How Many Swaddles Do I Need for Baby? Here’s what parents think

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Last Updated on June 26, 2021

The reality is you don’t need that many swaddle blankets. The ideal number of swaddling blankets seems to be between three to six, according to many parents we asked. Of course, each parent is different and how many swaddling blankets you need for the baby depends on how frequently you expect to do laundry.

This range of swaddles ensures you have extras in case you’re running behind on laundry or your child has a blowout. You may also go through two or three blankets just over the course of one day from baby’s spit-up, poop, or anything else getting on them.

In addition, there are some critical tips and things you need to know when it comes to safely swaddling your baby. Keep reading to learn how long you should swaddle, what experts say, and how to choose the right swaddle blanket.

How many weeks should you swaddle a baby?

It is recommended you swaddle your baby when they sleep from the day they’re born until about 16 weeks or 4-5 months. However, once the baby starts to move around and roll over, this is when you absolutely need to stop swaddling.

The reason is that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) can be increased by the swaddling of older infants. Older infants may be prevented from getting back into a safe sleeping position if they are swaddled, which can result in suffocation and possibly death.

This is the point when you should transition to a sleep sack or a wearable blanket designed for infants.

Brief History of Baby Swaddling

While the origins of swaddling are unknown, the earliest depictions of babies being swaddled date back to around 4 to 6 thousand years ago! Babies were often wrapped in linens to keep them warm after birth and it was also done as a way to help their limbs grow straight.

There’s even a reference in the Bible which describes Jesus being wrapped in swaddle blankets after his birth:

“and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:7.

In short, swaddling has been done for centuries because it’s been shown to help newborns. While swaddling may seem hard, people a thousand (or even 30) years ago didn’t have the luxury of YouTube videos to guide you through it step-by-step.

Experts Agree Swaddling Babies Works 

As we covered, swaddling has been around for thousands of years and is used in many cultures. Experts agree that swaddling is an effective way to help babies safely sleep and stay calm as they rest.

The swaddle helps to mimic the tight space the newborn is used to having been squashed in mommy’s belly for the past 9 months. It also helps to control the baby’s response to the Moro reflex, which is a primitive startle reflex that is present in newborn babies.

It is a response in babies that causes muscle spasm in their arms which causes them to quickly reach out. If the baby is sleeping, this will often cause them to wake up and frequently they’ll start crying. 

Thankfully, it disappears around the age of 4 months, but swaddling helps to control it while they sleep. A tight swaddle helps to keep their arms secured close to their body to limit the response.

How to Swaddle a Baby 

I remember swaddling my first child and it seemed a little intimidating at first. But after a few times and coaching from the nurse, it becomes second nature and you turn into a swaddling pro.

Here are 10 easy steps to swaddle a baby:

  1. Take one of the corners of the swaddle blanket and fold it to make a triangle.
  2. You may need to make the triangle smaller or larger depending on the baby’s size.
  3. Lay the blanket down on a flat and secure surface such as a changing pad or table.
  4. Lay your baby down on the swaddling blanket with their head about half in and half out of the folded triangle.
  5. Take one side corner of the blanket down and across the baby’s chest.
  6. Snuggly tuck their arm across their chest to keep it from breaking free.
  7. Turn the baby slightly to tuck the corner under their bottom on the other side of their body.
  8. Take the bottom corner and bring it up to tuck behind the baby on the same side. 
  9. Move and hold the baby’s free arm across their chest.
  10. Bring the last corner across the baby’s body to secure the free arm and tuck it behind them.

If you’re more of a visual person, here’s a quick video to walk you through it.

What are the different types of swaddles? 

There are really two different types of swaddles: traditional swaddle blankets and swaddle sacks. 

Traditional swaddle blankets are generally a flat piece of cloth which is generally a muslin blanket that is made of 100% cotton. These rely on tucking the blanket corners in and the baby’s weight to keep it secure. 

Swaddle sacks are often made of similar material, but they are fitted and have more secure fasteners such as Velcro, button snaps, or zipper. This makes these swaddles ideal if you need to do a diaper change in the middle of the night.

Should all babies be wrapped in swaddles or receiving blankets?

While swaddling is mostly safe for most newborns, there can be some exceptions depending on medical conditions. If your baby has a hip disorder, like hip dysplasia, it’s recommended to consult with your pediatrician to get their advice on whether swaddling may aggravate the condition. This could also just make it difficult for the baby to sleep if they’re uncomfortable since the swaddle may put pressure on sensitive areas.

