To say there is an overwhelming number of baby products to choose from would be an understatement.
I asked my mom friends for baby registry recommendations, and while there were some overlaps, it seemed like everyone had their own list of “can’t-live-without” products. One such item was the swaddle. Swaddles are a must, and when you start researching, you’ll see that there are hundreds to choose from. And I bet if you ask your friends, each one will have a different favorite.
While we were in the hospital following our baby Millie’s birth, my husband became a pro at using a muslin swaddle blanket. Nurses would stop by and ask, “Who did this amazing swaddle?” Dad of the Year material, right? And he was a pro. But when we got home and we hadn’t slept in days, it was the middle of the night, the lights were low, and there’s a flailing hysterical baby. Well, that muslin swaddle was nearly impossible. Cue the frustration and hopelessness. Will we ever sleep again?
Babies are true Houdinis, and no matter how tightly we wrapped that swaddle, Millie’s arms were free within a matter of minutes. Exhausted and willing to do anything for a peaceful night, we went on a swaddle buying spree.
It’s my first instinct to recommend this combination to everyone, proclaiming The Ollie Swaddle is THE best swaddle on the market. But I can’t end the conversation there. Each baby is different; you need to figure out which products work for your child. It takes time, but eventually, you become the expert on your child.
We’re here to help you get there faster. Here’s some more information on why you should swaddle, how to do it safely, plus our favorite swaddles and why they might be the right fit for your baby.
Before we jump into recommendations, let’s chat about why we swaddle and how to do it safely. Before babies are born, they are super snug in the womb. Swaddling mimics the comfy tight quarters of the womb and promotes calmness. Swaddling is said to decrease the moro reflex (or startle reflex) and often leads to more sleep and better sleep.
How and when to swaddle for safe sleep
Swaddles should be snug around the arms but loose in the hips so a baby can flex their hips. Make sure the swaddle doesn’t cover your baby’s head, nose, or mouth. Each swaddle design has a different way to properly be worn. Make sure to read the directions and/or watch videos to learn the correct way to put it on. Be aware of the temperature and the fabric choice; make sure your baby is not overheating. Check their neck and ears; if their ears are red and their neck feels sweaty, they may be too warm. Always place your baby on their back to go to sleep.
Babies should only be swaddled when it’s time to sleep, not all day. And finally, it is important that you stop swaddling as soon as they can rollover. If they are able to roll, they may prefer to sleep on their bellies, and it is absolutely time to ditch the swaddle.
The AAP recommends that babies do not have anything in their crib until they are one year old. That means no blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals. Sleep sacks and other post-rolling sleep outfits are the ideal way to keep your baby warm and cozy while avoiding sleep hazards.
You’ll see below that we include recommendations for when your baby is about to roll (typically around 3 to 4 months) and when they are fulling rolling over.
Swaddles for 0-3 Months
The Ollie Swaddle is for the baby that loves to be super snug. The design is simple, and it’s easy to put on. I’ve heard it described as a “baby straight jacket,” but ya know, in a good way. You can also use this as a transitioning piece by leaving your baby’s arms out. This is the highest priced swaddle on the list, and it's because it's a high quality product that lasts. The fabric is soft and luxurious, and the velcro is strong. If you are a fan of Taking Cara Babies, this is one of Cara's product recommendations, often shown in her sleep videos.
This is another velcro option that is relatively easy to put on once you get the hang of it, but it takes a couple of steps. It offers your baby an arms-down tight fit. The SwaddleMe is significantly less expensive than The Ollie Swaddle. Over time, the fabric may stretch, and the velcro may lose its strength. This is probably fine since you aren't swaddling forever, and you can buy a three-pack at a good price.
Master swaddler looking to show off your baby-burrito-making skills? This one is for you! These are large pieces of fabric that require you to do all the work. It’s no easy task, but if you watch YouTube videos and practice, you’re likely to get the hang of it (I never did, but that’s just me). If you are double swaddling like we did, this is a great first layer as it’s thin and breathable. Even if you don’t end up using these to swaddle, they are an excellent all-purpose product (light blanket, breastfeeding cover, stroller cover, giant burp cloth, play mat, etc.).
Transitional and Non-Swaddles
The Merlin may be worth buying just so you can put your kid in it and make them look like a marshmallow astronaut; it’s so silly and cute! But there is a real purpose. The Merlin is a great transitional product when your baby is too old to swaddle but can’t yet roll in The Merlin. The thick material softens the moro reflex, allowing your baby to sleep longer without waking themselves up. Be warned, this product has a short lifespan as you can’t use it once your baby is rolling. We only used it for two weeks, but honestly, when you’re in the thick of sleepless nights, it’s worth buying for two weeks of improved sleep.
When your baby is out of the swaddle but needs a little something extra, the Nested Bean is a nice option. You may notice your baby calms down when you put your hand on their chest. The weighted bean in this sleep sack acts as that weight to help calm your child and to extend the “cuddle effect” for longer sleep. Think of this as a weighted blanket for babies.
This star-fish shaped swaddle provides babies with slight resistance and the unique ability to freely move while keeping them cozy. Babies can roll around and use their hands while still holding onto that "womb-like" feeling. Plus, it keeps baby hands warm! Since the baby's body is fully covered, there's no need for PJs underneath (if the temperature is right).