One of the cutest things you’ll probably ever see is a sleeping baby swaddled up like a burrito. But swaddling blankets aren’t just decorative wrapping; they’re meant to help infants, especially newborns, feel settled. "Swaddling is thought to help calm a newborn baby and improve sleep," says Carrie M. Brown, MD, a pediatrician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. "Most babies will sleep more soundly if swaddled than left with their arms loose."
During the first three months after birth, also called the “fourth trimester,” parents can help baby better adjust to the outside world by creating a snug, womb-like environment for him. This is especially true during sleeptime. So, to quell a fussy baby when it’s time to rest—or to stretch the amount of time your sleeping baby stays down—give swaddle blankets a try. When done correctly, it could lead to some much-needed sleep for the entire family.
Types of swaddle blankets
Swaddling babies is a centuries’ old practice, but lucky for parents the modern-day version of swaddling blankets is a bit more sophisticated than strips of cloth tied together that babies of yesteryear had to put up with (to think!). These days, you’ll find the best swaddle blankets in a variety of styles, colors and fabrics to suit your baby’s needs. Take a look at the different types of swaddle blankets you can choose from:
• Baby swaddle wrap. Typically square-shaped and fashion out of muslin or cotton, these require the old-fashioned, hospital-wrap method of bundling baby like a little burrito. (Also called the “dudu wrap” which stands for the “down up down up” swaddle steps.) No cheater snaps or closures.
• Swaddle suit. For parents who prefer to take the guesswork out of swaddling, a swaddle suit, or swaddle pod, is the answer. The suits feature zippers, velcro or hook-and-loop closures to keep baby bundled up inside.
How to use swaddle blankets
While swaddling blankets can be a lifesaver, there are practical and safety tips to keep in mind before you start using them to put baby down for sleep.
- Most babies enjoy being swaddled—that’s why hospital nurses do it. But it’s possible your baby will object once she’s home. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching the swaddling blankets you’re using. Or, your baby may simply need to get used to your swaddling technique, so don’t let a first few fussy swaddle sessions dissuade you.
- Past the two-month mark, babies want (and need) their arms free. They’re ready to reach around and explore. You can transition to a wearable blanket to keep baby warm.
- A swaddle or wearable blanket is the only bedding you should use in the crib or bassinet, except, of course, for a fitted crib sheet. Keep bumpers, loose blankets, pillows and stuffed animals out of the crib and you’ll have a safe sleep environment.
- How many swaddle blankets do you need? Starting with two or three ensures that you always have a clean one if another is in the laundry.
Best Swaddle Blankets
Your hospital may have used a thin, cotton blanket for swaddling your newborn. You can take a few home with you—they’re free! But if you’re not a swaddle ninja like those nurses, you may also want a cotton muslin blanket, which is typically larger and has a little more stretch. Or, guess what? There are many swaddlers that do the job of swaddling baby for you with closures, arm pockets, leg pouches and more. Here, 11 best swaddle blankets to try.
1. Aden and Anais Classic Muslin Swaddle Blankets
The Aden and Anais swaddle is a favorite among parents for many reasons: They’re large, the patterns are killer-cute (including a Disney swaddle blanket and many organic swaddle blankets) and, finally, you can use one for countless other baby tasks: stroller blanket, on-the-fly changing mat, tummy time spot on the floor, nursing cover, emergency burp cloth—you name it, these muslin swaddle blankets have done it. Once you have these best swaddling blankets in your life, you’ll find yourself using them for everything, so thank goodness they’re sold both individually and in sets of three or four.
Buy It: Aden and Anais Classic Swaddles, $16/one to $55/four, adenandanais.com
2. Halo SleepSack Swaddle Swaddling Blankets
Founded on the “back to sleep” message, Halo has a mission to keep babies snug, secure and sleeping safely. It’s also taken the origami aspect out of swaddling blankets by making them foolproof: You zip your baby into a Halo swaddle, then fold over the “wings” to keep his arms by his side. Once baby outgrows the swaddle suit, this turns into a safe, wearable blanket. They’re offered in cotton, muslin and micro-fleece swaddle materials.
