Before giving birth, during the last trimester, I read Harvey Karp's acclaimed book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. I wanted (want) a happy baby. The baby on the cover of the book sure looked happy. I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover or title, but this seemed pretty necessary. Plus, it came recommended by several moms that I respect.
Karp's book is an easy read and a bit repetitive - perhaps to really drive his points home with sleep deprived parents who lack memory retention. But the gyst is that babies are born before their brains are really developed enough to function among the rest of us. They could really use another three months tucked away in the womb. But that's not really physically possible. Thus the "fourth trimester" as he calls it, consists of making the outside world as womb-like as possible for the baby. Sort of like a transition space/time. To do this, parents must practice "the five S's." Swaddling, Side, Shhh, Swinging, Sucking. Sucking for the infant. Not the parents. You dirty bird.
In our house, we're putting all five into practice, but swaddling was one that I wasn't totally comfortable with from the start. Honestly, you feel like you're putting your child in a straight jacket. Surely that can't be comfortable.
But it is!
I, however, turned to the aid of several different types of swaddling blankets. These use velcro, or pockets or flaps to help keep your baby tucked in and secure. Because the tighter the swaddle, the better. There are four types of swaddlers that I can speak to. Here we go.
Aden & Anais:
This Aussie company makes breathable, muslin blankets with adorable designs. While these blankets don't have fancy velcro or pockets or gizmos, they are very large and much easier to cocoon your little one in than the standard hospital grade receiving blanket - 47" X 47" to be exact. So, not only do they work well to swaddle, they'll also grow with the child. I mostly use these during the day for naps, and I always keep one in the diaper bag. Though they are super thin, they are surprisingly warm, but not quite warm enough for Colorado's winter nights. Here's my beef with them, and granted, this could be a technique issue with me as well, but my little Houdini of a baby busts out of them with very little trouble. I watch her in her crib on the monitor and see one arm break loose, followed by the other, followed by her "come get me" scream. Every time. Without fail. And it seems to happen no matter how tightly I swaddle her. She's a crafty one who prefers her arms out, but they always end up startling her out of her sleep with that Moro reflex. For a cozy, multi-purpose blanket, I love these - I own ten of them - but for swaddling specifically, not so much.
Summer Infant SwaddleMe:
This was the first swaddling blanket that I bought. I have it in a nice organic pink with a brown trim. Originally, I bought it for a friend off her baby registry but was too lazy to mail it, ended up keeping it, and lucky me, I had a girl, so I felt like it was okay for me to use it. They come in different styles and fabrics - mine is a thin jersey style cotton. There are two velcro flaps to secure the arms in place and a pocket for the little one's legs. Like a hybrid sleeping bag, almost. Abbey seems to enjoy this blanket, and it's pretty easy to get her in and out of - even during those middle of the night feedings and changes. The velcro is an evil necessity. On one hand, it keeps her snug as a bug. On the other, it wakes her and my husband and our puppy, Dante, when I undo it in the middle of the night. But overall, I'm pretty keen on this particular blanket.
I first heard of this blanket on the Alpha Mom blog, of which I am an avid reader. Amalah, the blog's writer, is a huge fan of this blanket. I'm a huge fan of Amalah. So, it ended up on my baby registry. Two good friends are also big fans of this blanket and got it for me. When I first opened it, I was wicked intimidated. There are flaps and pockets and the natural organic fabric in a lovely shade of wheat really does have this particular contraption looking like a straight jacket. But oh my golly does it work. The first time we put Abbey in it, she fussed for two seconds and then it was lights out and she didn't wake up again until seven hours later. SEVEN HOURS. Bless this blanket. Bless it, I tell you. That being said, it's sort of difficult to maneuver, and I find it to be a bit unwieldy during the wee hours. But for a super fussy or colicky baby - this blanket is surely a miracle.
Halo Sleep Sack:
My favorite nurse tending to Abbey in the NICU at the hospital raved about this blanket. They use it there, and Abbey sure seemed to like it. Lucky for us, Santa brought us one for Christmas. ;-) What I like about this blanket is that it's thicker - we have a nice fleecy one, which means fewer layers during the winter, which is of course, safer. My complaint is the same as the Swaddleme - that velcro is wicked loud. But I do love that it comes in two pieces, the "sack" which is similar to a bunting without any sleeves, and then the swaddle wrap that attaches using velcro in multiple locations. I also think that this particular model will work the best when we transition Abbey to her crib since you really don't need any additional layers. In fact, in the hospital, they had her in one wearing just a diaper. I dress her in light pajamas at home since we keep the bedroom on the cooler side.
So, my personal fave of all of these - specific for the purpose of swaddling, is the Summer Infant Swaddleme. We've had the most success with this one consecutively. Although, truly, I don't hate any of these - they all work pretty well, and I like that I have a variety on hand. I don't know that I would willing part with any of the above options now that I've sampled them all, just keep your intended purpose and personal taste in mind.