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How to Swaddle a Baby: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Learning how to Swaddle a babies

Before becoming a parent, you had probably never heard the words swaddle or tog or understood why your friends with babies had utter fear in their eyes when they talked about transitioning their baby's arms out - what did that mean?

After reading this article written by ergoPouch, the sleeping bag experts, you will understand what swaddling is, how to do it correctly and the importance of sleeping bags for safe sleep for your baby when they show signs of rolling. They will even explain how to make the transition from a swaddle to a sleeping bag to arms out a breeze.

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. Commonly referred to as the 'fourth trimester', your newborn will probably sleep for around 16 hours a day in the first few months as their body grows rapidly, their brain develops, and they learn a circadian rhythm. 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 if my baby doesn't like swaddling?

All babies are wonderfully different. Some like to sleep in an environment that mimics the close confines of the womb, while some like the freedom of sleeping with their arms out, and some don't like being swaddled at all. For these babies, we suggest trying using ergoPouches Cocoon Swaddle Bag as a sleeping bag with the arm studs undone. Once they are three months of age, you can try one of ergoPouches infant sleeping bags which provide a roomier fit for babies who don’t like being confined.

Regardless of which pouch 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 about safe sleeping, please head to the Red Nose website.

Information on how to use a baby swaddle

Traditional Swaddle Wraps vs Pouch Swaddle

There are two types of baby swaddles: a traditional swaddle wrap or a pouch swaddle (also known as a swaddle bag). Both will ensure your baby feels secure and can help with settling to sleep. Please be wary of wraps and swaddles that don't allow for full and uninhibited chest expansion. Those little ribs are still very soft and bendy, and an overly enthusiastic wrap has the potential to be too firm across the chest.

Whilst the idea of a swaddle is to contain the startle reflex to keep the baby from waking, babies also need some arm movement to promote healthy development and shoulder joints. A swaddle shouldn't be so tight that it pins your baby's arms in one place. Be sure to allow some natural arm movement. Look for a swaddle with stretch, such as the Cocoon Swaddle Bag, to allow for this.

Traditional Swaddle

  • Typically, these are muslin, cotton wrap or a thin blanket;

  • This type of wrapping is designed to swaddle your baby like a burrito;

  • Newborn babies are wrapped with their arms over their chests;

  • Generally, this style will be shown in the hospital after you have given birth;

  • This method can be hard to master, and you will often find your mini has escaped their wrap, leading to more wake-ups during the night.

Baby escaping swaddle

ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle

ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle Bag is a zip-up, no-fuss swaddle in stretchy organic cotton. It’s hip-friendly, nappy-change friendly, and it transforms into a sleeping bag. It is designed to be both easy to use and difficult to escape from. We know babies and children sleep better in natural fibres for the simple reason that they improve breathability and keep your little one's body at an even temperature, resulting in a safe and content sleep for your mini.

All ergoPouch sleepwear is TOG-rated and made from breathable, natural fibres such as soft organic cotton with 5% elastane, which allows for stretch in all directions across the chest. This blend creates a cosy and comfortable swaddle in which to sleep your baby. The TOG rating means that you can easily match your baby’s nighttime outfit to the temperature of the room, which takes the guesswork out of bedtime and removes the need for a blanket. Learn more about TOG ratings.

The Cocoon Swaddle Bag has received an acknowledgement from The International Hip Dysplasia Institute for being a "hip-healthy" product. The ergonomic bell-shaped design provides enough room for hip mobility and allows babies to move their legs comfortably and adopt 'frog-leg' position. They’re available in sizing 0000, 0–3 months, 3–6 months and 6–12 months.

Organic cotton vs polyester sleepwear

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.

What a TOG?

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.

