Sleep: it does a body good. And it is every new parent’s ultimate goal. In the first few weeks after Reese came on the scene, I would have done anything to get her to sleep for a 4-hour stretch so I could take a nap. Once she was doing that, I was wishing for a whole night of sleep.
As a new parent, I definitely equated swaddling with sleep. Everyone I knew told me to get a specific swaddle because it was the best and worked for their child – the only problem is, everyone I knew recommended a different one! The fact of the matter is, even if you know the baby-gear market inside-out and are already well-versed in developmental stages, every baby is an individual, and there’s no way to predict which swaddling method they’ll prefer until you actually try it out.
So by the time I actually gave birth, I must have had an arsenal of at least 8 different kinds of swaddles, all washed and folded in Reese’s drawers, just waiting for her to come home. I was so excited to try them out and see which one would be the winner, the one that would be magic!
For the first couple months, we swaddled her in a muslin Aden + Anais blanket. I was nursing, so she was only sleeping for a few hours at a time in various places around our home, and these swaddles helped her to stay cozy and content. Fast forward to 2 months, though, and our little Houdini was starting to break out. We tightened up the swaddle, but she would always manage to get one hand out and rest it next to her face. And once that hand was out, she was definitely not staying asleep. (Side note: that same hand was always next to her face in every ultrasound picture. Old habits die hard, I guess!)*
After that, we used various swaddles that were more effective at keeping her hands tucked away. The “straight jacket” styles, as we called them, kept her little paws down, but we could see that she was fighting to get them back to her face. For a (very) short amount of time, we swaddled from the chest down and let her keep her arms out. We thought she would be happier this way, but she actually thought it was time to party instead, which was not our favorite thing at 3am on a weeknight.
So I was definitely ready for a change when a few Love to Dream swaddles came my way when Reese was about 4 months old. Love to Dream is an Australian company started by a mom who wanted her little boy to sleep through the night. She invented the Love to Swaddle Up because her son wanted his hands near his face while sleeping.
The Love to Swaddle Up is shaped like an angel. There are “wings” at the top so baby can keep her hands up. This allows baby to self-soothe at night by sucking on her fingers. The middle section is a bit more fitted, which dampens the startle reflex. The bottom is similar to a sleep bag. By keeping the bottom a bit looser, baby’s legs can be splayed open, allowing for a much more natural sleep position.
The first night Reese slept in the Love to Swaddle Up, a miracle occurred: two six-hour solid stretches of sleep! This was definitely a big win. I loved that she could sleep in a position that she wanted to be in, and I knew she would stay in her swaddle all night long. The Love to Swaddle Up was also super easy to get her into: it has a long zipper for easy in-and-out access. And the fabric is great, too: it’s made of a stretchy cotton elastane that reminds me of my favorite grey t-shirt, the one that rarely gets washed because I’m constantly wearing it. The single layer of fabric helps the baby regulate their body temperature so they don’t overheat from lots of swaddling layers.
As Reese became a bit more reliant on her Wubbanub pacifier, we switched over to the Love to Swaddle Up 50/50 Transitional Swaddle. Love to Dream describes it as stage 2 in their sleep product range. The “wings” can be zippered off (one or both) to allow baby to actually get to their hands. The 50/50 still has a fitted midsection so that baby feels secure and cozy. This is a great option if you’re thinking about moving your child to a sleep sack, but want something that fits a bit more like a swaddling blanket.
Love to Dream also makes a Sleep Bag for when baby is ready for a bit more room. It features their Longa Shorta length feature, so it grows with your baby and you can use it longer.
Reese is now 8 months old and sleeping 12 hours through the night, and she has been doing this for about 3 months now. There are 2 things I learned over the past months with regards to swaddling and sleeping: the first is to be ready for lots of different stages and changes. The way Reese sleeps has transitioned and evolved many times over. As a parent, be ready to adapt to this and try out new swaddles and sleep items to help your baby get the rest they need.
The second thing that I learned is that what worked for other peoples’ babies might not work for yours. And that’s ok. Put a few swaddles on your registry or buy a few before you have your baby, but be aware that you probably won’t know exactly what you need until you see what your baby’s temperament is like. If you can, borrow some different types of swaddlers from a friend or relative. And then once you find something that works? Stock up!
* Editor’s note: I actually said “awwww” aloud when I read that part. Admit it, you did too.