Baby Hates Swaddling? Here’s EXACTLY What You Must Do.

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 12/15/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Tips

Does your little one start crying the moment you wrap them up tight? Do they wriggle and squirm? If your baby hates swaddling, you’re not alone. 

Many parents struggle when their baby resists the snug swaddle that’s meant to comfort them. Thankfully, there are plenty of techniques and alternatives to try to help your baby sleep safe and sound.

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Top 5 Reasons Why Your Baby Hates Swaddling

Swaddling is a technique used by many parents to calm fussy newborns and during my time at Norland College, we were always encouraged to swaddle the charges in our care…

But not all babies enjoy being tightly wrapped up. If your little one seems distressed whenever you try to swaddle them, they may fall into the group that dislikes feeling confined.

There are several potential reasons why your baby hates swaddling, but by understanding what is causing their discomfort, you can help determine if swaddling is right for your child or if alternative calming techniques should be tried instead.

Here are the most common reasons why your baby hates swaddling:

Reasons Why Your Baby Hates Swaddling

Major Signs Baby Doesn’t Want To Be Swaddled

One of the easiest ways to tell if your baby hates swaddling is to observe their behavior. Here are the main signs you need to look for that will tell you if your baby is experiencing swaddle discomfort:

  1. Breaking out of the swaddle: If your baby is constantly breaking out of their swaddle, it may be a sign that they are uncomfortable. This could be because the swaddle is too loose, or because your baby simply doesn’t like the feeling of being confined.
  2. Fussiness: If your baby is fussy, irritable, and struggling to settle when swaddled, it may be a sign they are uncomfortable. This could be because the swaddle is too tight, too hot, or too cold.
  3. Uncomfortable body language: If your baby displays behaviors such as arching their back, flailing, or squirming around, you know they are in discomfort. These behaviors could also be due to trapped wind, digestive sensitivity, or overtiredness. Therefore, it’s important to look for other signs of swaddle discomfort too. 

If you notice any of these signs of swaddle discomfort, it may be time to try a different swaddling technique or consider other options for soothing your baby. 

The Best Alternatives To Swaddling

If you’ve established that your baby hates swaddling, there is no need to worry. 

The first step to take when your baby resists swaddling is to see if you can make the swaddle comfortable for them (by changing the fabric, how tight it is, and your wrapping technique)

If that is not successful, you’ll be happy to know there are several swaddling alternatives to keep your baby cozy when they sleep. They include: 

Alternatives To Swaddling

1. Sleep Sack (aka Wearable Blankets)

A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that can keep your baby warm and cozy without swaddling. It allows your baby to move their arms and legs freely while still providing a sense of security by being inside a sack.

Sleep sacks often have generous room for kicking, but their design means they cannot be kicked off so your baby stays warm all night. 

Most sleep sacks are also recognized as being “Hip Healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute because of this freedom of movement.

HALO 100% Cotton Sleepsack Swaddle, TOG 1.5, 0-3 Months

The number 1 choice from USA hospitals, the Halo sleep sack's 3-way adjustable swaddle allows both-arms-in to reduce startle reflex, 1-arm-out for self-soothing, and two-arms-out for easy transition from swaddling. The super soft fabric also makes this an incredibly cozy environment for babies to settle to sleep in.

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2. Onesies (aka Footies)

If your baby is uncomfortable in a swaddle, you might want to consider dressing them in a onesie instead. 

Babes who want to stretch out will love the freedom of movement.

Onesies come with or without feet – choose the design that best suits your climate and baby’s sleeping preferences.

Also look for onesies that are soft, breathable, and easy to put on and take off for nighttime changes (a chunky zip down to the foot is my personal favorite!)

Gerber Sleep 'N Play Footie, Set of 4 Onesies

These onesies are a cozy one-piece outfit that will keep your little one comfortable throughout the night. Featuring playful jungle animals printed all over (as well as many other designs!), these pajamas are too cute to resist putting on your baby before bedtime snuggles. With snap closures at the bottom for easy diaper changes, your infant will sleep soundly in these soft cotton pajamas while dreaming of adventure!

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3. Swaddle With Velcro

If your baby hates swaddling it might be because they are not comfortable with the conventional swaddle technique. Luckily there are lots of alternatives to swaddling baby with a single sheet of material. 

Swaddles with velcro are a great option if you struggle with the traditional swaddle technique. They are easy to use and can be adjusted to fit your baby’s size.

Velcro swaddles can also help keep your baby’s arms and legs securely wrapped, which can prevent them from startling themselves awake.

Ely's & Co. Adjustable Swaddle Blanket Infant Baby Wrap 2 Pack (Sage, 0-3 Months)

These delightful muslin swaddles are the perfect solution for keeping baby cozy and content. Made of lightweight cotton that breathes easily on sensitive skin, this versatile blanket can be wrapped or tucked in multiple styles to gently hug baby during sleep. With its adjustable velcro design and ultra-soft touch, tired little ones will drift off peacefully knowing they are safely and lovingly wrapped in the comforting embrace of their swaddle blanket.

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4. Swaddle With A Zipper

Swaddles with a zipper are another great option for parents who want a quick and easy way to swaddle their baby.

They are designed to be easy to use and can be adjusted to fit your baby’s size. Swaddles with a zipper also allow for easy diaper changes, which can be a lifesaver during late-night feedings.

