Swaddling means tightly wrapping up a newborn or young infant with a thin blanket called a swaddle. It simulates the womb experience by wrapping babies’ arms and torso and keeping them snug. 

Because of this, many mothers swaddle their babies and have been a part of caring for them for millennia due to its benefits. It prevents the startle or Moro reflex in infants, promotes better sleep by making them feel comforted and secure, and regulates their body temperature. It also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by preventing loose swaddles from covering their faces. 

However, swaddling restricts arm and limb movement. This may suffocate babies when the baby starts showing signs of rolling. This risk of unintentional suffocation increases when the fabric used to swaddle the baby comes loose. Moreover, keeping their legs together and straight may increase the risk of hip problems.

Discover Safer Sleep Alternatives for Babies: Learn how they promote better sleep, reduce suffocation risks, and accommodate your baby's development stage.

Safer Alternatives to Swaddling: Sleep Sack & Sleep Suit

Infant sleep clothing is preferred over regular blanket swaddling, especially when a baby is still at risk for SIDS. One example of it is a “sleep sack,” also called a “sleep bag” or a “wearable blanket.” 

A sleep sack moves with a baby because it’s worn over a baby’s sleepwear. Unlike swaddling, it allows the baby to have their arms free. Hence, it’s suitable for babies who can roll over and get more mobile in their sleep space. 

Additionally, a sleep sack doesn’t cause loose blankets that could pose suffocation risks. It won’t get tangled up with the baby or thrown to the side of their sleeping space, promoting a more comforting and safer sleep experience for the babies. 

Another example of infant sleep clothing is a sleep suit. It comes in different sizes and designs. For a better illustration, see our selection of ErgoPouch sleep suit. It’s highly recommended for babies who start to move their feet.

Although a sleep sack frees babies’ arms, it still somewhat confines their legs. It won’t be safe for babies who kick off blankets, get out of bed, walk around, and climb out of their crib. In this case, a sleeping suit is a safer option since it allows limb movement. 

Which Is Better for Newborns?

Swaddling is still recommended for newborn infants or neonates, specifically those aged under 28 days of age. The way it simulates the womb is crucial, and it helps minimize the waking effects of the Moro or startle reflex.

One health professional claimed that infants need a fourth trimester in the womb. They can’t stay inside longer because their head grows too large to exit the birth canal. However, with swaddling, a fourth trimester in a simulated womb may happen, helping babies stay calm and transition. 

Furthermore, the Moro reflex is a normal reflex of babies adjusting to new stimuli. It causes babies to look startled, have a sudden jerk or twitch, and fling their arms sideways with their thumbs flexed and palms up, but it goes away after 3-4 months.

A baby’s nervous system is still developing at birth. One sign of this development is their Moro reflexes as they experience a new world of sensations and stimuli absent in their mothers’ wombs. 

Note that the absence of the Moro reflex in an infant is abnormal. It may indicate a broken shoulder bone, an injury to the group of nerves, damage to the spinal cord, or brain damage. It’s also abnormal if the Moro reflex occurs in an older infant, child, or adult. 

The problem is the Moro reflex can be sleep-disrupting for infants. Besides recreating the womb environment that helps soothe babies, swaddling can also suppress this reflex by restricting their movements and drawing their extended limbs back, allowing them to sleep longer and more soundly. 

explore our variety of ErgoPouch sleep suits

How to Choose the Right Sleep Accessory for Babies? 

The right sleep accessory ensures babies’ safety, comfort, and sleep quality. The topmost deciding factor for this is a baby’s age and development stage. Here’s a quick overview: 

  • Swaddle – from birth until the baby starts showing signs of rolling (usually between 2-4 months old). 
  • Sleep sacks – can be as early as two months, especially when a baby regularly breaks free from a swaddle.
  • Sleep suits – can be as early as two months, especially when a baby moves its feet often.

Safety is another top factor in choosing the right sleep accessory for your infant. Each should meet safety standards and be certified by safety organizations. More importantly, avoid any accessories with small items or loose parts (e.g., strings) that could pose choking hazards.

Take into account your baby’s preference as well. For example, some babies may love the freedom of movement and breathability that a sleep sack or sleep suit offers, while others may prefer to stay in the comfort of a swaddle. 

Final Thoughts

Note that many infants show physical development, such as better control of their movements, faster than others, despite their age. In other words, what’s good for one baby can be bad for others. To ensure safety, seek professional advice from a pediatrician. 

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