alternatives to swaddling: what to do when baby doesn't like swaddle
Swaddling your baby has countless benefits. It mimics the mother’s womb, offering your little one a sense of safety, security, and familiarity - something they crave after entering the world and departing the literal comfort zone they’ve known for many months. It helps to reduce overstimulation, important in a world where we are incessantly overstimulated.
swaddle for a better sleep
Swaddling has also been shown to help with the effects of colic, which, if you’ve ever been kept up multiple nights in a row, you know how sweet it is to find a safe and effective sleep aid that really works. And, most important of all, swaddling may reduce the risk of SIDS in newborns and infants, making it a special component to any bedtime routine. And when it comes to finding ways that enhance baby’s sleep - and thus, your own - we’re all eager to jump into whatever eases discomfort, in whatever form that may take.
Swaddling is the most common recommendation for newborns, and the one we are most prone to reach for. But what happens when baby doesn’t like swaddle? Look for alternatives to swaddling that work for you and your family.
To swaddle or not
Signs that your little one may not be interested in swaddling can take many forms. To swaddle or not is a question that many new parents have encountered. And if “my newborn doesn’t like to be swaddled” has crossed your mind, rest easy. The answer to “is it OK to not swaddle a newborn” is yes; it’s more than OK to not swaddle a newborn, and there are plenty of alternatives to swaddling out there.
What happens if you don’t swaddle your baby isn’t a make or break, and it doesn’t mean that they won’t sleep. In fact, it may simply mean that it’s their preference, and the first sign of them showing their independence--embrace it!
The best techniques and swaddles for when baby hates being swaddled
If your baby is not interested in being swaddled, you may notice a few things. The baby might fight or break out of the swaddle. If this is the case, one of the alternatives to swaddling in the traditional sense is the half swaddle: simply swaddle up to the baby's armpits so that their arms are free. This could present a significant change of heart for a baby that finds comfort in their hands - like, for instance, the thumb-suckers in the group, or babies that like to hold their pacifiers.
Even newborns can find creative ways to self-soothe, discovering quickly how to cradle their pacifier with both hands so that it stays in place and comforts them. But if you find that you have a kicker on your hands - a baby that fights out of their swaddle with both hands and feet - then it might be time to find a new technique.
if baby hates being swaddled
Though it may seem counterintuitive, when baby hates swaddle, another technique you might try is tightening the swaddle. When a swaddle is wrapped too loosely, a baby might not feel as soothed or comforted as they might with a more tightly wrapped swaddle. So the next time you swaddle, ever-so-lightly tighten the swaddle and see if it brings the baby more comfort. You might be surprised.
You may also want to consider your timing. If the baby hates being swaddled, it may be a simple matter of not having timed the swaddle properly. An overtired baby might react to swaddling differently than a baby that is in the process of winding down, and thus more ready for swaddling.
The next opportunity for a slow pause in the day, think about your timing. Because in thinking about the when with swaddling, you may begin to notice a significant change in how baby reacts to it. Ways you can do it: plan a wind-down period ahead of nap times or bedtimes so that swaddling effectively becomes a piece of your routine, and a way you can both decompress and prepare for a calm rest.
finding the right material
Choosing the right material for your baby’s swaddle is also paramount - which is why we made our collections from muslin. The fabric is breathable, meaning that baby won’t overheat. It’s also soft - so soft, we often liken it to a mother’s touch.
We’ve taken out the guesswork with muslin, a material that’s been tried and true for centuries across many cultures. Muslin is a little stretchy, supremely lightweight, and yet entirely durable, making it an incredibly versatile material for all things baby - but especially swaddling. Muslin swaddles create a warm, gentle, womb-like experience for baby, with a softness that only gets better with each wash. That means comfort for both parent and baby - and what could be better than that?
a baby muslin sleeping bag is also an alternative to swaddling
Do I have to swaddle my newborn to sleep?
Swaddling is a lovely solution for parents and babies - when it’s the right fit for all. Despite their size and infancy, newborns are incredibly intuitive. They know what they like, and they know what they don’t like, and though they may not be able to talk, they will always find a way to communicate a feeling.
how to know if we should continue swaddling?
If swaddling just isn’t their thing, you may notice crying or attempts to break free of the swaddle. But know this: just because swaddling is good for baby doesn’t mean your world will crumble if they don’t take to it. Just as a toddler may not take to a certain food, newborns and infants may not take to swaddling - and it’s more than OK. There are plenty of alternatives to swaddling!
Knowing when to swaddle or not will no doubt become a part of your parenthood discussion. And if you notice an increase in irritability for an otherwise calm baby, swaddling might be what’s setting them off. Pare back and see if there’s a benefit to not swaddling. If you find success in doing so, you might want to consider swaddle alternatives - like cotton muslin sleeping bags - to see if your child responds better.
The ins and outs of swaddling are, no doubt, all about trial and error. Some babies may be quick to accept and love the comfort that swaddling gives them. Others may find comfort in other ways that aren’t as confining as swaddling. No matter what, a healthy, happy baby is best when enveloped in love above all else. So even if swaddling isn’t your baby’s thing - fret not.
How and when to stop swaddling
Knowing when to stop swaddling your baby may present itself more clearly than whether or not to start. If your baby has taken to swaddling, then knowing when to stop will be a transition you’ll need to prepare for. The best indicator is when your baby begins the attempts at rolling over.
The safest time to stop swaddling is around 2 months old, but as soon as you see indicators of baby trying to roll over, call it quits. This usually takes place around the 3 to 4 month mark, but you might also want to take into consideration the startle reflex.
Babies don’t typically outgrow the Moro reflex until around 5 to 6 months of age, and though we don’t necessarily recommend you swaddle this long, it might be something you think about when deciding on a time to stop swaddling your baby.
Read more: When to stop swaddling your baby
The life of swaddles beyond swaddling
In the event that your baby is not interested in swaddling, don’t feel like money’s been wasted on a surplus of swaddles. Swaddles happen to be one of the most versatile products, and the extent of their use knows no bounds. Not only are swaddles ideal as nursing covers while out at the park or the beach, we love to use them in a number of other ways too.
As a huge part of babyhood, swaddles are the one product that you’ll use over and over again. You might find yourself in a pinch and needing a cover for a diaper changing mat - a swaddle is the perfect answer for that. Their soft, muslin composition is also incredibly impactful for times where unexpected spills come up. If an unforeseen spit up or blow out happen, swaddles are an amazing asset for keeping clean - at home or on-the-go. And it’s for this reason and their supreme versatility that you’ll find many uses for swaddles, and every reason to always keep multiple on hand. So that even if your baby hasn’t taken to swaddling, or if you think you may not need them after they stop swaddling - think again. You might want to hang onto those swaddles. They’re sure to come in use.