What’s a new mom to do if your baby hates the swaddle? Find out why your newborn resists being swaddled and what you can do to calm your baby.

newborn baby swaddled

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I’m a firm believer in the benefits of swaddling your baby, but I hear a lot of newborn parents say their baby hates the swaddle.

Here’s what to do if your baby hates the swaddle, but you know using it will help them sleep better.

newborn sleeping while being swaddled

Why is My Baby Fighting the Swaddle?

If your newborn doesn’t like the swaddle, there are some things to troubleshoot.

The Swaddle is Too Loose or Too Tight

Babies can be particular.

If you think your baby hates the swaddle, it may just be that the swaddle is too loose or too tight.

To swaddle your baby just right, swaddle them tightly around their arms and chest.

There should be enough room for you to fit two fingers between your baby’s chest and the swaddle.

Then, make sure their legs and hips are free to move around inside the swaddle.

You’re Waiting Too Long to Swaddle

If your baby is overtired and fussy, it might be too late to swaddle them.

I have found that the hardest way to practice swaddling is on a fussy baby.

I recommend practicing on dolls, stuffed animals, or on your little one when they are calm and agreeable. This takes the pressure off and will help you feel prepared to successfully swaddle when it counts.

Then, pay attention to your baby’s wake windows and swaddle them near the end of the wake window as part of their nap routine.

The Swaddle Fabric is Uncomfortable

Your baby might not like your method of swaddling or the particular swaddle you’re using.

Don’t go crazy buying a million swaddles though!

When it comes to the swaddle itself, look out for scratchy fabric or tags that might be irritating your baby’s sensitive skin.

Here are some of the best swaddles for newborns:

Your Baby is Too Hot

It’s also possible that your newborn is feeling too warm in the swaddle. Figuring out how to dress your baby for sleep can be tricky, but I’ve got you covered.

Is it Okay to Not Swaddle My Newborn?

I highly recommend swaddling to help prevent the startle reflex from waking up your baby and helping create a cozy womb-like environment.

But if you feel like you’ve tried everything and your newborn still fights the swaddle, then don’t force it.

The bottom line is that, while swaddling can be a useful soothing tool, it’s not developmentally necessary.

The truth is, the swaddling stage for babies is just a fraction of their lives. If you have a newborn who just won’t do it, look at it this way: they’re just starting the self-soothing learning process earlier than their peers.

If your baby hates the swaddle, there are other things you can do to signal sleep for them (like use white noise and a consistent bedtime routine.)

The sooner your baby learns sleep associations, the easier it will be to put them to sleep consistently.

What Can I Do Instead of Swaddling?

If your baby really hates the swaddle, you can try a transitional swaddle. Essentially, you’ll still swaddle your baby’s midsection but keep their arms free.

Aside from swaddling, there are other ways to help soothe your baby and help them get sleep.

Sleep is a holistic approach and many factors will go into helping a baby sleep including:

Get Your Newborn to Sleep

newborn sleep course mockup

Learn how to get your newborn to fall asleep and stay asleep with the Newborn Sleep Course. You’ll learn expert sleep tips for soothing your baby to sleep, establishing easy routines, and how to start reducing night feeds when your newborn is ready. Learn more here.

How Do You Know if A Baby Doesn’t Like to Be Swaddled?

Have you tried switching up your swaddle and your swaddling method, but nothing seems to help?

If your baby is continually fighting the swaddle—to the point that it’s a battle every time you put them down to sleep—the swaddle may not be for them.

It happens! Don’t take it as a failure, I promise you it’s okay for your newborn to sleep unswaddled.

If you’re beginning to wonder if the swaddle is just not for your baby, there are some signs you can look for.

Signs Baby Doesn’t Want to Be Swaddled

Here are some signs your baby might show you to let you know that the swaddle just isn’t working for them:

  • They are squirming and struggling against the swaddle tightness to get their limbs free.
  • They consistently break out the swaddle every time (before you give up, see if a different swaddle method or a swaddle with a zipper works better.)
  • Your baby loves sucking on their hands to self-soothe, and the swaddle keeps them from it (before you give up, consider swaddling with one arm out.)
  • They cry for a prolonged period of time after swaddling, not showing any signs of settling down.
  • You start to see signs that your baby is working on rolling over (it’s no longer safe to swaddle once your baby is rolling,)

What Do I Do If My Baby Hates Being Swaddled?

Maybe your baby hates the swaddle, but startles themselves awake when they sleep or maybe your baby won’t sleep without it. Or maybe they fight you hard on the swaddle but once they’re in it, they sleep better.

If either is the case, there’s a good chance that your baby doesn’t completely hate the swaddle. They just haven’t met the right swaddle method yet.

Try these tips first before completely ditching the swaddle.

tips when baby hates the swaddle graphic

5 Tips If your Baby Doesn’t Like the Swaddle

1. Swaddle them before they’re too tired

You may be swaddling your baby too late. Make sure to be aware of your newborn’s wake windows and swaddle them before they reach an overtired state.

Once your baby is overtired, it’s going to be much harder for them to relax and embrace the swaddle.

2. Double Check the Tightness

Often when a newborn doesn’t like to be swaddled, it’s because the swaddle is too tight or not tight enough.

Create a just-right tight swaddle by wrapping the swaddle tightly around their arms and chest but allowing their legs and hips to be looser. You should be able to put two fingers between the swaddle and your baby’s chest.

3. Make sure baby isn’t too hot while swaddled

Look for signs that your baby is too hot while sleeping to keep your baby from overheating.

