I’m a practical mother. So the worst gift to me, by definition, is the unused gift stored in the back of my baby’s closet, among the mountain of items and swaddling blankets my baby owns. I often wonder if even one Uhaul would fit all the clothes, toys, and furniture I have for this little mini-me.
A few gifts are bound to arrive from well meaning friends or relatives that may actually give you stress of anxiety. We may never use these gifts, but they’re too nice or sentimental to throw away, so it ends up in the closet or attic if Mom’s lucky to have the space.
Caveat: clearly this is a first world problem, and of course it’s the thought that counts. Of course you need to be thankful for any kindness shared during the biggest glacial shift of your life. Believe me, I’m eternally grateful to be remembered by friends who probably start hearing less from me after birth.
The most commonly unwanted baby gift
When I had my first baby, the pile of baby blankets stored in the corner of the closet could probably have kept a small village warm. Traditionally, parents have used blankets for centuries so the gift should come as no surprise.
These are regular cotton blankets, mind you, the ones most of the world grew up covered by. Seemingly innocuous pieces of soft fabric, with ponies, balloons or stars embroidered on them. Some have a warm fuzzy trim, cozy enough that the parents would be happy to steal if they were oh just a bit bigger.
The slightly anxious urban mother, however, has been filled with dread and fear about putting any loose items in cribs-blankets, toys, loose crib bumpers, anything that might slip into the crib. Even the sight of a baby blanket for new parents brings about a mixture of fear and slight loathing.
What is SIDS
So what’s so terrifying about loose items in the crib? SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, resulted in 1600 deaths in 2015. In order to prevent suffocation from a loose item, doctors have decreed extra safety precautions in cribs. Any pamphlets taken home from the hospital will include some kind of caution about SIDS, and not letting your new precious cargo sleep with anything that could end up on his/her face (ahem regular blankets).
The best way to combat SIDS is to have babies sleep on their back, though you may find eventually that many kids enjoy sleeping on their stomach.
For the first few months of their lives, babies are typically swaddled in swaddling blankets. When I first heard this word I thought it was some kind of new age dance possibly inspired by ducks waddling (how was I to know?)
In reality it’s a method of wrapping the baby that simulates the tightness of the womb. It also helps parents get more sleep by combatting the moro reflex, which is when a baby’s involuntarily flailing arms and legs wake them up.
Aha! So they do use blankets! Well these are special blankets, usually made out of muslin, a stretchy material, and cut at a specific size, all to make swaddling for new parents easier. Muslin swaddle blankets actually look a bit more like long scarves or pashminas than normal blankets. They also tend to be fairly thin so that the swaddle can be snug.
A Thousand Year Old Method
Swaddling is actually a time honored tradition used even in ancient times by the Egyptians and Romans, and is meant to have a calming effect on babies. Most newborns are swaddled at the hospital, and the nurses will teach you, but having a youtube video or 2 on hand is useful for the sleep deprived parent.
There are now essentially 2 types of swaddling blankets:
1) Free form blankets – These are long pieces of cloth that are often look more similar to a pashmina than a traditional blanket.Parents need to master the swaddling technique themselves.
2) Velcro fastened or zipper secured - Velcro Swaddle Blankets are basically an adjustable swaddle sack that can be a nice shortcut for new parents. These area favorite for nighttime sleep when you are too bleary eyed to swaddle properly. In the early days especially, these have built in fasteners to keep your swaddle in place.
The 21st century blanket has gotten a makeover, and it’s form fitting, more secure, and meant to be easier to use. But trying to navigate through all the products is still a bit of a headache, so here is a quick guide to the best sleep blanket solutions:
How Long Do You Swaddle?
Babies are swaddled right out of the gate at the hospital, and parents are encouraged to use this technique until babies can roll over. Since swaddling actually constricts the arms, your baby may have trouble rolling back over into a safe breathing position, so once that stage of development has been reached, it’s time to wean them off the swaddle, usually by 3-4 months.
What Does A Good Swaddle Look Like
This is what a happily swaddled kid looks like
What We Look For In A Swaddle
- Breathability – Swaddles are quite snug so to prevent from overheating the material should be quite breatheable.
