For a new parent, the pursuit of a good night’s sleep trumps all other endeavors — save for keeping the baby alive, of course. I can attest: As a first-time mom to a 2-month-old, I’ve spent many long nights jiggling my daughter asleep while pacing my apartment in the pitch-black — no easy feat when the floor is a minefield of play mats, swings, and other paraphernalia, all poised to awaken the baby with a mercilessly cheerful rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
As such, I’ve become intimately familiar with a seemingly innocuous infant sleep accessory: the swaddle.
For those not anointed, swaddles are basically baby straitjackets; when used correctly, they’re designed to help a child sleep by mimicking the tight, warm embrace of the womb.
My first introduction to swaddling was in the hospital after a 15-hour induction and labor process. Bleary-eyed and dazed, I watched a nurse efficiently wrap our daughter in a soft, lightweight blanket — tuck, fold, violà! — until she resembled an adorable burrito. This blanket-origami method is the traditional method of swaddling, and doing it well is an art form, reserved for Earth Mother types, sage grannies, and storks — it’s not for frazzled newbies like me.
Thankfully, there are now a slew of swaddles available that don’t require parents to patiently DIY a womb out of a blanket. Featuring dummy-proof features like Velcro enclosures and handy zippers, these swaddles enable a parent to painlessly and quickly wrap a baby up in soothing comfort. In my dogged pursuit of sleep, I’ve tried (too) many of them. Here are the results, which I’ve ranked from favorite to least favorite.
If you’re a sleep-deprived parent of an infant, you need the good news first: This swaddle is magic. Unsurprisingly, I guess — it was developed from years of careful research by Dr. Karp, a.k.a. the Swaddle King. We received Sleepea as a gift from an old colleague of mine who works on the Happiest Baby team (makers of the Snoo) when our daughter was around six weeks old and have since enjoyed regular stints of over six hours of uninterrupted sleep. Its blissfully simple design consists of a stretchy “smart band” encased in a breathable, zippered sleep sack; we just lay our daughter in the unzipped sack, strap both arms at her sides using the band, and then zip her up — no thoughtful positioning or artful folding required. Added bonus: The Velcro on Sleepea is designed to be extra quiet, so it doesn’t make a horrible, loud cracking noise when you undo it — a killer when you’re trying to keep a sleeping baby asleep.
Our daughter loves sucking her fingers and rubbing her face — endearing habits that, according to Google, are common ways that infants “self-soothe.” Swaddle Up was designed with this idea in mind: While most traditional swaddles pin a baby’s arms down at her sides, Swaddle Up positions her arms up, so she can easily access her hands. The first time we used it, I was delighted that our daughter not only resembled a petite pastel starfish, she was also immediately at ease. While I still think the straitjacket method is more effective for encouraging long stretches of uninterrupted sleep, this swaddle is our go-to for naps. Plus, it’s the easiest to use of all of the swaddles we’ve tried — we just lay baby down with her arms up and zip her into the sack.
Thanks to its popularity with many of my friends’ babies, SwaddleMe was an early favorite in our household. A modern version of the traditional swaddle, it has been updated with Velcro enclosures to make the aforementioned blanket origami easier; when executed correctly, it does an excellent job of keeping our daughter burritolike all night. Nevertheless, anything that requires wrapping and tucking at 3 a.m. is challenging, especially with a wriggling baby on your hands. Also, the Velcro on this swaddle is loud — if you happen to goof on your first swaddle attempt (you will), Godspeed in undoing and redoing it without waking up your kid.