Babies can sleep in swaddles during the summer, but make sure to choose lightweight and breathable fabrics.

4. Double check the size and material of the swaddle

Make sure the swaddle fits your baby appropriately. You don’t want any fabric covering baby’s face. Choose a swaddle with soft and breathable fabric to make sure it isn’t irritating baby’s skin.

5. Only swaddle baby your for sleep

Make sure to give your baby plenty of time to stretch out while they’re awake. Reserve the swaddle for naps and night sleep and make sure to unswaddle them the rest of the time.

Swaddle Alternatives:

If swaddling with a loose blanket feels like impossible origami to you, consider using a swaddle that does some of the work for you.

The following swaddles use fasteners, velcro, or shortcuts for an escape-proof fit:

  • Kyte Baby Sleep Bag Swaddler: This swaddle opens up at the bottom, making middle of the night diaper changes so easy. It also doubles as a sleep sack / sleep bag, making the transition from swaddle to sleep sack an easy one.
  • The SleepingBaby Swaddle:I love these swaddles because they open at the bottom, making it easier to change your baby’s diaper in the middle of the night.
  • Sleepea: The 5-Second swaddle that is Houdini-proof! This one includes a double zipper that can zip from top or bottom and you can swaddle with arms out.
  • Aden + Anais Wrap Swaddle : Aden and Anais make some of the softest and highest-quality baby products out there! This easy-to-use swaddle is made of a muslin, breathable material.

If your baby is still fussy after properly being swaddled, continue to proceed with the 5 S’s:

  1. Swaddle
  2. Side/Stomach
  3. Shush
  4. Swing
  5. Suck

After swaddling baby and going through the 5 S’s, many babies tend to calm down.

Is It Okay to Swaddle My Newborn with Arms Out?

Although swaddling your baby with their arms down at their sides is often what feels most secure to them, someday your baby might want their hands out of the swaddle.

Our daughter was about 3 months of age when she discovered a love for sucking her hands.

Eventually we realized that she was waking herself up because she was struggling to achieve that self-soothing maneuver.

One night, we swaddled her with one arm out. It took her a couple nights to adjust to this new freedom, but eventually she learned to self-soothe and get back to sleep much more quickly than she could when she completely broke out of the swaddle.

The beauty of swaddling is that there are ways to do it while still allowing for some movement, whether it’s one or two arms out. Try a few different methods and see how your baby reacts to each.

Frequently Asked Questions About Baby Hating the Swaddle

Should I Swaddle My Newborn?

There are pros and cons to swaddling baby, but overall I highly recommend it for newborns. I even recommend swaddling for naps in those early days.

I’ve worked with plenty of families who say swaddling has made all the difference in helping their baby sleep.

Done correctly, swaddling keeps babies warm and secure (without too much constricting). It reminds them of the tight and warm quarters of the womb.

While I really love what the swaddle has to offer newborn babies, I also understand that not all babies go for it, especially not initially.

Why Does My Newborn Hate Being Swaddled?

Chances are pretty high that your baby doesn’t hate being swaddled—they just don’t like how or when you’re doing it. Try not to take it personally.

You’re both still learning about each other. If your newborn breaks out of the swaddle, it might be time to try a new technique.

The whole purpose behind swaddling a newborn is to mimic the feel of your womb. The swaddle is warm and it reminds them of your touch. It also feels secure, and confines their limbs comfortably.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Eventually it may not even be a battle at all!

Is it Normal for a Baby to Not Like Being Swaddled?

It’s normal for newborns to not like a lot of things—being born is quite a shock!

Your newborn is getting used to all sorts of new sensations, and it can be an uncomfortable process. There are so many new sounds, smells, textures, and brightness to contend with outside of the womb.

It’s also completely natural for your newborn to fuss. Crying is their only way to communicate.

If your baby seems to not like being swaddled early on, they might need a little time to get used to the feeling. You might also need to go through some trial and error to find the best swaddle and swaddling method for your little one.

I prescribe heaps of patience in these early days, and cutting yourself some major slack.

What Age Do Babies Not Want to Be Swaddled?

A baby can decide they don’t like to be swaddled at any point, even as early as the first week or two that you’re home from the hospital.

However, from a development standpoint, swaddling becomes less necessary after your baby’s startle reflex has faded. This usually happens around the 8 week mark.

There is a point at which swaddling becomes dangerous, though, and that’s when your baby begins to show signs of rolling, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). There’s a huge age range when this can happen, anywhere between 8 to 24 weeks old.

As soon as you start to see signs of rolling during tummy time, I recommend you start looking into transition swaddles or moving to a sleep sack.

If your baby hasn’t been a consistent fan of the swaddle since the beginning, there’s not much reason to keep trying to push it on them past the 2 month mark.

I know it can be frustrating when your baby hates the swaddle. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll try to help you troubleshoot!

Amy Motroni

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One Comment

  1. Bahahaha! Our baby HATED to be swaddled, even when the midwives did it. She’d bust out within two minutes. We were on night four of no sleep when we tried the sleep bag one of my husband’s coworkers had given us. Instant relief. Seriously. Only woke up twice for feeds. Some newborns can’t stand to have their arms tucked in and that’s totally fine! All babies are different (and in fact, we’ve since met a ton of parents who’ve had the exact same experience), it’s not ‘striking out’, some will sleep much better when you actually let them do their thing instead of trying to force them into a position they don’t like, and for some, that means having their arms free.

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