SwaddleMe by Ingenuity Pod - Size Small/Medium, 0-3 Months (Little Bees)

The SwaddleMe Pod is the perfect solution for keeping fussy newborns content. Its innovative design mimics the secure feeling of the womb, wrapping baby snugly from chest to toe while allowing full movement of the hips. If your baby is struggling with traditional swaddles, and you want easy access to change dirty diapers... here's your solution!

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5. A Transitioning Swaddle

If your baby used to like swaddling but has suddenly changed their mind… It is probably time to transition out of the traditional swaddle. 

However, that does not mean you have to stop swaddling completely. 

Companies like Love to Dream do a great range of transition swaddles and have a lot of information as to how to transition your baby successfully from a swaddle to a sleeping bag.

Love to Dream Swaddle Up Transition With Patented Zip-Off Wings

The Love to Dream transition swaddle provides the perfect blend of coziness and mobility as babies grow, with adjustable wings that safely loosen the swaddle over time. Its patented design keeps restless newborns content at night while allowing just the right amount of wiggle room for older infants to explore new movements. 

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No matter what swaddling alternative you choose, the most important goal is to help your baby sleep safely, comfortably, and deeply.

It is also very important that you dress your baby for sleep in the correct sleepwear for room temperature and time of year. 

What To Look For When Choosing Sleepwear For Babies

When it comes to dressing your baby for sleep, you want to ensure that you are using the best swaddle/sleepsack/onesie for their comfort and safety.

Here are some things to consider when buying a swaddle or swaddling alternative:

  1. Material. The material of the swaddle is important for your baby’s comfort. Look for swaddles made of breathable, soft, and stretchy fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, or muslin. Avoid synthetic materials that can cause irritation, tightness, or discomfort.
  2. Size. Swaddles come in different sizes, and it’s important to choose the right size for your baby. A swaddle that is too small can be uncomfortable and restrict your baby’s movement, while a swaddle that is too large can be unsafe and increase the risk of suffocation. Most websites will have size guides for their products… Please refer to them before making a purchase.
  3. Ease of Use. Choose a swaddle that is easy to use and doesn’t require complicated wrapping techniques. A swaddle with Velcro or snaps can make it easier to secure your baby and adjust the tightness of the swaddle. Consider your nighttime habits too… no one wants to fiddle with complicated fastenings when a full nappy needs changing!
  4. Safety. Safety should always be a top priority when choosing a swaddle or swaddle alternative. Look for clothing that is designed to prevent overheating and have a snug fit to prevent your baby from slipping out of the swaddle. Consider how your baby sleeps too. Are they stretchers? Curlers? Rollers? The best clothing option will complement your baby’s sleep habits to keep them as safe and sound.
  5. Reviews. Reading reviews from other parents can be incredibly helpful when choosing clothing for your baby. Look for products with positive reviews that mention comfort, ease of use, and safety.

By considering these factors, you can be assured you’re choosing sleepwear that will keep your baby comfortable and safe while they sleep.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions About Babies Who Hate Being Swaddled

Looking for more information about why your baby hates swaddling and what you can do about it? Here are the most commonly asked questions answered for you.

Q: When do you stop swaddling?

A: Most babies are ready to stop swaddling between 2 and 4 months of age. This is usually around the time when they start to roll over or show signs of wanting to move around more. Once your baby is able to roll over, it’s important to stop swaddling to prevent any safety risks.

Q: What are the best alternatives to swaddling a newborn who dislikes it?

A: If your newborn doesn’t like swaddling, try using a sleep sack, which is a wearable blanket that keeps your baby warm and snug without restricting their movements. 

Q: Baby hates swaddle, but startles awake. What can I do?

A: If your baby still has the Moro (startle) Reflex, you’re best option is to try swaddling them in a velcro or transition swaddle. These options will give your baby enough freedom to not feel enclosed but will limit the effect a startle reflex can have.

Q: Are sleep sacks a suitable option for newborns who don’t like swaddling?

A: Yes, sleep sacks are a great alternative to swaddling for newborns who don’t like the feeling of being wrapped up tightly. They allow your baby to move their arms and legs freely while still providing a cozy and secure environment for sleep.

Q: Can a newborn sleep safely and comfortably without being swaddled?

A: Yes, many newborns sleep perfectly well without being swaddled. Some babies simply don’t like the feeling of being wrapped up tightly, and that’s okay. As long as your baby is sleeping safely on their back and in a comfortable environment, then you don’t have to swaddle them if they don’t like it.

Q: What are the benefits of swaddling with arms out for a baby?

A: Swaddling with arms out can be a great option for babies who don’t like the feeling of being completely wrapped up. It allows your baby to move their arms and hands freely, which can help them self-soothe and feel more comfortable. Additionally, swaddling with arms out can help your baby transition more easily to sleeping without being swaddled.

Q: Do all babies like being swaddled?

A: No. Not all babies like being swaddled. If your newborn doesn’t like the swaddle, do not worry. Try the alternatives I have listed above to help your baby sleep safely and soundly.

Q: How can you stop the startle reflex without swaddling?

A: If your baby has a strong startle reflex and doesn’t like to be swaddled, there are other ways to help them feel secure and comfortable while sleeping. You can try using a sleep sack or a baby wrap to provide a cozy and snug environment. Additionally, you can try using a pacifier or white noise machine to help soothe your baby and reduce the startle reflex.

My Top Pick
Dreamegg White Noise Machine - 21 Soothing Sounds

White noise machines are a game-changer for your little one's sleep and having one that plays all night is a must. With a long-lasting battery, this compact and stylish white noise machine contains 21 non-stop relaxing noises, which will lull your little one to sleep night after night, no matter where you are!

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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