Swaddling: How to safely swaddle your baby for sleep

Newborn Sleep Infant Sleep Product Information

 

Hi! If you’re new here, welcome. Perhaps you're expecting your first mini, you’re adding to your family and need a quick refresher, or your baby is about to have a baby, and you want to relearn to lend a hand – congratulations to all of you!

Whatever the reason, we understand how overwhelming it can be whenever a mini is on the way. Our job is to guide you through the process of swaddling and answer all your burning questions. As many of us are mothers ourselves, we've been where you are, and we want to ensure you feel supported as you enter into this journey of newborn sleep.

What is Swaddling and why do it?

Swaddling is an ancient practice of wrapping your baby in a cocoon, to help them feel safe and secure. We swaddle our babies to avoid the sudden flailing of their arms and head that swiftly snaps them awake, undoing all that hard work it took to get to them to sleep. That flailing movement is known as the Moro, or startle reflex. It is a jerk in their bodies that can occur every 20 minutes in some babies. It is completely normal and begins in the first trimester in utero. A loud noise, a sudden bright light, movement or even a parent laughing can trigger the reflex. Swaddling calms this jerking movement while keeping your mini comfortable and content. 

The transition from the cosy confines of the womb to life outside can be anything but easy for newborns who are used to mum's comforting warmth and movement. Commonly referred to as the 'fourth trimester', your newborn will probably sleep for around 16 hours a day in the first few months as their body grows rapidly, their brain develops, and they learn a circadian rhythm. A swaddle can help your baby adjust to the outside world by providing security and familiarity. It can help to settle your little one if they become overstimulated by their surroundings. 

Is swaddling for every baby? 

All babies are wonderfully different. Some like to sleep in an environment that mimics the close confines of the womb, while some like the freedom of sleeping with their arms out, and some don't like being swaddled at all.  For these babies, we suggest trying using our Cocoon Swaddle Bag as a sleeping bag with the arm studs undone. Once they are three months of age, you can try one of our infant sleeping bags which provide a roomier fit for babies who don’t like being confined. 

Regardless of which pouch you choose, a safe sleeping environment is paramount:

  • For sleep, always place your baby on their back at the end of the cot or bassinet;
  • If you choose a Cocoon Swaddle Bag or sleeping bag, you won't need any blankets for extra warmth;
  • Ensure the bag is fitted well around the neck and armholes but not too tight;
  • Their sleeping surface should always be firm and flat; 
  • There should be nothing else inside their cot. That includes blankets, cot bumpers, pillows, toys or mobiles hanging above them that could fall or be in reach; 
  • Sleep baby with face and head uncovered, no beanie or bows and free from a smoking environment; 
  • The cot or bassinet should have a safe mattress and base. 

 

Tips for how to create a safe sleep environment for babies

If you’d like to read more about safe sleeping, please head to the Red Nose website. 

 

Traditional Swaddle Wraps vs Pouch Swaddles

There are two types of swaddles: a traditional swaddle wrap or a pouch (also known as a swaddle bag). Both will ensure your baby feels secure and can help with settling to sleep. Please be wary of wraps and swaddles that don't allow for full and uninhibited chest expansion. Those little ribs are still very soft and bendy, and an overly enthusiastic wrap has the potential to be too firm across the chest. 

Whilst the idea of a swaddle is to contain the startle reflex to keep baby from waking, babies also need some arm movement to promote healthy development and shoulder joints. A swaddle shouldn't be so tight that it pins your baby's arms in one place. Be sure to allow some natural arm movement. Look for a swaddle with stretch, such as the Cocoon Swaddle Bag, to allow for this.

 

Traditional Swaddle Wraps:

  • Typically, these are muslin, cotton wrap or a thin blanket;
  • This type of wrapping is designed to swaddle your baby like a burrito;
  • Newborn babies are wrapped with their arms over their chests; 
  • Generally, this style will be shown in hospital after you have given birth;
  • This method can be hard to master, and you will often find your mini has escaped their wrap, leading to more wake-ups during the night.

