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Newborn swaddling: Why Houdini babies break out of the swaddle—and what to do about it

 

baby sleeping in zen neo classic

Imagine: you've swaddled your baby, they seem to be going to sleep, you slip out to get some rest, and peek in five minutes later only to find that your little one has wriggled out of the swaddle blanket!

This can get pretty frustrating for any sleep deprived new parent - especially if it seems to happen again and again for a few nights in a row without much of a clear reason.

Fortunately, it's easy to figure out a solution to your swaddling problems with a little troubleshooting. That's why we're here to explain what can lead to swaddle breakouts, and how you can prevent your Houdini baby from escaping in the future!

In this article

What can cause breakouts

Swaddle isn't tight enough

Arms come out of swaddle

Baby wants to suck fingers

Too tight on the legs

Baby is overheating

It's time to stop swaddling your baby

Common questions about swaddling

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What can cause breakouts

Breakouts can be caused by a variety of small issues in how you have swaddled your baby, or because of your baby's own natural physiological development - or sometimes a combo of the two!

For example, newborns have a natural instinct called the Moro reflex, or startle reflex, which causes them to stretch out their limbs and head most typically when they hear a sudden noise.

If your swaddle isn't fitting baby just right, you can imagine how easy it is for baby's startle reflex to cause them to burst out!

From the experts- swaddle breakouts

'Babies will fight the swaddle if it touches their cheeks. When a blanket touches the cheek of your hungry baby, it fools her into thinking it is the breast.

That can set off the rooting reflex and cause her to cry with frustration when she cannot find the nipple. So keep the blanket off the face, by making the swaddle look like a V-neck jumper.

This is a great way to keep your baby from breaking out or fighting the swaddle.'

- Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby

 

swaddle for baby who breaks out

Here are a few of the most common reasons for your little one to be breaking out of their swaddle, as well as solutions for your problem.

Problem: Swaddle isn't tight enough

Though you might be concerned about wrapping your baby too tightly in their swaddle, leaving the swaddle too loose can actually be more dangerous, and lead to problems like the swaddle blanket covering your baby's face or head. Clearly, it can also mean that your baby breaks out altogether!

This is why you'll want to get a tight fit around your baby's chest. If you're using a product like our Zen Swaddle, which is gently weighted to soothe your baby by mimicking your touch, ensure that you can only fit two to three fingers between the blanket and your baby.

Alternatively, you can use something like our new Zen Neo, which in addition to having the gentle weight of all our other Zen Sleepwear provides a snug but stretchy fit without needing to worry about wrapping baby correctly in a traditional swaddle blanket!

Problem: Arms come out of swaddle

This is something often caused by the Moro reflex, or just by a baby who feels some slack and wants to wriggle their way to freedom!

If your newborn manages to get their arms out of the swaddle, it can diminish some of the benefits, especially as it means they can fully flail when the Moro reflex takes hold and wake themselves up in the night.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep baby's arms swaddled to their sides - straight arms are much trickier to wiggle out of the opening at the top!

However, if your baby is still getting wiggly when you swaddle them, they may prefer to be swaddled with one arm or both arms out, and that's completely fine!

In fact, our Zen One swaddle, with its detachable arm sections, is perfect for this, and for when your baby transitions away from swaddling in months to come.

Problem: Baby wants to put their fingers in their mouth

swaddle for baby who breaks out problem

Every parent will know that babies mouth everything; before they get more dexterity in their hands, it's their own way of finding out more about the objects around them!

And even when there's nothing nearby for them to mouth, they're likely to try to give their fingers a suck for comfort - even when they're cozy in their swaddle!

If your baby is ready to suck on their hands when they want to self soothe, you can try swaddling your baby with one arm out, either with a blanket like the Zen Swaddle or a sleep sack like the Zen One.

This way, they can have the soothing benefits of a snug swaddle (as well as the extra comfort of the gently weighted pad in our Zen Sleepwear) as well as their own self soothing technique to help them fall asleep.

Problem: Not loose enough around the knees

While you want to make sure that your swaddle blanket or sleep sack has a snug fit around the chest area, this isn't the case for baby's legs.

Babies need to be able to move their legs around during the night - if they're constricted, this can lead to problems like hip dysplasia (see the International Hip Dysplasia Institute for more information).

When swaddling your baby with a blanket, you'll need to make sure that they have room to freely move their legs within the wrap.

If you're using our Zen Neo swaddle pod, then you don't need to worry - it's designed to give your little one enough room to wiggle their legs without breaking free!

Problem: Baby getting too hot in the swaddle

During the summer months, or if you live in a hotter climate, you need to be sure that your baby isn't overheating, particularly when they're being swaddled

Some signs of an overheating baby include damp hair, a flushed complexion, feeling hot to the touch, having an elevated heart rate, and seeming confused or dazed. Understandably, if your baby is feeling too hot in the swaddle, they want to get out of it ASAP!

To counteract this, you can swaddle your baby in just their diaper when it's hot, or just reduce the number of layers they're wearing.

We also recommend our Zen Swaddle Premier, which is made of a breathable, moisture wicking bamboo cotton blend that will help your baby sleep even in the heat!

Problem: Time to stop swaddling

As your newborn grows and develops, they'll start to gain more muscle control, and as such will be able to move around much more.

Many babies like to practice these new skills at night, even if they're bundled up in their swaddles or sleep sacks, and once your baby starts rolling over independently, it's no longer safe for them to be swaddled due to the risk of suffocation.

When it's time to stop swaddling baby, that doesn't mean that you have to go completely cold turkey and that you can't enjoy many of the benefits associated with swaddling!

Our Zen Sack is a baby sleeping bag that has the same gently weighted technology as our other sleepwear, mimicking your soothing touch and helping your baby feel secure as they fall asleep, even if they aren't a complete baby burrito anymore!

houdini swaddle Problem: Time to stop swaddling

Houdini babies - mom hack!

'Having the blanket loose around the baby’s arms allows the child to fidget and cry a lot more as he doesn’t feel comfortable.

What he really wants is for his arms to be wrapped snugly, so they feel like they’re being embraced, while the baby’s legs and hips are left with some loose wiggle room to shuffle around in.

If you always make sure the baby’s chest area is nice and snug, you’ll find your little one is a lot less fussy than usual.'

- Ivana Davies, Find Your Mom Tribe

If you're having trouble with a Houdini baby who won't stay put in their swaddle, there's plenty that you can do to make the fit more secure and prevent baby from wiggling out.

Our new Zen Neo provides a safe and secure fit for all kinds of newborns with its snug and stretchy material, and this womb like sleep pod is still gently weighted to soothe your little one to sleep.

Common questions about why babies break out of their swaddle

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Athena S.

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