The phrase “sleep like a baby” is a funny one because save for those earliest days, infants are the opposite of awesome sleepers, in part because they’re missing the coziness of the womb. To help baby stay calm and sleep better, swaddle her. This basically involves wrapping her up like a snug little burrito; the coziness helps create a soothing, womb-like environment that keeps baby from startling herself awake.
A well-swaddled newborn is not only more likely to sleep longer, she’s also more likely to stay on her back, which is important for safety. Swaddles also keep babies warm, as they can’t have blankets in the crib before one year. All the swaddles and sleep sacks listed below are machine washable.
If there was such thing as an “it” swaddle blanket, this would be, well… it. Chances are you’ve seen these all over the place. The lightweight, breathable, slightly stretchy muslin cloths come in tons of patterns and can pull off various swaddle styles. They’re similar to the hospital blankets the nurses use when teaching new moms to swaddle, so there’s a natural comfort and familiarity factor. Plus, they’re pretty big, so you can use them even as your baby grows. These blankets can double as a stroller cover or standard blanket, tummy time mat, or nursing cover, among other things.
Swaddling a baby isn’t rocket science, but in the middle of the night in the dark, it kind of is. This blanket does the work for you. Just slide baby’s lower body into the pouch and pull the two velcro tabs across the chest. The nice thing about a velcro swaddle is that once baby is ready to start transitioning out of swaddles, you can easily keep one — and later both — arms sticking out to help baby gradually get the hang of having her arms loose.
As babies grow bigger and stronger, it’s good to start using swaddle blankets that have a little give to them. This one is ideal for superheroes-in-training who are already busting out of their velcro or blanket swaddles. The Woombie works quite like the SwaddleMe, but with a zipper and top snap in the front. You can zip in either direction, which comes in handy for diaper changes. Between the extra stretch of the fabric and the zipper enclosure, the Woombie really does keep that womb-like environment intact, which is why it’s won so many awards.
BTW, a onesie-style model is available for when baby’s ready to transition out of the swaddle.
Around 3-4 months baby will start outgrowing the swaddle. You’ll know she’s done with it when she starts to 1) use her arms and shoulders to bust out of it like the Incredible Hulk, or 2) roll over by herself. Luckily, by that point, her startle reflex is fading, so she’ll be ready to learn how to sleep without the swaddle. You’ll now start putting her in sleep sacks, which are basically wearable, zip-up blankets.
If the velcro swaddle and a legit sleep sack had a love child, it’d be the Halo, and for this reason, is a great one to have on hand as baby’s first swaddle. The velcro around the upper body acts as a swaddle blanket, but the enclosed, zippered bottom pouch is roomy and leaves plenty of space for little legs interested in kicking and exploring. It can be worn alone or as a “blanket” over PJs. The zipper opens at the feet for easy diaper changes, which is a nice plus, though it’s worth noting that the roomy leg area may not work for all babies and all stages — some babies will still want more magical calming compression around their legs, at least for a while.
The name is cheery, the patterns lively, and your baby will be shaped like a starfish! The fabric has more stretch in it than any of the other sleep sacks, which is good for babies who move around a lot. Indentations for arms and legs allow you to use this in a car seat, which is genius.
The Halo Early Walker is perfect for babies on the edge of mobility, as it’s basically a sleeping bag that also allows them to walk unencumbered thanks to footholes that can tuck into a sack at bedtime. Open arms make it a good choice if you want to make sure baby is warm but not overheated. It also unzips at the bottom for easy diaper access.