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Which swaddle is best for your baby? How to choose the right one

which swaddle is best for baby

Swaddling has been around pretty much as long as fabric wraps have been around, can be found all over the world in different cultures, and is still a popular way of getting your little one to sleep to this day!

But that doesn't mean there hasn't been a few changes along the way to make it easier and more effective - which is why you can find so many types of swaddle blankets, sleep sacks, and swaddle pods on the market today.

For moms-to-be and new parents alike, this can get a little overwhelming; how do you figure out which is the best choice for your child, especially when your little one hasn't arrived yet?

We're here to help with an overview of the three most popular types of baby swaddles, including their benefits and drawbacks as well as which is most suitable for different families, so that you can decide on the best swaddle blanket for your family.

In this article

How swaddling benefits you and your baby

The different types of swaddles


Commonly asked questions

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How swaddling benefits you and your baby

how to choose swaddle

Swaddling has traditionally worked by keeping baby's arms tight to their body in a snug and cozy wrap, which has a few different effects.

Firstly, this mimics the warmth and security of the womb - for a newborn who has just entered a world that can be loud and overwhelming, this can help them feel more settled.

Additionally, because the swaddle keeps baby's arms tucked in tight, the impact of the Moro, or startle, reflex is lessened. This natural instinct is usually triggered by a sudden or loud noise, and causes your baby to flail out their limbs before curling up back into their body.

When this happens during sleep, there's a risk baby will wake up, but if the flailing is prevented through the use of swaddling, nighttime wakeups are made less likely.

Swaddling can even help to keep your baby safer - according to the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines, your baby should always be placed face-up on their back to go to sleep.

When your baby is swaddled, it's harder for them to roll over into the unsafe front sleeping position, so you can rest assured that your little one is sleeping safely and soundly!

Any parent will tell you how valuable it is when your baby sleeps, as you have a little more time for your own important self-care. It can be tricky taking care of a newborn and finding time to look after yourself too, which is why so many parents say you should swaddle your baby - when your baby sleeps, so can you!

The benefits of swaddling: from the experts

'Touch is our most ancient, calming sense. The first S of the 5 S's—Swaddling—reminds babies of the womb's embrace and it's a similar experience to being cuddled skin-to-skin, but its big advantage is that it envelops a baby's body with a soft caress that can soothe her for hours when she's sleeping...and can't be in your arms.

New babies have very little control over their arms. Swaddling prevents your little one from whacking herself in the face and getting even more upset. It also prevents her from startling herself and disrupting sleep. Once wrapped, a baby can pay attention and be soothed by the other S's (Side-Stomach, Shushing, Swinging or Sucking)'

- Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby

The different types of swaddles: swaddle blankets, swaddle sacks, and swaddle pods


So, you've decided that you want to swaddle your baby - but where do you begin with all the different types of swaddles available?

There are lots of decisions to make before you even get into details like TOG ratings and finding the cutest patterns to match your baby's nursery, but don't worry - we're here to help with a handy guide so you can find the dream swaddle for your little one!

Traditional wrap swaddles

When you think of swaddling, a traditional swaddle wrap is likely what comes to mind - and the image of a little bundled up baby burrito is hard to resist!

This type of swaddle blanket or swaddle wrap comes in all kinds of designs, but we think our Zen Swaddlehas the best take on this classic with its gently weighted pad that mimics your soothing touch.

Pros of swaddle blankets

Because swaddle blankets are essentially fabric wraps that have been optimised for swaddling your baby, they can be super versatile even after your baby has grown past the newborn stage.

Many parents will continue to use their blanket swaddle as a regular blanket or burp cloth long after baby has transitioned out of using it for its original purpose.

You can also experiment with different swaddling techniques to find which one works best for your baby, and you may find that a traditional swaddle blanket lasts longer than a sleep sack as baby grows.

Cons of swaddle blankets

One issue for some parents with a blanket swaddle is the learning curve involved - you have to make sure you know what you're doing, and can't just zip or velcro them in as you can with modern options. While they're likely to have shown you how to do it at the hospital nursery, it can still be difficult to master, particularly for parents with disabilities such as limb difference or muscle weakness.

Best for...

Babies who are a little fussier with their sleep requirements, as swaddle blankets can be wrapped in a wide variety of ways to suit their preferences. For instance, if they want to have one arm out, this can be easily done with a swaddle blanket and the correct swaddling technique.

Flexible swaddle sacks

Flexible swaddle sacks

Swaddle sacks, or sleep sacks specially designed for swaddling, have become popular in recent years as a way of swaddling your baby that doesn't require any complicated folding. They basically work like big sleeping bags, and are super cozy for your little one - our own Zen One functions as a sleep sack with removable arm sections, so your baby can enjoy wearing it even after they grow out of the swaddling stage.

Pros of swaddle sacks

If you aren't used to the folding techniques that are required to wrap your baby up in a swaddle blanket, or need a swaddle that's more accessible for you and others who'll be caring for your baby, a swaddle sack can be a great solution.

To keep baby wrapped up, they usually have a simple fastening of some kind - for instance, our Zen One uses super quiet velcro, so you can change your baby without disturbing their sleep!

