Got a baby? Need a swaddle! But seriously… swaddling rocks and has a lot more benefits than just being cute… It’s a great way to teach babies the difference between day and night and help them sleep better. And who doesn’t want that? Post contains affiliate links.
It was like the second worst moment of my motherhood career. The first being when I my 2-day old daughter gasping for air. It’s okay… she was okay…
But this was almost more shocking.
I went in, for the 2,356th time that nap, to check and see how Baby Girl was doing. Turns out, she’d moved enough that her blanket (which I’d used to swaddle her) had come undone and was covering her face. I died a thousand deaths.
I didn’t even bother being gentle and grabbed that blanket like she was on fire and there she was breathing just fine. It was a super breathable blanket I guess. Anyway…
That’s when I ordered a proper swaddle and said forget that blanket mess.
Clearly, I was an inexperienced swaddler.
But this post is not about how to or how not to wrap up your baby, but how to use the swaddle for maximum benefit.
Swaddling ain’t just cute…
There are actually many reasons using a swaddle rocks, and here are but a few.
- helps teach babies day/night differences
- helps babies stay asleep during nighttime changes and feeds
- helps to promote sounder sleeping and prevents the startle reflex from waking baby
- brings comfort and closeness
Must Know Swaddling Tips for Newborns
Here are the ways that I’ve used the swaddle with all 4 of my children. We’ve loved every minute and didn’t wean until around the 5 month mark for nearly every child.
Swaddle from Day One
They swaddle in the hospital and my advice to you is: don’t stop. If you don’t stop swaddling from Day One there is no time in which the baby can start “fighting the swaddle.” Now, I’m sure there’s one exception here, but you get the drift. Babies who don’t sleep swaddled sleep less, wake more, and don’t sleep as deeply without some type of sleep prop.
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Choose a swaddle that opens at the bottom
I personally prefer the Woombie and have owned 10+ of these at least. You can pick which you prefer, but for optimal nighttime diaper changes (without fully waking the baby) a swaddle that allows the babies arms to remain swaddled while they feed and are changed is amazing.
At night, you’ll be signaled the baby wants to feed. From the bottom you’ll change the baby (leaving arms swaddled) then immediately re-swaddle and begin feeding. After as much milk as you can get in, you’ll just put the baby back down to sleep. This essentially means they “sleep” through feedings.
Swaddle as a “sleep” signal
Sleep associations are powerful things. They are positive associations your baby has with sleep that help them to fall asleep well on their own. They also help them to calm down and know that it’s time to get sleepy. Or, if they’re already sleepy, to know that sleep is on its way!
After you’ve fed your baby and had them awake for a bit playing, when you know it’s time for a nap, swaddling is a great thing to do. Swaddle, cuddle, kiss, and continue the wind down routine. Then, when it’s clear your baby is ready for snooze land, put the baby in their sleeping spot to doze away.
Unswaddle during “awake” time
Don’t leave them swaddled all the time, but use it as a signal for sleep. Even if your little one is tiny and loves swaddles, allow some room for free movement when they are awake and you’re playing. Particularly as newborn when they are only awake short periods.
Play with their arms, legs, kiss their tummies, etc. Anyway, I don’t have to tell you how to enjoy your baby, but by keeping the swaddle for sleepy times you’re creating associations that’ll help your baby sleep better.
Unswaddle during day feedings
Newborn babies are notorious “snackers.” They are hungry, they begin to feed, they fall asleep at the breast in 5 minutes. Now, this isn’t a problem unless it’s a problem for you, but it’s a big problem for me. I have other small children at home and am an only child – Type A – Confident + Take Charge mom which means, for better or worse, I can’t feed my baby 5 minutes every hour for months. They need to take full feeds.
So, one way I help them stay awake during day feedings and get a little more wake time is by keeping them unswaddled. I – mean mother that I am – have even been known to take a wet wipe or cool towel to the bottoms of their feet or forehead so they’ll be awake enough to drink.
Swaddle for night feedings
In contrast, at night, I try to keep them swaddled at all times if possible. Because I change the diaper pre-feed, the swaddling has signaled “go back to sleep” and then the feed itself helps them get there. This is the #1 way I have babies who are not awake for long periods (or at all) at night, even as newborns. In fact, as soon as my babies have known the difference between day and night, they sleep all through the night only waking to signal they’re hungry.
Keep partially swaddled for night changes
I referenced this above, but by keeping them partially swaddled at nighttime changes – i.e. leaving their arms swaddled – you are preventing your baby from waking fully. If you have a baby who is more “alert” at night than you’d like, I highly recommend this. But keeping lights dimmed (or even using the flashlight on your phone which you know you are scrolling when you feed anyway) and keeping the baby tucked close, you’re essentially keeping them half asleep all night.
A quick swaddle weaning tip
I do not have earth shattering swaddle weaning tips since I use the convertible Woombie specifically to swaddle wean. However, the best way I’ve found is to wean your baby by taking one arm out at a time. You usually know it’s time to wean them when they’re around 4 to 5 months or actively rolling over while sleeping. You don’t want a baby sleeping tummy whose arms are tied down.
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