- Secure swaddle – Many parents discover that they’ve given birth to a little Houdini who can somehow get out of the tightest swaddle. If a swaddling blanket has a built in Velcro fastener or zipper, the ratio of the neck to the lower half of the blanket can determine how tightly
- Machine Washable – Your newborn is meant to spend about 15-20 hours sleeping, and bathroom accidents are so common that you need to be able to throw these blankets in the wash frequently.
This swaddle by Aden + Anais is made of 100 percent pure cotton muslin. The blanket itself is light, weighing only about one pound. The product dimension is 44 x 44 x 0.2 inches. This will likely be slightly more economical per swaddle than the zippered or velcroed swaddles
This swaddle is more than just a blanket- it can serve as a burp cloth, stroller, nursing cover, baby wrap, and car seat cover, among other ingenious adaptations. The fabric is light and breathable, minimizing the risk of overheating. The fabric seems to get softer with every wash and creates a comfortable feel for the baby.
Because it’s a versatile cloth, the swaddle doesn't come with any velcro fasteners or zippers, which make it a little bit daunting for the first time swaddling mom. Swaddling takes a bit of practice, but at the hospital the nurses can teach you.
For a premium silky feel, Aden + Anais also make a bamboo viscose swaddle.
This swaddle, made of 100% cotton, weighs about 8 ounces and comes with soft fabric wings that secure the baby. The smallsize is 9 x 1.7 x 5.7 inches. The weight recommendation ranges between 7 and 14 pounds. The swaddle is unisex and adjustable to baby's growth and size.
There’s a slit on the back of the swaddle which is handy for swaddling your baby in a harness like a car seat, bouncer, or swing. You can also check quickly if the baby needs a diaper change.
The fabric is stretchy which makes it easier to swaddle. That being said, this may also enable the baby to wriggle out. The sizing is going to be somewhat individual to the baby, but this is a good solution for parents who don’t want to fumble around with loose ends.
Conveniently a harness slit at the bottom allows you to keep your baby swaddled in car seats, bouncers, swings, etc.
- Allows babies to keep hands up
- Double zipper for easy diaper change
- Organic version available
- Sizing will be more important
- Needs to handle baby's movement without triggering moro reflex
The Love To Dream Swaddle weighs about 5 ounces. The small sizeis 11 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches. It is made of 93 percent Cotton and 7 percent Elastane.
This swaddle is another take on the traditional method of swaddling. While swaddling typically calls for restraining the baby’s hands to the side, this swaddle actually allows the baby to sleep with the arms up. Some babies prefer this.
The ideal situation is for the baby to be able to still move his/her arms and touch his face, but for there to be enough resistance so that the moro reflex doesn’t wake him.
This swaddle comes with a double zipper for easy diaper changes. There’s also an organic and a light version.
As a bonus the baby can be packed like an adorable little teddy bear in theLove To Dream swaddle.
Since the swaddle allows for more movement, as with any swaddle, it may not work for some babies. The extra movement could lead to the baby waking up more. There also have been some reports of the swaddle pulling at the baby’s neck, possibly exacerbated by extra movement.
Another take on the traditional blanket, this blanket has no velcro or zipper fasteners. Arm wraps inside the blanket keep the baby's arms secure for a better night's sleep. There is one long flap that can be wrapped around the baby several times tightly.
This swaddle weighs around 7 oz. The product dimensions are 11.8 x 7.9 x 3.9 inches. It offers comfort and is marketed for fussy babies, with soft and airy fabric. There's only one size though swaddles aren't recommended once your baby can roll over anyway.
If it can help your baby sleep through the night, it truly is a miracle.
Seen on SharkTank, this starfish swaddle design gives your wriggly babies a little more room to move their arms around. Babies can actually roll over, wiggle, and push up safely in this swaddle while still maintaining a snug feel.
It's meant to soothe a baby's startle reflex and help babies self-soothe back to sleep.
It's difficult to find one size fits all gear, and there have been some reports of babies able to pull the swaddle over their face as arms are raised. This really depends on the size of your baby and how gith the neck hole would be. This is not meant for newborns which should help to reduce the risk of any issues!
Swaddling is one of the first techniques out of the gate the hospital nurses should help you with. They’ll make it look easy, but after a few practices you’ll be a pro too! Choosing the right swaddle for you will make it even easier!