Most parents would agree that swaddling your newborn is imperative. There are a variety of baby swaddles out there, but each has its pros and cons.
Option 1: Tie a “Real” Swaddle
Yes, MacGyver, you can tie a swaddle with a regular blanket… but as a practical matter, it doesn’t necessarily work very well. First of all, you’ve got to put in some serious practice to really get the hang of it. Tying a “true” swaddle can be tricky to learn.
IF you master it, a true swaddle can and does work well for plenty of families.
If you master it.
Keep in mind, though, that plain-old swaddle blankets aren’t all that new-parent friendly: to re-tie the mother effer (the swaddle, that is), you have to turn the lights on, fold the blanket just so, re-position baby, blah blah blah — it’s not something you want to be fumbling with at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and ready to get the potato back in the oven.
If you’re still hellbent on swaddling the “authentic” way (whyyy?), make sure you get BIG square blankets — the Aden + Anais 4-packs are the crowd favorite — with sufficient stretch, and I recommend doubling up if you go this route (swaddling the swaddled baby, that is). Do NOT try to tie a swaddle with a rectangular receiving blanket — I promise you will fail.
Keep in mind that the recommendation for swaddling has changed to include a warning against wrapping the legs/hips too tightly, which can lead to hip dysplasia. Essentially, you don’t want your baby’s legs to be forced down straight; rather, they should be loosely wrapped to stay in the “M” or frogged position, as they were in the womb.
What about the arms? Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends swaddling with arms down by the sides. Others prefer the arms to be crossed over the chest to replicate the conditions in the womb. Still others advocate for arms to be up such that baby can have her hands by her face (this is often the position used for preemies). The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter; use whichever arm position your baby likes the best.
Option 2: Our Favorite Baby Swaddles
The other route is to use a “swaddle product,” which is honestly what most parents do. Unless you happen to be a pediatrician or a nurse and already have hours of swaddling practice under your belt, this is what I suggest.
You might find that certain swaddle products work best for your baby at different ages—your favorite newborn swaddle, for example, might not be the same as your favorite 3-month-old swaddle. And since every baby is different, the same swaddle might work magic for one and be a complete failure for another. Point being: be prepared for a bit of trial and error. Much like with baby bottles, I recommend buying one at a time to see what works best for you… and then you’ll want to stock up. (Get at least three.)
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite swaddlers, in order of price (low to high):
*Note that these are only used from 0-4 months, or as soon as your baby can roll over. After that happens you’ll have to start weaning off the swaddle… but that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.
The Summer Infant SwaddleMe Original Swaddle ~ $34/3-pack — Economy Pick
The SwaddleMe is a pouch with wings that velcro together to create a tight, sturdy swaddle. It’s very user-friendly, and you can get cotton or microfleece depending on the season. Size small fits up to 3 months and is even a little big for a newborn. (That’s okay, just fold the neck part down so it’s not over the baby’s face.)
The Summer Infant SwaddleMe packs are sort of the classic basic swaddle product — they’ll work nicely for the average baby, but if yours is really squirmy or tends to “fight the swaddle,” it might not hold especially well. One other downside is that opening the Velcro can be shockingly loud and alarming.
Please RTFM on this one: it’s important that you properly velcro the LEFT flap to the middle part, otherwise your little Houdini will bust out with the jailbreak maneuver no problemo. If you don’t know where to start, these are great to have around, and you can’t beat the price!
*Another option for brand newborns, is the SwaddleMe Pod ($19/2-pack). This swaddle doesn’t take any thought, just zip it up.
Happiest Baby Sleepea ~ $24
The Sleepea swaddle was designed by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep and developer of the exorbitantly-overly-expensive SNOO bassinet (twelve hundred dollars, I mean, seriously?), but the Sleepea — besides its somewhat unfortunate-looking name — is actually great. And you can get it for a decent price, to boot. Who knew.
The Sleepea combines the best features of the Miracle Blanket (below) and the Woombie (also below) for a quick, easy swaddle that actually holds. We also love that it has mesh paneling to protect against overheating. Make sure to close the velcro before washing (for any swaddle with velcro).
Some parents say the sizing runs short, so make sure to pay attention to your baby’s length for ordering, but also keep in mind that it’s perfectly OK — good even — for baby’s feet to touch the bottom: having her legs in a slightly bent position is actually healthier for hip development. (Note: Small fits babies 5-12 lbs., up to ~20″ long; medium fits babies 12-18 lbs., up to ~22′ long; large fits babies 18-26 lbs, up to ~24″ long.)
Ergobaby Swaddler ~ $25
We’re fans of the Ergobaby swaddle. Don’t laugh; the arm pockets look like a baby straight jacket, but that’s what makes it so effective! The bottom allows for baby’s legs to be ergonomically correct and the leg pouch gives you easy access for a diaper change. See it in action here. Huzzah! *These run a little big.
The Woombie ~ $29
If you have a real Houdini on your hands, many parents find the Woombie to be a great solution. The Woombie is a simple zip-up suit made of very snug yet stretchy material — it was the key to sleeping success for many of my friends-who-had-tried-everything-else. That said, some babies are still able to wiggle their fingers (and hands, arms) out the top… sneaky babies. There are a few different versions, click here to pick the right one for you.
Love to Dream Swaddle UP ~ $29
The Swaddle UP is an easy, no-fuss zip swaddle that allows for arms-UP swaddling, which is apparently more comfortable (“natural,” the makers say) for many babies. Parents are absolutely gushing about this swaddle, and it’s the #1 best-selling swaddle on Amazon. It might be an especially great option to try if you have one of those babies that just seems to hate being swaddled, since it changes up the baby’s body position.
Other bonuses with the hands-up feature: babies have the ability to gnaw/suck on their hands (which is self-soothing), you can strap a swaddled “up” baby into a carseat, and you can continue swaddling longer since swaddled “up” babies can use their arms. Lastly, you can un-zip from the bottom, which makes for easier diaper changing. *Comes in different materials (lite, organic, extra warm, and silky lux (!) — oh lala.).
The Miracle Blanket ~ $29
Like rolling up a fat burrito (… or something), this blanket makes for a pleasingly tight swaddle. It may even be better than Velcro swaddlers because there are fewer opportunities for busting out (plus there’s no pulling-off-the-velcro noise involved). On the downside, some complain that the Miracle Blanket is too complicated to roll up, but those who love it, love it.
The Ollie Swaddle ~ $65
Parents who can stomach the cost are raving about the Ollie swaddle. It’s made with a thick, stretchy (but breathable) material and uses velcro to secure baby’s arms at her side. (As with other velcro swaddles, parents complain that the noise can be loud and wake babies up… but you shouldn’t really need to tear the sucker open when your baby is sleeping….)
The length is adjustable using a little elastic attached to the end, so you can make the whole thing shorter or longer depending on your baby and her age. (See below.)
Is it worth the price tag? Maybe. It does come beautifully packaged, with a protective laundry bag for washing, but still…. It’s probably not the first thing I’d try, given the expense (because believe me you’ll need more than one swaddle), but if you’ve yet to find luck with any of the more affordable options, there are lots and lots of parents swearing by this (and it’s hard to put a price tag on sleep).
Little Lotus Swaddle ~ $75 each/$130 for 2
Those are our favorites swaddles, folks. Note that sometimes, you have to try different ones to find one that works well for your baby.