Updated: Dec 12, 2021
Unpopular opinion here… I don’t like Swaddlers for the first three months of life.
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I have a few reasons that I have from a professionally based view as an OT, so please read and hear me out!
Swaddlers were created to make it easier for a caregiver for swaddling baby when they are going to sleep, or are awake, or during a diaper change. When your baby is crying and fussing, the LAST thing you want to do is finick with a swaddle to get it right. I hear that (and your crying baby).
BUT… they go against your baby’s natural needs and movement patterns in the first few months of life. When a baby is in your womb, think about their position. Their arms are typically flexed and against their chest, or bring their hands onto their face or mouth. Their legs are flexed at the hips and knees.
There are 2 main problems I see with Swaddlers:
1. They do not allow for enough support to tuck the legs at the knees and hips
2. They do not support the arms in the ideal flexed position with hands to face
Many many many Swaddlers do not provide adequate support for newborns. If u have a big old newborn, you might find that they get better support than if a little baby were to be in the same swaddle.
I have found that caregivers will tell me that their baby “hates swaddling”. They want their arms out, or are constantly kicking their legs and just can’t seem to calm down.
So why does this happen?
Your baby needs containment, pressure, and a sense of security. Many Swaddlers have the legs unsupported, sort of "free floating" in the bottom section. They are kicking MORE to find that boundary, constantly looking for it. When it comes to the arms, many Swaddlers encourage arms crossed or down at the baby's sides (which is a huge no-no).
Now if you are reading this and you have been using Swaddlers, ITS OKAY!!! Don't panic, you are not harming your little one.
Swaddling by hand is my primary choice because you can adjust where your little one's arms and legs are supported. You can provide a snug fit where your baby needs. It allows for an adaptable support for your little one. Some babies need more support at their arms versus their legs, or vice versa. Swaddlers can be adapted to some degree, but do have their limitations. When your infant begins to show signs of not needing as much support around 2-3 months of age, then I think Swaddlers are a great transition!!
Meeting in the Middle
I have searched long and hard, for many many hours. I found a compromise if you still want a swaddler. The company called Norani I think has done it best. They have inserts for the arms to have the babys arms crossed at their chest. It makes swaddling so much easier. When I work 1-1 with families I show them this method to swaddle with their blanket, because its a compromise to secure the arms without compromising natural movement completely. Listen, they even have a video to demo their product. I love them for a middle ground. I only wish I thought of it first!! Bonus here? Their products are ADORABLE.