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Should You Swaddle for Naps? (A Guide to Day Time Swaddling)

The swaddle is a powerful sleep tool for newborns. But should you swaddle your baby for naps, too? Here’s what you should know about swaddling your newborn during the day.

baby being swaddled by mother

To swaddle or not to swaddle? That’s a great question!

I’ll just tell you now: I am firmly in the pro-swaddle camp for newborn babies.

Just like with other choices in parenting, there are pros and cons with swaddling. But as long as you pay attention to safety, the benefits of swaddling far outweigh any potential negatives.

Once you learn how to fold that perfect little baby burrito, it can be a game-changer. Just wait until you experience the magic that is a sleepy swaddled babe at bedtime.

But lots of new parents wonder: should you swaddle for naps, too?

The short answer is a resounding yes. Swaddle your newborn during the day for sleep, as long as it’s safe.

Here’s a guide on when to swaddle your baby during the day.

newborn sleeping in a hospital swaddle

The Benefits of Swaddling

Most families learn how to swaddle their newborn from a nurse in the hospital, and it is magic! It’s truly incredible to see how a snug swaddle wrap can calm a fussy baby.

The most helpful thing about the swaddle is that it prevents your newborn’s startle reflex from disturbing their sleep. 

The startle reflex (also known as the Moro Reflex) can be a major sleep disrupter. It causes your baby’s body to react to noise by throwing back their head and pushing out their legs and arms quickly before bringing them back close to their body.

As you can imagine, it’s hard for babies to sleep through this reflexive, jolting movement.

But if you wrap your baby’s arms and legs snugly against their body in a swaddle, they’ll be less likely to jostle awake.

The startle reflex stays with your baby for about two months. You can see why many families like to swaddle at least until the startle reflex goes away.

The other great thing about the swaddle is that the warmth and tightness mimics the conditions in the womb. The swaddle feels safe and familiar, making it easier for your baby to relax and fall asleep.

swaddled sleeping baby being set into bassinet

Should You Swaddle for Naps?

The answer to whether you should swaddle your baby for naps depends on whether it is still safe to swaddle your baby in general.

If it’s still safe to swaddle your baby, then yes, by all means swaddle them during nap time.

All of the benefits that the swaddle brings to your baby’s night time sleep will be true during nap time, too. However, there’s a short window of time in those early months with your baby when it’s safe to swaddle.

Your baby’s safety in the swaddle has everything to do with their physical development.

Some babies are little Houdinis and can bust out of even the most secure swaddles. The trouble is, it’s not safe to have loose blankets or bedding in an infant’s crib. You really don’t want a bustled-out swaddle in the crib with your baby.

If you find that your baby consistently breaks out of their swaddle, or they are showing signs of rolling onto their tummy, you should not swaddle them at all. That includes at nap times.

newborn yawning in a swaddle

Should a Newborn Be Swaddled for Naps?

If you are still swaddling your newborn at night and they are doing well with it, you should swaddle during naps, too.

In fact, if the swaddle is still part of your newborn’s bedtime routine, swaddling them as part of a nap routine is a really good idea.

The swaddle can be a very powerful sleep association, and it signals to your newborn that it’s time to sleep.

If your baby hates the swaddle, you can try alternatives to swaddling during their nap times. The Love to Dream Swaddle Up is one of my favorite swaddle alternatives if your baby refuses to be swaddled the traditional way.

swaddled infant awake in the daytime

Should You Swaddle Your Baby During the Day?

Although swaddling during the day can be a powerful sleep tool for young infants, it has its limitations.

Even if your baby loves the swaddle, it’s important to only use swaddles during sleep time.

I know it might be tempting to swaddle your baby during awake times—especially if your baby is upset and the swaddle calms them down. 

However, your baby’s wake windows are their time to explore movement and their environment. If you swaddle them when they’re supposed to be awake, they miss out on this important time of exploration and development.

Don’t you sleep better after you’ve had some physical activity? Well the same goes for your baby.

If your baby is swaddled instead of kicking it out, they’ll miss out on a chance to exercise and flex some important muscles.

Over-swaddling can also impact their physical growth, so it’s important to free up their arms and legs whenever possible. It’s time for them to learn how to bring their hands to their mouth and coordinate leg movements.

In other words, you should only use the swaddle for sleep. Skip it during your infant’s limited awake time in these early months.

sleeping infant that has broken out of the swaddle

When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby for Naps

In general, you can usually safely swaddle babies for sleep during at least the first two months of life, and sometimes up to 3 months.

However, the time to stop swaddling is when your baby is rolling over. In fact, the moment your baby shows signs of rolling during tummy time, it’s time to transition them out of the swaddle.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), rolling over from back to front while swaddled is a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

When you wrap your baby in a swaddle for sleep, they are unable to push their head up and away from the mattress if they roll in their sleep. This creates a risk for obstructed breathing.

Make sure to transition your baby to a sleep sack when they show those first sings of rolling.

Amy Motroni