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Newborn swaddling: Myths & truths

happy baby in crib about to get swaddled in the zen swaddle


When you're becoming a parent, you have to start considering some heated debates that you might have never thought about before - from breastfeeding vs formula to the safety of cosleeping, there are lots of strong opinions around that aren't always backed up by the facts.

Swaddling is definitely one of these hot topics, and despite the fact that the age-old practice has been proven to be safe time and time again, there are still people who spread the misinformed belief that it is ineffectual, or even dangerous for your baby.

That's why we're here to separate the facts from the fiction and demystify the simple concept of swaddling.

In this article:

Myth: Swaddling is uncomfortable

Myth: Babies need their arms out to self soothe

Myth: Swaddling will overheat your baby

Myth: Swaddling increases SIDS risk

Commonly asked questions

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Newborn Swaddling Myth: Swaddling is uncomfortable for babies

Before we carry on, we should establish that every time we talk about swaddling, we're referring to safe swaddle techniques - newborn babies who are bundled up too snugly may understandably find this type of tight swaddling uncomfortable! However, this can be true of anything your baby will wear - if you had a onesie that was too small, you wouldn't assume all onesies are uncomfortable, and the same goes for swaddle blankets and sacks!

Newborn Swaddling Truth: Swaddling mimics the comfort of the womb

baby in zen swaddle

In actual fact, swaddling is highly comfortable for babies because it mimics what they've known up until birth - the warm, snug environment of the womb. Though none of us remember it, going from our mom's belly to the outside world is a strange experience that it can take our senses a little while to catch up with!

Babies are not coordinated enough to practice motor skills and/or self-soothe reliably until 14 weeks. Swaddling is a substitute during this time to limit startle reflex, thus preventing unwanted arousal and facial scratches.  - Charlotte Parent

By swaddling your baby, you're easing this transition between worlds and helping your baby sleep in a place that's much more stimulating than they're used to. While the light pressure from any swaddle can help mimic the womb, our gently weighted Zen Sleepwear goes a step further, and can mimic your own soothing touch to help your baby sleep better and for longer.

Newborn Swaddling Myth: Babies need their arms out to self soothe

mom holding baby in zen swaddle

Parents sometimes assume that babies need their arms out in order to self-soothe, and that a swaddled baby can be stressed out by a lack of access to their hands. While some babies may reject a swaddle and prefer to have their arms out, this is rare when the swaddling has been done correctly. Instead, the swaddle itself can help your baby self soothe, and with arms safely out of the way, you're removing the fairly high risk of your baby accidentally scratching their face.

Newborn Swaddling Truth: Babies can be woken up by Moro reflex

Instead, your baby having their arms free while they sleep may actually lead to them waking up more often from the impact of the Moro reflex, or startle reflex. This natural phenomenon is an instinct your baby is born with that lasts for the first few months of their life. Usually triggered by a loud or sudden noise, your baby will stretch out their limbs abruptly and curl them up again.

Newborn Swaddling Myth: Swaddling makes babies too hot

The image of a baby burrito all bundled up in a swaddle is definitely one that brings warmth and coziness to mind, so it's understandable that parents, particularly during summer or in hotter climates, may feel concerned about the risk of their little one overheating. Signs of your baby overheating to look out for are damp hair, flushed cheeks, feeling hot to the touch, and seeming uncomfortable or more lethargic than usual.

Newborn Swaddling Truth: Your baby's temperature can easily be adjusted for swaddling

Luckily, swaddling can be done in a multitude of ways that don't have to involve making your baby too warm. For instance, you can swaddle a baby in just their diaper rather than with an extra layer of clothes underneath, and you can use other methods such as turning on the AC or opening a window just as you would if you weren't using a swaddle.

You could even try new breathable sleepwear like our Zen Swaddle premier, a swaddling blanket made from a super soft bamboo cotton blend to keep your baby cool and calm even in hotter conditions.

Newborn Swaddling in summer: mom hack!

'I love this swaddle! I purchased the sleep sack and this at the same time but my tiny tot is still only 8 weeks old and needs something to keep his arms contained. I wish I had this swaddle from day 1, as he is now sleeping 4 hour stretches through the night, and he is overall much less restless. I love the premier because the bamboo is so light and soft. Highly recommended!'

- Danielle A., Zen Swaddle Premier review

Newborn Swaddling Myth: Babies become too reliant on the swaddle

mom wrapping baby in zen swaddle

This is a concern of swaddling and non-swaddling parents alike! Many worry that swaddling is so effective in helping their baby get to sleep that without it, they'll be back to one-hour stretches of sleep like they may have had in their first few weeks of life!

Newborn Swaddling Truth: Transitioning to other sleepwear is straightforward

Thankfully, this is rarely the case - like they will with endless toys, hobbies, and habits as they grow up, babies grow out of swaddling and will be able to sleep without it. However, if your little one is struggling to adapt in the meantime, you can try out our Zen Sack; this wearable blanket is cozy and gently weighted to remind baby of your touch and help them learn to self-soothe without the usual swaddling standby!

Newborn Swaddling Myth: Swaddling increases the risk of SIDS

This is the most controversial claim by far that has been made about swaddling. Every parent wants to do all that they can to keep their baby safe, and that involves making sure that your little one's risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is as low as it can be. And not only does swaddling help babies sleep, but it can also keep them safe too!

Newborn Swaddling Truth: Safe swaddling can decrease your baby's risk of SIDS

Studies have actually revealed that swaddling can keep your baby sleepinbg safely for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they're less likley to be able to roll onto their front, which can dramatically increase their risk of SIDS. Secondly, because swaddling infants means that they're more likely to sleep through the night, parents get more rest too and are less likely to make mistakes when caring for their little one such as falling asleep while their baby is in an unsafe position.

Swaddling doesn't have to be tricky to get right either! Our Zen Neo swaddle pod doesn't need any complicated folding, and the snug, stretchy fabric means you can get the right fit for your baby every time.

Newborn Safe swaddling: from the experts

'Millions of babies are wrapped, so if swaddling causes SIDS, you’d expect hundreds of swaddle-related infant sleep deaths each year. But a study from 2004 to 2012 found fewer than 2 sleep deaths per year among swaddled babies. And most victims were stomach sleeping or had unsafe, bulky bedding. The authors noted that “reports of sudden unexpected death in swaddled infants are very rare.”'

- Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby

Commonly asked questions about newborn swaddling myths & truth

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Other Swaddling Resources

Healthychildren.Org: Swaddling: Is it Safe?

Athena S.

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