 

Image showing baby transitioning from arms-in to arms-out sleeping, wearing the ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle Bag

All about our Cocoon Swaddle 

Our Cocoon Swaddle Bag is a zip-up, no-fuss swaddle in stretchy organic cotton. It’s hip-friendly, nappy-change friendly, and it transforms into a sleeping bag. It is designed to be both easy to use and difficult to escape from. We know babies and children sleep better in natural fibres for the simple reason that they improve breathability and keep your little one's body at an even temperature, resulting in a safe and content sleep for your mini. 

All ergoPouch sleepwear is TOG-rated and made from breathable, natural fibres such as soft organic cotton with 5% elastane, which allows for stretch in all directions across the chest. This blend creates a cosy and comfortable swaddle in which to sleep your baby. The TOG-rating means that you can easily match your baby’s night-time outfit for the temperature of the room, which takes the guesswork out of bedtime and removes the need for a blanket. Learn more about TOG ratings.

The Cocoon Swaddle Bag has received an acknowledgement from The International Hip Dysplasia Institute for being a "hip-healthy" product. The ergonomic bell-shaped design provides enough room for hip mobility and allows babies to move their legs comfortably and adopt 'frog-leg' position. They’re available in sizing 0000, 0–3months, 3–6months and 6–12months. 

 

A note on organic cotton & polyester 

Sleepwear that is filled with synthetic fibres, such as polyester, will make your child overheat and sweat, which may wake them frequently throughout the night. Natural fibres such as cotton are the best choice for sleepwear as they allow children's sensitive skin to breathe, reducing the chance of overheating and encouraging a longer sleep — hooray! Synthetic fibres and the irritation caused by rubbing on sweaty skin can also cause eczema flare-ups. For those babes who are prone to eczema, breathable and organic fabrics will go a long way to keeping your mini's skin smooth and soft.

Organic cotton sleepwear production

Why babies & parents LOVE the Cocoon Swaddle Bag:

  • The arm poppers transition from arms-in swaddle to arms-out sleeping bag;
  • A zip enclosure protects your child's delicate skin;
  • A bell-shaped bottom aids healthy hip and joint development;
  • Is it TOG-rated for warmth so there’s no need for blankets;
  • Two-way zipper allows for easy nappy changes;
  • Gives a feeling of closeness and comfort, mimicking the womb;
  • Restricts startle reflex whilst allowing movement for healthy growth;
  • Super stretchy for comfort, full chest expansion and allows for growth spurts;
  • Soft, breathable organic cotton is gentle on newborn skin;
  • Our fabric is GOTS certified, meeting environmental & social responsibility criteria; 
  • We choose water-based ink for our prints, meaning they're non-toxic & friendly for your child's skin and are better for our environment;
  • If it’s too hot, unzip the swaddle at the bottom and allow baby to have their air circulate and cool them down;
  • Can be used for the start of sleep associations; and
  • Every pouch comes with a FREE room thermometer to help you navigate the TOGS.

 

What is a TOG? 

TOG stands for Thermal Overall Grade and is a unit of measurement for insulation and warmth of sleepwear and bedding. We have three TOG ratings across our swaddles – 0.2, 1.0 and 2.5 TOG, and a fourth (3.5 TOG) in our other sleeping bags, which cover your baby from 14°c to 24°c+. Put simply, the higher the TOG, the warmer the product. The lower the TOG, the cooler the product.

Examples of baby sleeping bags with different TOG rates: 0.2 TOG, 1.0 TOG and 2.5 TOG for winter.

Many parents worry if their baby is warm enough and often pile on blankets or synthetic fibres, which can be unsafe during sleep. Using TOG-rated products designed for safe sleep is a safer and more practical alternative.

The ergoPouch TOG rated system: 

  • 0.2 and 0.3 TOG = 24 degrees Cº+
  • 1.0 TOG = 21 degrees Cº – 24 degrees Cº
  • 2.5 TOG = 17 degrees Cº – 23 degrees Cº 
  • 3.5 TOG = 14 degrees Cº – 21 degrees Cº  - From 3 months only 

 

Read more about what TOG rating babies should wear.

