’s rooting reflex. The rooting reflex is when the cheek or corner of the mouth is touched and baby turns their head toward the stimulus and begins to suck. This is super helpful for them to find the nipple to breastfeed, but if the swaddle blanket is tickling their cheek while they are trying to go to sleep, it will only stimulate them to turn their head and suck.
So newborns have 2 phases of sleep: quiet and active and they look just like they sound. Inactive sleep you can observe things like fluttering eyelids, rapid or irregular breathing, squirming, moving, grunts, and even brief cries. These are normal behaviors during this light REM sleep phase and not a sign that your baby doesn’t like the swaddle.
So if you have tried both their arms down and up by their chest and you are sure they still don’t like the swaddle, the arms out position could be a great option. This allows security around the chest and lower body, yet they have arm movement and can bring their hands to their mouths. I suggest this position last, as arms out can trigger the startle reflex, but again all babies are different so this may work for your little one.
Swaddling can be simply done with a flat baby blanket, but if you’re struggling to make your little baby burrito tight, you may want to invest in a swaddle wrap. These are products are made to make swaddling easy. There are lots of options on the market, but here are some favorites on mine and clients I’ve worked with.
Halo SleepSack Swaddle– versatile arm placement, inverted zipper for diaper changes, warm yet breathable
Miracle Blanket Swaddle Wrap– what I personally used with my babies! No Velcro or zippers, versatile arm placement, 100% cotton that gets softer and softer, and perfect for ninja babies!
SwaddleMe Original Swaddle– Simple, Velcro secure net and the foot pouch can be pulled down for diaper changes
Woombie Convertible Baby Swaddle- hourglass shape provides gentle pressure around the tummy which recreates the cozy feeling of the womb, easy to use and versatile arm placement
Swaddling takes practice. Trust me…your postpartum nurse in the hospital has been practicing for years to perfect her skills. Your first try likely won’t look like hers and that’s ok! Practicing and getting to know your baby will be so helpful. Don’t give it up too soon! Stick with it and keep trying!
So there you go, a nurse’s 6 secrets to help a baby who hates being swaddled! I hope you found this helpful! At the Mama Coach, we are here to make the transition to parenthood easier. We want to provide you with a quality education that you can easily implement! If you are still pregnant or your baby is less than 12 weeks of age, our Newborn Course is the complete guide to helping you learn how to soothe, feed, and put your newborn to sleep. We’ve even included an info packed postpartum guide to help you, mamas, with the emotional and physical changes you can expect after having a baby!
Reach out to a local Mama Coach in your area for one on one support! We help families from pregnancy through childhood to help you reach your goals!