Many parents worry if their baby is warm enough and often pile on blankets or synthetic fibres, which can be unsafe during sleep. Using TOG-rated products designed for safe sleep is a safer and more practical alternative. The ergoPouch TOG rated system:

  • 0.2 and 0.3 TOG = 24 degrees Cº+

  • 1.0 TOG = 21 degrees Cº – 24 degrees Cº

  • 2.5 TOG = 17 degrees Cº – 23 degrees Cº

  • 3.5 TOG = 14 degrees Cº – 21 degrees Cº - From 3 months only

TOG baby sleepwear

How to swaddle a baby

Our Cocoon Swaddle has been designed to simplify your life. So how does it work?

  1. Place the Cocoon Swaddle on a safe change table or flat surface, with the zip down.

  2. Place baby on the flat surface on top of the Cocoon Swaddle Bag.

  3. Place their legs inside the bag and start to zip up the zipper

  4. Place their little arms across their chest or if they're wriggling, place their arms down against their body. (keep persisting as they might not like it at the start don't be discouraged)

  5. Zip up the zipper and voila your baby is now swaddled.

When you unzip it to take it off, your baby will most likely perform the cutest stretch when they're out of their Swaddle. Watch and coo away.

How to use a cocoon swaddle

ergoPouch Cocoon swaddle bag features

  • They're easy for the middle of the night poo explosions, unzip the 2-way, zipper pull their little legs out and get changing. You can keep their little arms wrapped inside the Swaddle. They won't even know they've made a big mess in the middle of the night.

  • If the baby is too warm, undo the lower portion of the two-way zip on your pouch to let air flow through in the early evening. Zip them up later in the evening before you go to bed to keep warmth in overnight.

  • A Cocoon Swaddle Bag can become a positive association very quickly. Your baby will start to recognise the smell and sight of their pouch and associate this with restful sleep. If you consistently use the Cocoon Swaddle Bag as part of your settling ritual, your baby will then be able to transfer this association while out and about. They will quickly understand if they are in their Cocoon Swaddle Bag, it's time to sleep.

Baby trying to roll

Indicators that your baby is showing signs of rolling, and no longer requires a swaddle for sleeping include:

  • Attempting to roll body when unswaddled

  • Pushing up on hands during tummy time, lifting one hand off the ground

  • Fussiness when swaddled/fighting the swaddle when going on

  • Disrupted sleep

  • The disappearance of the startle (moro) reflex

  • Attempting to have hands free/up around their face when the swaddle is on

When do babies roll?

While there is no set rule for the exact time to move through the transition from swaddling to arms-out sleeping, it typically starts between 3-6 months old. However, some babies may start earlier; some may take longer. You may be unsure of when exactly to make the transition; however, you know your baby best. Follow the signs above and your baby's cues as the best way to get through this stage. Between 4-6 months babies outgrow the startle (moro) reflex. If your baby is not yet rolling and still swaddled but is no longer startling this may also indicate it is time to transition from swaddling.

When to take arms out of swaddle?

You've made it through the first few months, hooray! And then comes the baby's first significant milestone – rolling – and undoing 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.

How to safely transition your baby to arms-out sleeping

Some babies may struggle with this change in their sleeping environment. As such, we recommend a two-step approach to the transition:

Step One: Releasing one arm out of your baby’s swaddle for all sleeps, to allow your baby time to become used to this new way of sleeping.

Step Two: After a week or so of one-arm-out sleeping, remove both arms from the swaddle. Expect some difficult sleeps during this phase, but stick with it and don't be tempted to re-swaddle them – they will adjust to the new sleep position. Once your baby is rolling on their own, if they independently roll onto their tummy in their sleep with their arms out of a swaddle, you do not need to roll them back. Pssst... If you anticipate that the transition to arms-out sleeping will be a challenge or are going through some resistance to the transition, we have a solution for you. ergoPouch has designed the Butterfly Cardi to help in the transition from a swaddled sleeper to an arms-out dreamer, easier! Find out more. We know that sleep is a journey, not a destination and we are with you every step of the way. To learn how to get your baby to sleep through the night book into Parents, You've Got This Starting Soilds and Infant Sleep Masterclass.

This Expert article was written by Jessica Evans, ergoPouch the Sleeping Bag Experts, sources: *Red Nose &


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