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If you've ever swaddled a baby, you know it's no easy task. Between sheer exhaustion, worry that you're doing it wrong and a charge that may or may not be screaming in your face as you try, swaddling is a skill. Luckily, the rewards are many.
What is swaddling?
The transition from womb to world is undoubtedly, well, a lot. There's light, sound, smell, but also a newfound ability to move about. After all, the previous habitat didn't allow for much movement (despite the feeling they could literally punch your throat and bladder at the same time). For some babies, that freedom can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. By wrapping them up snug with their arms and legs tucked into a swaddle, you can mimic that feeling of being safe inside mama.
Swaddling also helps reduce the moro reflex–the adorable but somewhat heartbreaking startles–which can wake them up from a sound sleep for no apparent reason in those early weeks and months. And since blankets aren't an option for the first year, swaddles can safely keep them warm and comfortable.
Related: A baby swaddle saved my motherhood
When can you swaddle a baby?
According to Rachel Mitchell, Certified Sleep Specialist and founder of My Sweet Sleeper, the age-old practice "is meant to be used in the newborn stage, but as soon as babies start rolling over (between 10-12 weeks or so), it is important that parents stop swaddling for safety reasons." Also, not all babies love to be swaddled. In those cases, Mitchell suggests using a style that allows little ones to raise their arms or opt instead for a sleep sack designed for newborns.
If your little Houdini starts breaking out regularly, you may want to try a velcro style swaddle.
What should you look for when choosing a swaddle?
With all the styles on the market, it may take a few tries before finding the one that works for your baby. (Turns out, the best swaddle is one that works!) In general, there are two main kinds. Traditional blanket styles which can be tricky to get the hang of, but offer more versatility and customized fit and easier to use pouch-style swaddles that leverage velcro and zippers to snuggle baby just right. "When choosing a swaddle my recommendation is to look for light and breathable materials, and also ensure you can get a tight fit with the material. Sometimes bulky or thick materials are difficult to swaddle with, so a light muslin swaddle is generally my recommendation. However, if your baby is breaking out of the swaddle frequently then using a velcro swaddle will help give baby a tighter fit and is a safer option," says Mitchell.
Related: Baby Sleep Guides & Schedules
Oh, the irony of new parenthood. While you could likely fall asleep face down in a pile of Legos while the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade marches on three feet from your head, getting baby to sleep requires planetary alignment, sorcery and an engineering degree.
Well, not really.
We've rounded up some of the most user-friendly, best swaddles that don't require complicated math (or even a fully awake parent) to operate. From soft muslin swaddles to cotton sacks that make middle of the night diaper changes as easy as possible, they may be just the thing to help everyone get a little more sleep. And nothing's better than that.