What is a swaddling blanket?
A swaddling blanket, also known as a baby wrap, is a blanket used to keep an infant securely wrapped. The use of swaddling has been dated back to Egyptian times and continues today in many cultures around the world. Swaddling provides a sense of security for your baby, helps them sleep better at night, and prevents the startle reflex from startling them awake.
Swaddling blankets can be made from cotton muslin or fleece, with some even being made from silk. Swaddle designs vary from traditional straight lines to simple "burrito" style wraps that are easy to use.
Types of swaddling blankets
Traditional: Rectangular shape and straight edge (most popular)
Can be used for front and back carries and once the baby is old enough to roll over, it can also be used for hip carries. Secure closure swaddles with velcro or snaps at one end of the blanket.
Sized at 28" x 40" (71cm x 102 cm), large enough for even tall babies.
Good to know: These blankets are multi-purpose; they not only make a great swaddling wrap but can also be used as a nursing cover, stroller cover or changing mat. Made from 100% muslin cotton. Some styles have a zippered opening in the middle for easy diaper access when needed.
Classic: Rectangular shape and straight edge
Made from soft muslin cotton, these lightweight swaddling blankets are a favorite for warmer climates. These versatile baby wraps can be used as a nursing cover, stroller cover or changing mat.
Smaller in size than the traditional version (28" x 28"), so they are great for newborns - it's easy to tuck your hand inside to check on your baby when they are sleeping without disrupting them. Can also be used when the baby is small enough to wear in an Infant Insert carrier since there is no Velcro/snap closure in the middle of the blanket. Also good for smaller babies doing hip carries but who will grow into it soon and move on to front carries.
SwaddleMe: The original Zipadee-Zip! Compact, breathable and easy to use
Made from 100% cotton muslin, this swaddling blanket is designed with your baby's comfort in mind. It has a double zipper that allows you to change diapers easily without unswaddling your little one. It comes in two sizes (Small for infants up to 6 months and Large for infants 7-18 months).
One size fits all! There are even built-in arm pockets so babies' arms stay secure while preventing scratching the face or self-soothing behaviors like thumbsucking or -breastfeeding (which helps allow parents to get more sleep). Parents love the SwaddleMe because it is easier to swaddle with velcro instead of wrapping & tucking.
Newborn Sized Wraps: Half the size of a regular blanket! Perfect for smaller babies or front carries. 24" x 36"
Made from 100% cotton muslin, these lightweight swaddling blankets are a favorite for warmer climates because they are so breathable. At half the size of our regular Swaddle Blankets, you can easily tuck your hand inside to check on your baby when they are sleeping without disrupting them.
The smaller size also makes it perfect for use in infant carriers; there is no Velcro/snap closure in the middle that might get caught up in other straps or apparatus (making it to place your baby down).
Universal: Rectangular shape and straight edge
Good for hip, front and back carries once the baby is old enough to roll over (can also be used in infant carriers with the wrap facing out). Made from 100% cotton muslin. Secure closure with velcro or snaps at one end of the blanket. Extra-long size is perfect for taller babies; measuring 36" x 52".
Smaller infants might struggle with this design because it requires extra fabric to cover their body which can make it harder for them to move around and wiggle into a comfortable position (for some babies this never becomes an issue and they sleep like rocks - but most children fall somewhere in-between). However, once your baby starts rolling over, this design is perfect because it provides more wiggle room and they can stay securely wrapped.
Zippered Opening: Zip in the middle for easy diaper access when needed!
A zippered opening down the middle makes this design easier to use with a newborn but harder to use when they start rolling over (because then you have to wrap both ends, instead of just one). It is a good option for older babies who don't need as much containment. Comes in three different sizes - Original (28" x 36"), Plus (36" x 36") and All-in-One (48" x 48").
What material is better for swaddling blankets?
There is no "right" answer to this question (funny, right?). Personal preference is really what it comes down to. Here are our thoughts on some of the most popular swaddling blanket fabrics:
- Muslin: Our favorite fabric by far for Swaddle Blankets because it's versatile and breathable. It's lightweight so it's good for warmer temperatures, but not too thin that you can't use it as an extra layer during colder months or if your baby does a flip at night. Easily stretchy enough to tuck around your baby's arms without pulling back up over their heads (its key!!).
- Organic Cotton: This fabric is also lightweight and breathable. Unlike muslin, it doesn't stretch as easily which means you might have to wrestle a bit more with the blanket to get it just right for your baby. It's still lightweight but provides just enough weight that parents love using it during colder months/nights.
- Heavyweight cotton flannel: Somewhat similar in feel to fleece - lush, soft, and luxurious against the skin (with 100% cotton). Heavyweight makes this material perfect for colder climates or chilly nights sleeping outdoors. Best of all, it's usually sold at an affordable price point so you don't have to break the bank to treat your little one!