Buy It: Halo SleepSack Swaddles, $27 to $31, halosleep.com
3. Woombie Swaddling Blankets
Woombie’s swaddle pod has something of a cult following, with some moms and dads swearing this is what helped the entire family get much-needed shuteye in those early newborn months. You literally zip your baby into the stretchy but snug swaddle suit and that’s it. The two-way zipper also lets you unzip from the bottom for easy nighttime diaper changes.
Buy It: Original Woombie Swaddling Blankets, $25, woombie.com
4. Love to Dream Swaddling Blankets
Ever notice how some babies naturally sleep with their arms up over their head in a “victory” position? This zip-up, arms up swaddle pod is built so a baby’s arms stay in that comfy, raised position. It’s also flexible enough that if your baby wants to move her hand to her mouth for self-soothing, she can—it’s got more give in the arms than your average newborn swaddling blankets. It’s made of cotton and has a two-way zipper for fast diaper changes.
Buy It: Swaddle Up Original Swaddling Blankets, $30, lovetodream.com
5. Summer Infant SwaddleMe Swaddling Blankets
Swaddling is easy with Summer Infant’s SwaddleMe, which secures across your baby’s body with hook and loop closures. This velcro swaddle blanket means you can swaddle a little more tightly or a little more loosely, depending on your baby’s preference. Bonus: among our picks of best swaddle blankets, the SwaddleMe offers preemie swaddle wraps for babies up to 7 pounds.
Buy It: SwaddleMe Original Swaddling Blankets, $15/one to $35/three, summerinfant.com
6. Ergobaby Swaddler Swaddling Blankets
This brand’s take on swaddling blankets encourages your baby’s legs to be in the M-shaped frog position, which is recommended to avoid hip dysplasia. And the removable bottom piece can also lift for quick diaper changes, while the pocket sleeves help securely hold your baby’s arms.
Buy It: Ergo Swaddlers, $25, store.ergobaby.com
7. Miracle Blanket Swaddling Blankets
Inside the Miracle Blanket there’s a hidden pouch for your baby’s legs, and sliding her in there is the first easy step to securing this swaddle sack. Next you tuck the wide flaps to keep baby’s arms at her side or across her chest in the “hands to heart” swaddle position. Lastly, tuck in the extra fabric and voilà! It’s a wrap that not even Houdini could break.
Buy It: Miracle Blankets, $30, miraclebabyusa.com
8. Little Unicorn Organic Cotton Swaddle Blankets
What if you simply want the best swaddle blankets that also happen to be very cute and sweetly patterned? The designs of Little Unicorn’s Organic Cotton swaddles are to die for. Flowers! Flamingos! Dinosaurs! And did we mention the succulents? The prints are darling, and new ones come out often. You’ll need to break out your traditional dudu wrap skills to swaddle your baby, but the end result will be precious.
Buy It: Little Unicorn Organic Cotton Swaddles, $16 to $24, littleunicorn.com
9. Hudson Baby Muslin Swaddle Blankets
These cotton muslin baby swaddle blankets are both generously sized and nicely priced. Why not buy a pack of three, and use them for everything from swaddling, breastfeeding (they make great covers) to throwing over the stroller as a breathable sun shade? They’re sold in cute, coordinating patterns of baby girl swaddle blankets and baby boy swaddle blankets.
Buy It: Hudson Baby Muslin Swaddle Blankets (3 count), $21, amazon.com
10. Ergobaby 2-in-1 Baby Sleeping Bag and Swaddle Set
When you’re approaching the two-month mark, swaddling blankets like this one is a great transition tool. Start using it with your baby’s arms securely wrapped, then use it arms-out as a wearable blanket as baby gets older. And this is the rare swaddle that gives you the option of wrapping your baby’s arms but keeping his legs completely out and free. This swaddle-to-sack is so versatile and long-lasting (closures at the shoulders allow you to adjust the fit as your baby grows that first year) that it deserves a place among our best swaddle blankets and we gave it our Best of Baby Award!
Buy It: Ergobaby 2-in-1 Baby Sleeping Bag and Swaddle Sets, $35, buybuybaby.com
11. Kepi Kozy Support Swaddle
This take on swaddling offers head, back and neck support for your newborn, while her arms are held in place swaddle-style and her legs are free, so any caregiver (including grandparents and even siblings) can hold your baby safely and you can actually relax (at least for a bit). It’s for babies up to 15 pounds.
Buy It: Kepi Kozi Support Swaddle, $58, shopkepi.com
Published August 2017