Cons of swaddle sacks

For babies with super-strength, you may find that they're able to break out of fastenings involving velcro and snaps - but this is a pretty rare occurrence!

You may also find that most swaddle sacks aren't useful once your baby is past the three or four-month mark, as they can't be used normally and don't have the same versatility as a traditional swaddle blanket.

This isn't the case with our Zen One, though, as once your baby starts rolling over, you can just remove the arm sections and use it as a wearable blanket!

Best for...

Parents who struggle with traditional swaddles and want an easy, no-fuss option to put baby to sleep - no flapping loose blankets around or struggling to wrap baby just right when they're fussing!

Swaddling pods

The latest evolution in baby swaddles, the swaddle pod is like a sleep sack with added benefits! Made from a stretchy, snug fabric, swaddle pods like our Zen Neo are able to recreate that cozy, womb-like feeling with even more accuracy, and with just a simple zip and wing are super easy to tuck your baby into!

Pros of swaddling pods

Because of the stretchy cotton fabric they're made from, swaddle pods keep your baby snug around their chest and neck while still allowing them some wriggle room inside and without riding up - the best of both worlds!

The two-way zipper also makes changing your baby in and out of the swaddle easier than ever, and the cuddle pad gently distributes a small amount of weight across your baby's chest to soothe them to sleep; we're a long way from your grandma's fabric wraps now!

Cons of swaddling pods

Once you start swaddling with the swaddle pod, you might be worried about transitioning away from it! But don't worry - our Zen Sack has the same gently weighted Cuddle Pad tech, and is a great way to get your little one used to sleeping without being tucked into their swaddle.

Best for...

Any new parents or moms-to-be looking to up their swaddling game and give their baby a great start on healthy sleep patterns - while getting some sleep of their own in the process!

Swaddle pods: mom hack!

'We tried many other swaddles and did not get the same results as we have from the Nested Bean swaddles. The baby would wiggle his little way out of them and not sleep long at all. We started with the Zen One Swaddle, and we loved it. We when received the Zen Neo swaddle, he started sleeping from 2 hours to 5-6 hours at a time.

When we do our bedtime routine with the baby and put the Zen Neo on him, he gets quiet and calms down compared to before when he would be fussy and crying. I love that the Zen Neo swaddle has more of the weighted beans to it. We have now bought a couple of friends and family members the Nested Bean swaddles for their upcoming babies.'

- Kelsey Kight, Zen Neo review

We believe that swaddling is a fantastic choice for the wellbeing of both you and your baby - and that with our Zen Neo swaddle pod, you can all get the rest you need for the waking moments that matter the most.

Common questions about swaddling and types of swaddles

Is swaddling safe for my baby?

If you follow the safe sleep guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics, swaddling is a safe option for your baby and an effective way of helping babies sleep for many families. This includes keeping your baby's sleep space clear of any loose blankets, stuffed animals and other toys and pillows, and placing baby on their back when you're putting them to bed.

Can you swaddle your baby's arms too tightly?

Yes, but getting the right fit is simple! If you can fit between two and three fingers between your baby's chest and the fabric, you have the correct fit - any less and it's too tight, any more and it's too loose. In fact, having the swaddle too loose is a more common problem than swaddling baby tightly, and can actually be more dangerous as it can allow the fabric to cover your baby's face, posing a suffocation risk. The fit of the swaddle is also super important when it comes to your baby's legs and hips, which need enough room to comfortably move around. his is to prevent conditions such as hip dysplasia from developing (see the International Hip Dysplasia Institute for more information).

What's the difference between a swaddle blanket and a wearable blanket?

It can be tricky to know which is the best swaddle blanket for your baby; swaddles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and knowing which kind of baby gear works for you and your little one can be a learning curve! A swaddle blanket is a large fabric wrap that you need to fold and wrap around your baby correctly - think of the classic baby burrito image. A wearable swaddle blanket is more like a baby swaddle sack or sleep sack. It's completely up to you which kind to use - or you could even use a swaddle pod like our Zen Neo, a new kind of swaddle that's stretchy, easy to use, and super cozy for your little one!

When should you stop swaddling?

You should stop swaddling once your baby shows signs of being able to independently roll over onto their front; this is usually around the 3 or 4 month mark, but can be a little earlier or later. You need to stop because a swaddled baby sleeping on their front faces a much higher risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) as they're unable to move back into a safer position when bundled up. At this point, you can switch to a sleep sack like our Zen Sack, which combines the comfort of swaddling with greater freedom as your baby grows and uses the same gently weighted cuddle pad as all of our other Zen Sleepwear™.

How do you keep your baby from overheating when swaddling?

If you live in a hot climate or are due to have your little one in the summertime, you might be nervous about keeping your baby swaddled during naps and nighttime sleep. Signs of overheating can include damp hair, flushed cheeks, feeling hot to the touch, and seeming more fidgety or lethargic than usual. However, there are ways of swaddling your baby safely and keeping the risk of them overheating low! For instance, you can keep the room cool with a fan (not pointed at baby), dress baby only in a diaper under the swaddle, and use baby gear like our Zen Swaddle Premier made from a breathable bamboo cotton blend.

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Athena S.

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