 

How to swaddle baby using our Cocoon

Our Cocoon Swaddle has been designed to simplify your life. So how does it work?

  1. Place the Cocoon Swaddle on a safe change table or flat surface, with the zip down.
  2. Place baby on the flat surface on top of the Cocoon Swaddle Bag.
  3. Place their legs inside the bag and start to zip up the zipper
  4. Place their little arms across their chest or if they're wriggling, place their arms down against their body. (keep persisting as they might not like it at the start don't be discouraged)
  5. Zip up the zipper and voila your baby is now swaddled. 

When you unzip it to take it off, your baby will most likely perform the cutest stretch when they're out of their Swaddle. Watch and coo away. 

Steps for zipping baby in a swaddle bag

Fun Facts about the Cocoon Swaddle Bag

  • They're easy for the middle of the night poo explosions, unzip the 2-way, zipper pull their little legs out and get changing. You can keep their little arms wrapped inside the Swaddle. They won't even know they've made a big mess in the middle of the night. 
  • If baby is too warm, undo the lower portion of the two-way zip on your pouch to let air flow through in the early evening. Zip them up later in the evening before you go to bed to keep warmth in overnight.
  • A Cocoon Swaddle Bag can become a positive association very quickly. Your baby will start to recognise the smell and sight of their pouch and associate this with restful sleep. If you consistently use the Cocoon Swaddle Bag as part of your settling ritual, your baby will then be able to transfer this association while out and about. They will quickly understand if they are in their Cocoon Swaddle Bag, it's time to sleep. 

 

Transition to arms out 

You've made it through the first few months, hooray! And then comes baby's first significant milestone – rolling – and undoes all that hard work! Many parents are apprehensive about unswaddling their baby for fear of what it will do for settling and sleep. What those parents may not know is that once a baby shows signs of rolling it is no longer safe to swaddle them, and the transition to arms-out sleeping must begin.

 

What are the signs of attempting to roll?

Indicators that your baby is showing signs of rolling, and no longer requires a swaddle for sleeping include:

  • Attempting to roll body when unswaddled
  • Pushing up on hands during tummy time, lifting one hand off the ground 
  • Fussiness when swaddled/fighting the swaddle when going on 
  • Disrupted sleep 
  • Disappearance of the startle (moro) reflex 
  • Attempting to have hands free/up around their face when the swaddle is on 

 

At what age will this happen?

While there is no set rule for the exact time to move through the transition from swaddle to arms-out sleeping, it typically starts between 3-6 months old. However, some babies may start earlier; some may take longer. You may be unsure of when exactly to make the transition; however, you know your baby best. Follow the signs above and your baby's cues as the best way to get through this stage. Between 4-6 months babies outgrow the startle (moro) reflex. If your baby is not yet rolling and still swaddled but is no longer startling this may also indicate it is time to transition from swaddling.

 

How to safely transition your baby to arms-out sleeping

Some babies may struggle with this change in their sleeping environment. As such, we recommend a two-step approach to transitioning:

Step One: Releasing one arm out of your baby’s swaddle for all sleeps, to allow your baby time to become used to this new way of sleeping.

Step Two: After a week or so of one-arm-out sleeping, remove both arms from the swaddle. Expect some difficult sleeps during this phase, but stick with it and don't be tempted to re-swaddle them – they will adjust to the new sleep position.

Once your baby is rolling on their own, if they independently roll on to their tummy in their sleep with their arms out of a swaddle, you do not need to roll them back.

Pssst... If you anticipate that the transition to arms-out sleeping will be a challenge or are going through some resistance to the transition, we have a solution for you. We have designed the Butterfly Cardi to help in the transition from a swaddled sleeper to an arms-out dreamer, easier! Find out more.

We know that sleep is a journey, not a destination. As your baby grows and develops, their routines, needs and sleep habits change. So, we don't promise easy fixes or magical solutions, but we do promise that we're here to support you through your family's sleep journey.

Sources: *Red Nose &  www.helenstevens.com.au