If your baby doesn’t have any muscular or other conditions identified by a doctor or nurse following delivery, swaddling should be safe for your baby.

What Can You Do With Receiving Blankets?

Receiving blankets are quite versatile and can be used for swaddling, covering the stroller to block sunlight, and for wrapping your baby for warmth.

They are generally soft and lightweight for extra comfort. They are safe to use while your baby is in the car seat or carrier and can be used as a light blanket. Receiving blankets can also be used as a burp cloth, but they are not as absorbent as thicker cloths. 

Keep in mind that the kind of receiving blanket you choose should be soft, comfortable, and lightweight for your little one.

Difference between swaddles, receiving, and muslin blankets

With the advent of swaddling blankets, parents realized that it’s incredibly hard for babies to sleep without being wrapped up. Swaddles are critical to ensuring both the baby and you get a good sleep during the night. 

However, there are a lot more choices when it comes to choosing the best swaddles or blanket for your baby.

Here is an explanation of the differences between swaddles, receiving blankets, and muslin blankets.

What are swaddle blankets? 

We know babies love to be swaddled, but what are swaddle blankets? A swaddle blanket is a piece of cloth that is wrapped around the baby like a blanket, with the baby’s arms tucked in for their safety and comfort. Swaddles are a specific type of blanket designed for newborn babies. They are usually made of fabric that is lightweight and breathable.

What are receiving blankets? 

A receiving blanket is a lightweight cotton or fleece blanket, which is usually thinner than a regular blanket. Receiving blankets are also smaller in size since they’re meant to be used for newborn babies. These are often what many hospitals frequently use.

Parenting Pro Tip: You’ll often be able to get (or sneak) a couple receiving blankets to take home when you’re discharged from the hospital.

What are muslin blankets? 

A muslin blanket is similar to receiving blankets, but it’s made of lightweight cotton. It is the perfect blanket to use while nursing a baby as it is very soft and safe for the baby’s delicate skin. Muslin blankets are also ideal for swaddling a newborn baby since it’s light and comfortable.

How big should your swaddle or receiving blankets be? 

You can swaddle your baby in just about any size blanket. Smaller swaddles can be easier to tuck in, while many swaddles that are bigger allow your baby to move his or her legs. 

However, using the wrong size swaddles or receiving blankets can mean your baby will be able to break free easier. This could allow them to scratch their cute face with those incredibly sharp baby nails.

So, how do you decide what is the right size? Thankfully, many swaddles and blankets come in standard sizes for newborns. If you have a preemie or smaller infant, you’ll want to get a swaddle that’s on the smaller side.

On average, many swaddling blankets are often square in shape between 40 by 40 and 48 by 48 inches.

Receiving blankets are typically 18 up to 36 inches square.

Should you wash a swaddle or receiving blanket before your baby uses it?   

The answer is yes. You’ll want to wash a swaddle at least once before swaddling your baby so you can check for loose threads, holes, or any other issues. A new blanket should be clean and soft to make sure your baby is happy and comfy.

Just make sure you follow the washing instructions on the tag so you don’t end up shrinking or damaging the swaddles in the wash.

Best Swaddles and Receiving Blankets 

Traditional Swaddle Blankets

Swaddle Sacks

  • Woombie Swaddle: Read our full Woombie review. This is one of the original swaddle sacks that’s been around for a while. There’s several different varieties and they are super easy to use. Nighttime diaper changes are quick and simple as well with the zipper.
  • SwaddleMe: These cotton swaddles are easily washable and fasten using a hook and loop system instead of a zipper. They are a little longer than many swaddles so there’s extra leg room for your baby.
  • Miracle Blanket: The unique feature of this swaddle is the arm flap design that works great to secure the baby’s arms. It doesn’t rely on Velcro or zippers which may scratch or be uncomfortable for the baby.

Final Thoughts: How many swaddling blankets do you need for baby?

So, if you’re still asking yourself, “how many swaddles do I need”? Well, the answer depends on the parent, but at minimum, getting three to six swaddles is a good starting point for most new parents. If you decide you don’t want to do laundry as frequently or just want extras, you may need to get a few more.

You’ll learn quickly, if you haven’t already, that parenting isn’t an exact science. Plus, you’re just a few clicks away from the swaddles, receiving blankets, or muslin blankets we covered above.

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