Swaddling Blankets: The Good, The Bad & The Useless
My first baby did not care for swaddling. We swaddled him dutifully for the first few weeks because that’s simply what we thought we were supposed to do. (I bet if a nurse at the hospital had stuck a self-adhesive Christmas bow on his soft spot I would kept on doing that too.) We gave up on swaddling fairly quickly, though, because we simply didn’t have any blankets to swaddle him with.
This was…weird, to say the least, since I had TWO DRAWERS devoted to baby blankets. Most of them, though, were thin little squares of flannel that were way too small, and even our bigger blankets were no match for the 10-pound newborn I’d birthed. I tried one of those blankets with the velcro and (after spending 10 minutes consulting the instructions) tossed it directly in our DONATE pile after Noah was able to extricate himself from the thing in about 30 seconds flat.
Ezra, as I think I have mentioned once or twice or FIVE BAJILLION TIMES, was a fan of the swaddling. Big fan. Really big fan. For the first two months or so, he was either in the sling or swaddled pretty much round the clock. It went beyond “he won’t sleep unless he’s swaddled.” It was “he won’t eat unless he’s swaddled” and also “he won’t stop crying unless he’s swaddled.” He didn’t have colic or any obvious digestive problems — he just hated having his arms and legs all free and loose and flailing. After two months, we only had to swaddle him at night or naptime or when he was nursing. Which…HA HA, still meant the kid was wrapped up like a burrito about 16 hours a day.
Needless to say, our swaddling blankets became a few of our most prized possessions. And since I still get questions about whether such-and-such blanket is worth the money or how many blankets should I register for or HALP MY BABY PUNCHES HERSELF IN THE FACE AT NIGHT, I figured it’s time to just put all my Very Important Opinions all in one place.
Let’s start off with…
The Miracle Blanket
This is the Cadillac of swaddling blankets. The Miracle Blanket has a hard-to-kick-out-of foot pouch and extra flaps for securing tucking your baby’s arms down, so it really does resemble a straitjacket. Thing is? Babies love the straitjacket. (BREAKING NEWS: BABIES ARE KIND OF CRAZY.) My favorite thing about the Miracle Blanket is how easy it was to use (no folding down corners or ending up with lopsided flaps!) and how lightweight the final swaddle was (you don’t want baby to overheat!). My least favorite thing is that it only comes in one size, so yes, your baby will outgrow it after a few months. But oh, what a glorious few months they are! Ezra would be in full-scale screaming freak-out mode and be silent and sleepy by the time we got that final bit of fabric wrapped around his body. We owned three and used them in constant rotation — one on the baby, one in the wash and one in the dryer. Honestly, by the time Ezra outgrew our Miracle Blankets, we’d used them SO MUCH that the seams were completely worn out and starting to come apart. We absolutely got our money’s worth.
aden + anais
So maybe your baby is on the big side and already showing signs of outgrowing his Miracle Blanket, but NOT showing signs of being ready to sleep unswaddled? Well, at this point you can certainly attack some spare bedsheets with the scissors and go for slightly…biblical style of swaddling. Or you treat yourself (and your baby) to a box set of muslin swaddling blankets by aden + anais. These are nice, big blankets — I’d say I could easily still use them for my 23-pound toddler, if he was into it. (I don’t think he’d be into it.) They have a heavier style for cold climates, but again, I liked the lightweight, breathable version. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Aussie Swaddle technique on their website if your baby tends to get his arms free a lot. These blankets are also just really nice general-purpose blankets, like for tummy time and nursing or covering up in the stroller, so they’re good to have even if you don’t end up with a please-swaddle-me baby.
SwaddleMe by Kiddopotamus
Okay, maybe more like “mediocre” since I know a lot of people like them, but I have a little conspiracy theory about babies who tolerate the SwaddleMe: I don’t think they actually care about being swaddled all that much in the first place. Both of my babies were able to bust out of this thing in minutes — the velcro is just not nearly strong enough. And it was never really snug enough for Ezra’s liking (the bottom is more like a loose Sleep Sack than anything). If the Miracle Blanket is just too expensive, you’re really better off tracking down extra-large blankets (Etsy has adorable ones!) than spending money on this single-purpose doohickey. I once talked to a pregnant friend about the glory of the Miracle Blanket and whether she wanted one, and she kind of shrugged and said she planned to re-use her SwaddleMes (she’d barely used with her first baby, but seemed to think they worked okay). Her second baby ended up being just like Ezra and a total Houdini who could open the velcro, and I got an email from her one day that simply said: YOU WERE RIGHT. I HATE THESE. SEND MIRACLE BLANKETS AND/OR DUCT TAPE.
Those handy little generic four- or six-packs of square flannel “receiving” blankets that you no doubt registered for (in multiple packs and patterns!) because the checklist at the store told you to. But listen: You don’t really use loose blankets around babies. You either use them to swaddle, or maybe to put on the floor when they play. You might have one favorite little blanket that you use during feeding times, or to drape over the car seat when you head out. (I prefer the zip-on buntings, though, since they don’t get lost or forgotten.) These super thin cheap blankets? These will not be your favorite. You absolutely cannot properly swaddle a baby with them. I remember just loosely wrapping Noah in one while we sat in the rocker…and it didn’t even cover his feet. The floor still felt hard and cold through them when I used them at tummy time. They were far too lightweight to use as a cover outside. By the time either of the boys was old enough to be covered with a blanket at night, these are just way, way too small and skimpy. I don’t know why we all keep registering for them or why everyone keeps buying them for us. Seriously, if you really want some, I have about four dozen of them, still nicely folded in the same dang drawer I put them in FIVE YEARS AGO.
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Published May 18, 2010.
Last updated July 23, 2017.