Newborns usually sleep the longest and best when their arms are straight down at their sides. As they get older, their arms will naturally relax by their sides instead of crisscross at their chest. In the womb, though their arms are bent at first, after a week or two the arms naturally become straighter!
With a little patience and perseverance, babies who once resisted a tight swaddle give in to the warm snug feeling and sleep much better.
It's actually common for new babies to resist swaddling. It can make parents think, My baby hates to be wrapped! Of course, you would probably hate to be swaddled, but adults would also hate to live in a womb for 9 months or to drink milk—as their only food—for every single meal, but babies love all of this.
Moms in cultures all around the world have swaddled their sleeping babies—arms down—for thousands of years…because it works! Remember, babies don’t really need freedom—they need to feel snug and secure like they did in the womb. That's why we naturally cuddle babies snuggle and use our arms to keep them from flailing about. (We literally swaddle them with our arms!)
When your baby is awake, it’s fine to keep the arms out (or swaddled with arms bent up), but during sleep that will lead to more startles and accidental whacks to the face—and more waking. So, if your little Houdini manages to escape our swaddles without fail, don't worry.
Luckily, we have some tricks you can try!
Step 1: Lay a folded thin blanket or cloth diaper on the open SNOO Sack - across the area where the baby’s upper back will rest - then lay your baby on top of the cloth and sack.
Step 2: Fold one side of the blanket over your baby's arm and underneath her body. Repeat on the other side. That should secure both of your baby’s arms down at the sides.
Step 3: Now, pull the sack's inner bands across the upper belly - keeping your baby's arms straight at the sides. Make sure the band is snug and low…covering most of the fingers. And, zip it fully closed.
Your baby is now snug as a bug and ready to be placed in SNOO!
So, while your baby may fuss at first…swaddling is super valuable for 99% of babies, and the benefits - less crying and more sleep - are huge! To help swaddling go even better, introduce these tips to your daily routine:
- Swaddle Before Feeding: Feeding makes babies feel relaxed and cozy. Sometimes, swaddling can wake a baby who has fallen asleep during feeding. So, swaddling before you start a feeding can help prevent them from being stirred awake after their feeding and can also create a positive association with being swaddled.
- Do a Little Calming Routine: After you secure in the SNOO Sack, here are a few things to help your baby relax and settle:
- For an hour before bedtime, play a strong white noise in the background (about as loud as a shower)
- Do a feeding
- Rock and cuddle (it’s fine if your baby falls asleep in your arms before being placed in SNOO).
- Offer a pacifier!
- Give a Little Boost: Once down, immediately boost SNOO to the purple or green level (manually or with the App). This added motion/sound often helps babies settle. Or, go to settings to raise SNOO's normal starting level to to purple or green, here's how!
Older babies, usually around 4-5 months, have more coordination and can sleep well with one or both hands-free. So if your newborn has reached that age or is able to roll during tummy time unassisted, test out releasing one arm at a time and see how they fair! If they start sleeping well, this means they were just ready for a little freedom now that they are older.
Happiest Baby does not provide medical advice. Please seek the advice of your
healthcare provider if you have questions regarding a medical issue.