- T-shirt material: A popular choice for many families. Often comes in cute designs or colors (just like actual baby t-shirts!). This fabric is lightweight and stretchy (but not to the extent that muslin is) which means it's good for warmer climates, but you might have to wrestle a little bit with it to get the secure fit you're looking for.
Is it a tradition or a recent practice?
Although swaddling is a tradition that has been around for centuries, it is a recent practice in the United States. In the past 10 years, sales of swaddling blankets have increased significantly and are continuing to rise. It happened because the benefits of swaddling are numerous and well documented.
So, why should you swaddle your baby?
There are numerous benefits to swaddling your child. The most notable being the ability to comfort them in almost any situation. Swaddling is proven to help keep your baby happy and calm, which gives you more time for yourself or with siblings.
Swaddling can also provide relief from pains your baby may have when they are trying to self-soothe in the middle of the night. It's a natural way for parents and babies alike to reduce pain while helping their infants sleep longer stretches at night without waking up fully after each feeding.
Other reasons for you to swaddle a baby are:
- Reduces risk for SIDS
- Reduces crying due to the comforting effect of being held close
- Helps babies fall asleep faster
- Assists babies in staying asleep longer periods of time throughout the night (by keeping them satisfied and cozy)
How long should I keep my baby swaddled?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you stop swaddling at 2 months old, but only because your child will probably be able to roll over by then. After observing your baby's behavior, you can choose if it is safe or not to continue swaddling your child after their second month.
Nowadays, there are many companies that sell "hip-healthy" swaddle blankets, making it safer for newborns who tend to move their legs up and down while they are sleeping.
What is the best swaddling blanket?
The best swaddle blankets really depend on what you're looking for. If your baby likes to feel snug like in the womb, try a swaddle that has an enclosed bottom with an open top. On the other hand, if your child prefers their hands out of the blanket (like mine does!), choose one of those "burrito" types which are easier.
What's more important is to make sure the material used is breathable, soft, and easily washable because there will be times when it gets dirty or wet with urine or saliva. Luckily, today there are hundreds of products on the market that provide these features along with modern designs and patterns, so you can choose according to your baby's taste.
How many should I get?
The number of swaddling blankets that you need will depend on the age of your baby, how often they spit up or have other accidents while wrapped in the blanket, and whether you want to wash it after every use. With all things considered, 4-5 swaddling blankets would be a great start for any new parent.
If you expect to do lots of spit-ups or diaper leaks, buying 6-8 swaddling blankets is probably more cost-effective than washing them after each use. To save money on laundry costs consider purchasing 2-3 single layer muslin swaddle wraps (which can be washed/dried immediately) and 3-4 fleece swaddling blankets (which require a little more time to air dry).
Depending on the period of time you will need different amounts of swaddle blankets, below is the average number of swaddling blankets needed at each age:
- Newborns (up to 3 months): 4-6
- Infants (3-6 months): 4-5
- Toddlers (6+ months): 2-4
You can buy more than this if you need a variety of patterns and designs. However, unless your child tends to spit up a lot or has other accidents while being wrapped in their swaddling blanket, it is recommended that new parents have two muslin wraps and two fleece ones so they can wash one set while using the other. And remember, just because they get old doesn't mean that they are useless!
How to swaddle a baby?
The first time you try to swaddle a baby, it might seem a little complicated. However, after some practice and patience, you will soon get the hang of it! Here are some helpful hints on how to swaddle a baby by yourself:
- Position your child on a flat surface with their head above the edge of the bed or crib
- Place one hand under your child's neck and another behind his back so they are in an arched position
- Take the bottom part of the blanket and pull it up to your child's armpits while still leaving space for hand movements
- Roll the sides inward until they meet in front of your child's chest
- Make sure there is enough room on their shoulders. If not, you may need to make the blanket a little shorter
- Leave their arms out of the swaddling blanket and secure it by either tucking it underneath or wrapping their chest with an extra piece of fabric. Do not wrap them too tightly as babies should be able to move their hands freely!
Remember that there is no right or wrong way how to swaddle a baby. Your child might feel more comfortable using one arm outside of his/her swaddling blanket, or your baby might keep kicking off their blankets so you have to keep readjusting it. After some practice, you will find what works best for your child.
Once they start rolling over (at around 2 months), stop immediately and allow them to sleep on their backs. However, it is still best for infants to sleep on their sides as this position is safer.
Swaddling blankets have been used for hundreds of years to calm babies and help them sleep better. Today, luxury swaddling blankets are a common item in many nurseries as they offer a soft, breathable fabric that keeps babies warm without being too hot. Unlike traditional swaddling wraps, many modern swaddling blankets have built-in pockets on the outside so parents do not have to worry about complicated wrapping techniques while trying to keep their baby still.
New parents need between 2-4 fleece or 2-3 muslin single layer swaddling blankets that are easy to clean after every use. More if you are planning on doing lots of spit-ups or diaper leaks!