How to swaddle a baby for safe sleep

Baby sleeping in a swaddle Baby sleeping in a swaddle

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 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. The first few months are commonly referred to as the 'fourth trimester', and your newborn will probably sleep for around 16 hours a day as their body grows rapidly, their brain develops, and they learn a circadian rhythm. (Learn more about baby sleep in the fourth trimester.)

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.  

What is swaddling and why do it?

Traditional swaddle wraps vs swaddle bags

Parents can consider choosing between traditional wrap swaddles and more contemporary swaddle bags. Both types of swaddles ensure the baby feels secure and can help with settling to sleep, but they also have key differences.

Traditional swaddling can be tricky (I will not even sugarcoat it). When you're tired and just want to get your baby down for the 10th time that night (sorry), wrapping them tightly can be a bit of a pain. If you're like me, you will worry that the wrap has come loose or they will wake again, but it's not you; it's the muslin swaddle. It's a bit of an art to master (I never mastered it), but if you can and love doing it, you keep doing what suits you and your little fam-bam.

Learn about the difference between traditional wraps and swaddles bags.

Traditional swaddle wraps vs swaddle bags

Safety is the top priority

Regardless of which swaddle 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.

If you’d like to read more, visit the Red Nose’s page about safe swaddling.

How to safely sleep an infant Tips How to safely sleep an infant Tips

Managing baby's temperature with TOG-rated sleepwear

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.

Using TOG-rated products designed for safe sleep is a safer and more practical alternative to piling on layers of synthetic fibres.

Read more about what TOG rating babies should wear.

TOG Rated Swaddles 0.2 TOG 1.0 TOG 2.5 TOG 3.5 TOG TOG Rated Swaddles 0.2 TOG 1.0 TOG 2.5 TOG 3.5 TOG

Choosing comfortable materials

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.

Read more about ergoPouch’s approach to organic, ethical and sustainable sleepwear.

Choosing comfortable materials

Arm positioning: in, up or out?

All babies are wonderfully different, and just like adults, have different sleeping styles. Not all babies enjoy having their arms swaddled in. Some like Arms-in, Arms-out, or Hands-up swaddling.

That's where the Butterfly Cardi comes in. This innovative design allows you to keep your baby's arms close to their face, with the hands up option. Additionally, it can be used as a transition aid for when your baby is ready to move into arms-free sleeping. You can simply wear it over your baby's swaddle to help them adjust to the change.

Hands-up sleeping

Some newborns find comfort sleeping with their hands up near their face. If your baby falls into this category, simply wear the Cocoon Swaddle Bag with arms-out, pop the Butterfly Cardi on over the top, and contain the hands in the butterfly wing pockets in a position near the face. This is safe from birth, when using our 0-3 month size. If your newborn baby changes sleep style regularly, the Cocoon Swaddle Bag paired with the Butterfly Cardi gives you three sleep options to switch between (arms-in, arms-out and hands-up).

Learn more about different baby arm positions for newborn sleep.

Arm positioning: in, up or out?

Why parents love our Cocoon Swaddle Bag

Parents have told us they love our Cocoon Swaddle Bag simply because it takes the guesswork out of swaddling. They love how easy it is to use and difficult to escape from. They align with our organic, natural fabrics and love that their baby won't overheat or be too cold. We've been told our what-to-wear guide is like the holy grail of what-to-wear guides. It's so simple, easy to read and reassures new parents when dressing their baby for sleep.

Discover the benefits of the Cocoon Swaddle Bag.

Why parents love our Cocoon Swaddle Bag

Transitioning out of a swaddle when baby shows signs of rolling

After the first few months of parenthood (you made it, hooray!) 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.

Read our comprehensive guide on transitioning baby from swaddle to arms-out sleeping.

Transitioning out of a swaddle when baby shows signs of rolling

How to swaddle using the Cocoon Swaddle Bag

The best way to swaddle with our Cocoon is like so:

  1. Lay the Cocoon on flat, low surface with zip open and arm studs closed.
  2. Lay baby on top of Cocoon. Tuck legs into swaddle, and zip up with baby's hands in desired position (by sides, or across chest).
  3. To change a nappy or cool down baby, zip open from the bottom of the swaddle to release legs and lower torso. Zip closed again when finished.
  4. Layer underneath for warmth as needed.
  5. To transition to arms-out sleeping once showing signs of rolling, release arms by opening the studs on the shoulders. We suggest doing this one arm at a time over several days.

The best way to choose a swaddle is based on your little one's weight. If you're currently pregnant and unsure (we've all been there), it’s best to opt for the newborn bag size. Once your baby is a little bigger, you can move up to the next size, depending on their weight.

You can refer to our How to Use page for more information on the Cocoon Swaddle Bag.

Cocoon Swaddle Bag

Our zip-up baby swaddle sleeping bag is designed to be both easy to use and difficult to escape from. It is TOG-rated and will keep your newborn snug and securely swaddled without the need for complicated wrapping.

Happy Cocoon Swaddling

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