Beginners Guide to Swaddling

I have this very distinct memory of my first child, Olive, breaking out of her swaddle when she was just 3 weeks old.  The girl needed to be swaddled, or else she wouldn’t really sleep, and I was at my wits end.  Along came my friend Morgan Olson who shared her incredible swaddling technique. I really wanted to embed the video in this post, but I was unable to figure out how to do so.  Anyway, this swaddle technique was indispensable. I only did one thing differently than in the video-I always inserted the bundled baby in a SwaddleMe blanket, instead of just wrapping her in another blanket.  That’s because Olive would break through the first swaddle unless she was strapped into something else! She was one strong cookie.

I recommend the swaddle to all new parents.  Occasionally there are babies that do better without it, but I encourage all parents of babies 1-12 weeks to give it a real try.  Often babies will protest the swaddle by crying while being swaddled, but quiet right down once they’re swaddled tightly all the way.

Also, I got tons of grief from all sides of the family! My parents were always talking about how the baby looked like a burrito and how she wasn’t getting enough time to develop her limb control.  They quieted down substantially when they had a chance to take care of her and they saw how the swaddle automatically induced a relaxed response in her.  It’s like the fan for white noise.  If you get your baby used to it from birth, then once they get swaddled and hear the fan, they know it’s time for bed.  My daughter still chills out at 4 years old when she hears her beloved fan.

If you use the swaddle, be prepared to drop the swaddle.  I have another incredibly distinct memory of the day we “dropped” the swaddle at 13.5 weeks.  Olive had started kicking so vigorously that she was able to flip herself over onto her belly while still completely wrapped.  Imagine my horror when I caught her stuck, face down, in her crib.  I decided the next day she had to sleep without it, and what an excruciating day that was. She was still taking four naps at the time, and she did not really ever fall into a deep sleep for any of them.  Finally, at the end of the day with an exhausted baby, I finally decided to flip her on her stomach to sleep.  She cried for a few minutes, then slept deeply for her nap.  From that day on, several of the issues I’d been experiencing with short napping disappeared. She slept better and more soundly once I started putting her to bed on her stomach.

Now, I know that tummy sleeping is highly controversial, as it should be! The only reason I felt comfortable allowing Olive to sleep on her stomach was because I owned an AngelCare movement sensor monitor.  I’m going to write an upcoming post on that monitor, so stay tuned!

I hope you all give the swaddle a fair shake.  I’ve heard some recent recommendations that we not swaddle babies so tightly because they’re unable to reach their hands to suck on for self soothing.  I feel that I dropped the swaddle so early that that was never really issue for us, and I don’t really recommend tight swaddling past 14 weeks of age.

One final thing to keep in mind is to keep your baby dressed very lightly underneath the swaddle, especially if the heater is on in the winter, or if it’s summertime.  A onesie and perhaps a pair of socks is sufficient clothing underneath the swaddle in most cases.




By |2017-04-11T16:37:09+00:00October 7th, 2012|Categories: Swaddling|Tags: , |5 Comments


  1. Michelle October 14, 2012 at 10:34 am - Reply

    I have never seen this technique before. I am a firm believer in swaddling. We just had our third baby 6 weeks ago. I always joke that I could be a professional swaddler, but this little girl is one strong cookie (and my first two were crazy active boys). She is so docile when awake, but somehow she can wiggle and get out of her swaddle. I also wrap her in two blankets, but I just do a normal swaddle with both blankets. I am definitely going to try this and see if it keeps her wrapped up well. I am going to have to watch the video a few times though as I am not quite sure which part of the blanket gets wrapped over the top of the tummy. Thanks for posting! Looking forward to reading more here.

  2. Hunter November 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    How do you recommend dropping the swaddle? My son Eli is now 13.5 months old. He does occasionally break out. He chews and sucks on his hand a lot when awake so he may find it comforting to have that when trying to sleep. Thanks Natalie!

    • admin November 7, 2012 at 11:57 pm - Reply

      I believe you should keep the swaddle until about 16 weeks, or until the baby starts showing signs of being able to roll over, whichever happens first. Hand sucking is a great self soothing tool, so if he breaks free and sucks on his hand, that will be a natural way to break the habit of the swaddle. And thanks for your thanks!!

  3. Lindy March 2, 2015 at 3:28 am - Reply

    My son is 17 weeks and I still swaddle him for all naps and sleep as he often wakes himself up in his sleep without it. I want to start sleep training soon. Can I sleep train while still using the swaddle? If not, is it better to wean the swaddle or can I just stop using it cold turkey? What is the best way to wean from the swaddle?

    • Natalie March 2, 2015 at 10:03 am - Reply

      I would stop using the swaddle at the same time you stop sleep training. It’s not really sleep training at this age if you’re using anything besides darkness and white noise to help him sleep. I will say, using the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit is often a good way to transition from the swaddle to nothing at all. You’d want to stop using it once your little one started flipping over in their sleep.

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