My Baby Hates Being Swaddled – What To Do + Alternative To Swaddling

Most new parents have heard it time and time again: swaddling is good for babies. Swaddles help with sleep, reduce the startle reflex, are soothing and can help calm an overtired baby. Now, that’s all lovely and rosy, but what if your newborn baby hates swaddling?

My Baby Hates Being Swaddled

I dealt with it myself, and recently one of my good friends (a new mom), reminded me of those newborn struggles when she asked: “Why does my baby cry when swaddled?”. She looked exhausted and overwhelmed and admitted she felt like she was doing something wrong.

I gave my mom friend my best tips, and I would like to share them with you, too!

Does this sound like you?

  • Your baby doesn’t like swaddle and squirms to break free
  • Your baby fights swaddle (but needs sleep)
  • Your baby hates swaddle but startles awake
  • Neither you or your baby are getting enough sleep
  • The nurse showed you several times how to make a “baby burrito”, but your swaddled baby is never as content as when the nurse made a tight swaddle.

If you’re like my friend and have thought “my baby doesn’t like being swaddled”, don’t ditch those swaddles just yet! First, read this post to learn about the best swaddle techniques and alternatives to traditional swaddles.

Spoiler alert: you might need to try a few swaddles to find the one that your baby likes the best.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

Is It Possible For Newborn To Not Like the Swaddle?

If you are a new parent who has been told again and again that babies typically love being swaddled, then you might be wondering “why my baby hates swaddling?”.

Don’t worry, there is no harm if your newborn doesn’t like the swaddle. However, chances are your baby might actually enjoy being swaddled (and sleep better in the swaddle), with a bit of adjustment: a different technique, a swaddle blanket that zips up, or if your baby’s arms are out of the swaddle.

Is It Possible For Newborn To Not Like the Swaddle?

How Can I Tell If My Baby Hates Being Swaddled?

If your baby reacts to being swaddled by struggling (fighting the swaddle, I call it) or if your baby starts crying, then those are some signs they are not comfortable.

Slight crying when you first adjust baby’s body to be secure in the swaddle is normal. This doesn’t mean they don’t like to be swaddled. Your baby should calm down very quickly after you finish fully wrapping them up.

Besides being fussy, another way a baby shows signs of not liking the swaddle is by breaking free of the swaddle: basically, squirming until they get their arms free.

Here is a tip: if a newborn doesn’t like arms swaddled, you can adjust the swaddle (and still be safe) – the technique is mentioned below.

Why Does My Baby Hate Being Swaddled?

Here’s the thing – your baby may actually like being swaddled – but you need to try a different swaddling technique, or a different swaddle that zips up or uses velcro strips to close or make sure you have the correct size blanket for newborn swaddles.

Before you give up on swaddling entirely, ask yourself why is my baby fighting the swaddle?

Troubleshooting For A Baby Who Hates The Swaddle

Yes, it can be frustrating for new parents when their newborn hates being wrapped in a swaddle. However, determining the culprit may be the key to discovering the best swaddle for your unique baby.

Overtired Baby

Your newborn might be crying because they are beyond tired. Try to swaddle your sleepy baby before they reach that ‘overtired’ point1.

Baby Doesn’t Like Arms Swaddled

Most new parents automatically wrap a baby with both arms inside the swaddle, but it is okay to wrap a swaddle that allows for one arm out. If your baby hates the swaddle and struggles to break free, try the easy-to-use Ollie Swaddle that can be secured with arms in or out.

After Feeding

If you’ve been thinking “my baby hates swaddling”, maybe pay attention to the time you do your swaddles – is it right after a feeding?

If you try swaddling right after breastfeeding or bottle feeding, your baby might have a burp they need to get out. Having their limbs free for that first or second big burp might be easier than if they are all wrapped up. You can swaddle them after a few minutes, when you’re sure their tummy is comfortable.

Did You Swaddle Your Baby Snugly Enough?

Maybe, the reason your baby tries to wiggle out of the swaddle is because the swaddle technique you’re using isn’t the snug fit that your baby craves.


Is your baby too hot (overheating)? Then you need to choose a light swaddle blanket in the right material for summer – you don’t want your baby to overheat. Make sure the fabric of the blanket is breathable, or choose a different swaddle option.

Why Does My Baby Hate Being Swaddled

What To Do If My Newborn Baby Hates Being Swaddled? – Best Techniques

So now that you know some of the reasons why a baby hates being swaddled, we can get into the best techniques to help your baby sleep like a dream in a cozy swaddle.

1. The 5-S Strategy

First of all, if your baby is cranky and you’re expecting the swaddle – and only the swaddle – to be a magic trick for infant sleep, you need to be realistic.

Swaddling is the first (and probably, most important!) of the 5 S for soothing babies, but there are 4 other strategies you should utilize, too. By the way, 5 S strategy is very useful for colicky babies.

The 5-S are:

  1. Swaddle: wrap baby up cozy and simulate the feeling of the womb.
  2. Side-Stomach: not for sleep! This is only when carrying your baby to soothe them. Babies must be put to sleep on their back.
  3. Sush: muffle sounds that might be overstimulating.
  4. Swing: think rocking motion, like a baby cradle.
  5. Suck: use a pacifier or allow them to briefly comfort-nurse to help calm down.

2. Best Swaddling Techniques

Start when both you and your baby are calm. Don’t try to learn how to swaddle when your infant is already crying. Instead, try when your child has already fed, is content and calm.

