Swaddling vs Not Swaddling: What to do When Your Baby Hates Being Swaddled

The decision of swaddling vs not swaddling can be a tough one, especially if it seems like your newborn is hating it! Don’t be dismayed! There are plenty of other calming interventions to use along with the swaddle to help soothe your baby and keep them sleeping snug.

 

In this blog post I’m going to talk about:

 

Why does my baby hate being swaddled?

 

How do I help my baby enjoy being swaddled?

 

How do I make sure my baby is safe while being swaddled?

 

What can I do instead of swaddling?

 

Scoop up your tiny newborn and their swaddle, and let’s get started!

 

 

Why does my baby hate being swaddled?

 

 

I have parents (ALL the time) asking me why their baby hates being swaddled. To this I say, “keep trying.” Your baby might protest right after initially being wrapped up, but they should calm down after implementing your calming strategies.

 

The truth is…I’ve never met a baby that doesn’t like it. That being said, the swaddle isn’t the only soothing tool I use.

 

First things first, we want to make sure we’re doing it right, and nailing the perfect swaddle can actually be tricky! If you haven’t yet, watch this step by step tutorial using a swaddle blanket (my favorite for the first month or so).

 

Instagram Reel of a Swaddle Tutorial | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to check out the tutorial on Instagram.

 

Ultimately, we don’t want it too tight that it restricts their hip movement, but we also don’t want it to be too loose that it comes undone. So how tight should the swaddle be?

 

When deciding between swaddling vs not swaddling, understand that newborns are SUPER squirmy! I mean, think about it. They just came from the warm, snug environment of the womb. It only makes sense that they’d do better when their new environment mimics the womb they just spent 9 months in.

 

Newborns also have the Moro reflex. This is what causes them to jerk, flail, and even wake themselves up. Keeping them snug in a tight swaddle keeps those limbs tight to their body and limits their chances of waking themselves up.

 

mom with swaddled baby | The Peaceful Sleeper

 

 

How do I help my baby enjoy being swaddled?

 

 

If you’ve been following along for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s and the sixth one that I like to add in. The 6 S’s are calming interventions to help get your newborn baby relaxed and to sleep. Along with swaddling (number 1 of the 6 S’s), I find that stacking on the other S’s is what really helps calm your baby burrito down:

2. Side Position

While rocking your baby, hold them close so that their side/stomach area is placed closest to your chest.

 

3. S-Shhhh-ing Sounds

Newborns are used to the constant whooshing sound they heard in the womb. You can use white noise or your own sounds to say “shh shh shh.”

 

4. Swing

Babies LOVE to rock. Don’t ever shake your baby (obviously), but instead use a gentle slow swing or jiggle motion.

 

5. Sucking

Pacifiers can be an amazing soothing tool. Similar to the swaddle, the paci can also take some getting used to! Check out this Instagram reel below for some tips!

 

Instagram Reel of Tips for Using a Pacifier | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to see tips for introducing a pacifier on Instagram.

 

6. Stroking the Eyebrows

We have an instinct to close our eyes when something gets close. This motion is gentle and loving and also encourages their eyes to close. Watch the magic of the eyebrow stroke below!

 

Instagram Reel of Calming a Baby by Stroking Their Face | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to watch the eyebrow stroke in action on Instagram!

 

 

How do I make sure my baby is safe while being swaddled?

 

Safety is a top priority when considering swaddling vs not swaddling.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that swaddling can be an effective technique to help babies sleep as long as it is done correctly. This means making sure the swaddle is snug enough that it doesn’t come loose and loose enough that it doesn’t restrict their leg and hip movement.

 

It’s also important that your baby is placed on their back while sleeping in the swaddle. This is because it is dangerous for a baby to lie face down while swaddled (with their arms restrained) as they aren’t able to roll themselves onto their back.

 

One more thing to be aware of is overheating. The general rule of thumb is to keep your baby’s room temperature between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. In the case of using a swaddle, dress them in one more layer than you are dressed: so regular pajamas and a 1.0 TOG swaddle. If you have a warmer swaddle, choose pajamas accordingly! 

 

As long as you follow all safety precautions and the advice of the APP, you and your baby can enjoy all the benefits of swaddling while also feeling completely safe.

 

 

What can I do instead of swaddling?

 

Along with the decision of swaddling vs not swaddling, also comes the choice of how you want to do it. There are plenty of alternatives to the classic blanket swaddle. Here are three of my favorites:

 

  • Swaddelini

    • This swaddle is great because it can be used arms in or out. It’s also compression knit, so it allows for more movement while still mitigating that Moro reflex. It also has an open bottom for easy diaper access!
  • Love to Dream

    • The Love to Dream swaddle is arms up and slightly compressed around their midsection with a two way zipper (yay for more easy diaper access!) Babies who seem to really fight the restriction that comes with a traditional swaddle do well with this option!
  • Snuggle Me

    • This is a velcro swaddle that can be used as a full swaddle, one arm, or BOTH arms out. I especially love this one for how easy it is to put on and take off. 

 

Watch this reel on Instagram to actually see the swaddles and learn more!

 

Instagram Reel of Baby Swaddle Alternatives | The Peaceful Sleeper

Click here to see my favorite swaddle blanket alternatives on Instagram.

 

 

Recap on Swaddling vs Not Swaddling

 

While swaddling vs not swaddling your baby can be a tricky decision, know that swaddling can be one of the most effective ways (and my absolute favorite tool!) to calm, soothe, and keep your baby snug in their sleep. Like I’ve said before, I have never met a baby that didn’t ACTUALLY love the swaddle. It just takes some practice and patience. 

 

So next time you try swaddling (because you should!), don’t forget to add on those calming interventions and remember the safe swaddling practices. If you have any more questions, grab a consultation with one of our amazing sleep consultants!

Chrissy Lawler

Chrissy Lawler

LMFT, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Hi! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing for over 13 years.  I’ve set out to do ALL of the research and I created a method to optimize baby sleep that is tuned in, empowering and WORKS. There absolutely should be joy in motherhood, and I have learned that every baby CAN get better sleep!

Read more about my team here.

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