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Oh, swaddles. How we love thee. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to use the beautiful muslin swaddles from brands like Aden & Anais or Modern Burlap. I am a sucker for lovely prints and soft texture. For the uninitiated, these are basically lightweight blankets that you fold around your baby like a little burrito. Why swaddle, you ask? Well, a few reasons. Newborns have what’s called a startle reflex, or Moro reflex, where they throw their arms out as you lay them down – a holdover from our ape days so they weren’t dropped in the jungle. Anyways, when they startle like that, and you’ve just gotten them to fall back asleep and you’ve never been so tired, and “is my shirt on?” – well they sometimes wake up. And you’ll never sleep. Also, there are schools of thought, popularized by Dr. Harvey Karp in The Happiest Baby on the Block, that say that newborns, who are used to the cozy confines of the womb, have trouble adjusting outside. Therefore, the swaddle returns them to that cozy feeling of soothing comfort, particularly to colicky babies.
We indeed found that David slept better when swaddled, which he did up to about 4.5 months old. (Quick disclaimer: swaddles are NOT recommended once babies start rolling over. Please consult your pediatrician on whether you should swaddle.) Returning to pregnant me, I was excited to use these darling swaddle blankets and when a family member who had given birth the month before I was due advised that I not bother with them and go straight to the velcro swaddles. I thought “well, SHE’S taking the shortcut. I’M taking this challenge and am going to be THE BEST swaddler. I don’t use velcro shoes, I am not using velcro swaddles!” Yeah, I’m an idiot. Swaddling the old way usually ended up like this:
So, needless to say, I wised up. I ventured into the realm of velcro – and my life was that much better for it. David wasn’t as able to sneak an arm out (though occasionally he used some reserve of freakish baby strength to do it), and definitely couldn’t pop a leg out. There were no more middle of the night frustration spells cause we couldn’t fold the blanket right. My husband was beyond relieved. Here you have a perfect illustration, before and after, using a Halo Sleep Sack:
There are a couple of prominent brands, and all are wonderful. First up, SwaddleMe by Summer Infant, which I think may have been one of the early pioneers (thank you kind angels):
SwaddleMe has multiple sizes, depending on your child’s weight, and materials (fleece, cotton or something called velboa). They also have a transitional approach as your child grows, going from a swaddle to more of a blanket once they roll. I liked this brand because of how snug you could get the babe.
Next, we have Halo Sleep Sack:
I loved this one because it did double duty – while we still swaddled our kiddo, it had the essential velcro, and once we couldn’t swaddle him anymore it functioned as a sleep sack, since the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend loose bedding before the age of 1. Halo also has a bunch of sizes and fabrics, and as a brand grows really well – they have larger sized sleep sacks for 18 months and up, which is great for the babes that have grown used to the feeling.
In a related category, there is a zip-up swaddle (hi, still easier!) and one of the kookier looking ones, the Love to Dream SwadddleUP:
We gave this one a go when we were trying to wean him off the swaddle (a story for another day), as it still held him all snuggly but without the arms down. Might be a good option for newborns that don’t seem to be calmed by the traditional swaddle.
Also in the zip-up category is the Woombie:
Same idea, swaddle with arms down, but with a little more stretch for those babes who need it.
There are more sleep options, with Aden & Anais rocking a snap-up version (not recommended – what tired parent wants to snap stuff up) the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit, and just a straight up traditional sleep sack. It all depends on what works for you and your newborn. Our recommendation is velcro, but if you can borrow from a friend first, that’s ideal so you aren’t investing in something your baby hates.