All babies have their ‘sweet spot”when they are the most calm, ours was just after bath time. You’ll soon learn yours, too.

  • DUDU Method

I prefer using the Dudu Method by Dr Harvey Karp2 for swaddling babies as it’s only 4 steps and is easy to remember.

DUDU means: down-up-down-up. Easy, right?

Well, it might not be with written instructions – they can feel complicated and leave you scratching your head. That’s why I have linked a convenient video for you to follow.

  • Snug Swaddle

Remember that the first wrap, that under-the bum tuck of the swaddle, is so important for making a snug swaddle. Go ahead and make it tight, you can loosen it a bit, after.

  • Baby’s Legs

It is essential to be careful of babies’ knees. In a proper, healthy swaddle, knees be turned out (that natural frog position that newborns love).

If you’re thinking “my newborn doesn’t like to be swaddled”, it might be that you’re trying to make baby’s hips and legs straight, which isn’t comfortable or healthy for babies.

  • Alternative: Secure Swaddle At The Chest

One approach is to wrap the swaddle with one arm or both arms out3. This means tucking the blanket around your baby’s chest (under the armpits) and letting their arms be free. In this swaddle, baby’s legs are still inside, reducing the Moro reflex for their leg movement, at least.

Swaddle Alternatives When Baby Hates Being Swaddled

Swaddle Alternatives When Baby Hates Being Swaddled

If your baby fights against being swaddled, then don’t fear – there are safe alternatives to traditional swaddling, ones that are approved for new baby sleep.

Remember that swaddling is not the only method to calm down fussy baby, and there are other ways to get your little one to sleep without the swaddle!

Alternatives To A Traditional Baby’s Swaddle For Newborn Babies

There is no rule that you have to use a muslin blanket with a newborn. Go ahead and try out a few different swaddles.

There are plenty of safe, approved baby swaddles that zip up, fold or velcro around your newborn. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Ollie – which velcros easily at your baby’s chest and makes it easy to do one arm out, if that is your baby’s preference (my review of Ollie Swaddle).
  • Halo Swaddle – that doubles as a baby sleep sack for safe sleep after your infant can roll over
  • Summer Infant SwaddleMe – these are pre-wrapped swaddles that are easy to adjust.
  • The Miracle Blanket – that wraps around your baby and is easier to secure than a muslin blanket, in my opinion.
  • The Woombie – which has an easy-to-use zipper (no wrapping!) and plenty of room for babies to move their legs.
  • Sleep Sack – that allows baby’s arms to be out (here is my list of awesome breathable sleeping sacks for summer and hot weather, as well as my list of sleep sacks for toddlers).
  • Cozy Pajamas – but remember to not use any loose blankets.

Note: if your infant has hip dysplasia, you should confirm with your pediatrician before doing any swaddling or using swaddling blankets, to ensure they are safe for baby’s hips.

Can I Swaddle My Newborn With Arms Out?

Yes, it is okay to try a new technique to see what your baby prefers, with arms out4. It might just be the thing that helps change your fussy baby to a content one.

Is It Okay To Not Swaddle A Newborn?

Yes Mama, if you are feeling overwhelmed with swaddling techniques, then it is okay to go “no swaddle” for a while. It’s actually safer to not swaddle than to swaddle poorly and risk baby unwrapping himself and resulting in loose bedding in their crib.

The most important rule for newborn sleep: babies must sleep on their backs. Whether that’s in sleep sack or swaddle is up to you, the parents.

Remember: no loose bedding in the crib until they reach 12 months old.

What To Do If My Newborn Baby Hates Being Swaddled

Swaddling – Benefits & Disadvantages

If you need some convincing about if newborns can benefit from being swaddled, here is the data:


  • Studies show that swaddling helps babies sleep better because it mimics the secure feeling of the womb they lived in for 9 months.
  • Swaddling reduces the Moro reflex (sometimes called the startle reflex) where their newborn muscles involuntarily jerk, as if they’ve been startled. This movement sometimes wakes babies up, accidentally.
  • Swaddling may reduce the risk of SIDS, according to several studies
  • Swaddling may reduce overstimulation in newborns, helping them to self soothe in unfamiliar environments (and, really, isn’t everywhere outside of the womb an unfamiliar environment to newborns?)
  • Swaddling may held reduce colic in infants
  • Finally, a swaddle can sometimes help reduce irritability in little ones, as it gives a feeling of security (like the womb). A swaddle – done right and tight enough – is sometimes the best way to calm babies.

When To Stop Swaddling

Your baby may finally start to love being swaddled – but as parents, you may be wondering when is the time to stop swaddling?

Rolling Over

As soon as your baby begins to roll over independently, you should stop swaddling5. This is about baby safety and preventing them from putting themself in a dangerous position during sleep.

If your baby is capable of rolling from their back to their tummy (or, even if you’re worried about them rolling the opposite way: from stomach onto their back), then stop swaddling and transition to another safe sleep method, such as sleep sacks.

Your baby may be able to roll as soon as 8 weeks old. I stopped swaddling with my oldest before even 9 weeks old, because she could roll over on her own.

Age & Weight Limit For Swaddling

Keep in mind that the right time to stop swaddling is not about age or weight – look at it only from a developmental perspective (meaning – when baby starts to show signs of being able to rolling over).

If it’s time to transition your baby out of swaddle, you may be worried that this will change their sleep schedule. Make sure to read my tips and choose one of the best methods for transition out of swaddle to make it easier for your little one!

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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