Can A Swaddle Be Too Tight?

How tight should you swaddle your newborn?

When it comes to swaddling your baby, it might take a minute to get the hang of it. Many parents and baby caregivers worry that the swaddle can be too lose, or even too tight. The Dream weighted swaddle sack eliminates the confusion thanks to our built-in swaddle band. It can also be worn three ways, both arms in, one arm in, or both arms out, to effortlessly adapt to your baby's changing sleep needs. But if you’re wondering how tight should a swaddle be, keep reading for some FAQs about how to tell if the swaddle is too tight and how to swaddle properly.

Can a swaddle be too tight for a baby?

It’s important to read the directions that your swaddle blanket comes with to ensure that you’re using it properly. Some manufacturers have videos or diagrams on their websites or hang tags – watch and/or read both! Also, consult with your doula, pediatrician or childcare expert. While most parents seem to get the hang of swaddling pretty quickly, you want to make sure you’re doing it correctly to avoid any potential hazards that can occur from doing it wrong. Too tight a swaddle could also present the risk of hip dysplasia (an abnormality in which the thigh bone does not fit together with the pelvis).

Be sure to swaddle properly with hip-healthy techniques making sure that your baby is able to move her hips and knees. Her legs should be able to kick freely, too.

What is the importance of a tight swaddle?

Those first few months of life are sometimes referred to as the “fourth trimester” and to help ease the transition to life outside of the womb, swaddling is meant to mimic life inside the womb where baby has lived so snuggly for the past nine months. It’s that wrapped, tight feeling that helps baby feel comfortable, safe and secure. When the swaddle is wrapped securely, baby feels secure. That means it’s nice and tight but not too tight or too loose. Swaddling also helps calm her flailing arms and legs (also known as the Moro reflex) that can trigger baby’s startle reflex which can interrupt her sleep. So when the swaddle is done correctly, everyone benefits.

What happens if you swaddle too tightly?

Your newborn infant may not be able to communicate using their words, but they can communicate in all sorts of ways. Your parental instincts will let you know if something feels off with your infant, and that includes their discomfort. Pretty soon you’ll be able to tell if their tears are because they’re hungry, tired, or both! If the swaddle is too tight, chances are your baby will let you know. Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably place your fingers in between the swaddle blanket and her chest, if you can’t, loosen the swaddle a bit to ensure the most comfortable fit for your baby.

Can swaddling too tight hurt baby?

When done properly, swaddling is meant to calm and soothe your baby so that she can transition to life outside of the womb. When done incorrectly, the swaddle may inhibit her little hips and legs from moving freely, and it’s possible it could also be too tight around her chest. It’s so important to follow manufacturer instructions – read them, watch any videos, and of course, talk to your child care provider (pediatrician, nurse, doula, etc.) to ensure that you’re swaddling correctly.  

How do I know if my swaddle is too tight?

Remember, to reap the full benefits of swaddling, it should be snug, but not too tight. Baby should look (and feel) calm and soothed, but not so tight that she appears uncomfortable and fussy. You should be able to place two to three fingers between your baby's chest and the swaddle. Also, make sure that the blanket isn’t too tight around their hips so that baby can move her legs easily.  

Can a loose swaddle be dangerous?

It’s important to swaddle your baby properly which means they should feel tight and snug with no extra fabric, but also not so tight that you can’t comfortably fit your fingers between baby’s chest and the swaddle. If the swaddle appears too loose, it can pose a suffocation risk due to the extra fabric. Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends that there shouldn’t be anything loose in your baby’s crib – no blankets, no pillows, no toys – to ensure the safest sleep.   

How do you keep a swaddle tight?

With practice, most parents find that swaddling is a wonderful technique that provides comfort for fussy babies. As mentioned, it’s important to follow the directions on any swaddle blankets or swaddle sacks you purchase. You don’t want the swaddle to be too tight or too loose. Too tight could prevent natural development of the hip joints, and too loose could cause potential risk of suffocation.

According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, here are instructions on how to safely swaddle your baby:

  1. If using a square cloth, fold back one corner creating a straight edge.
  2. Place the baby on the cloth so that the top of the fabric is at shoulder level. If using a rectangular cloth, the baby’s shoulders will be placed at the top of the long side.
  3. Bring the left arm down. Wrap the cloth over the arm and chest. Tuck under the right side of the baby.
  4. Bring the right arm down and wrap the cloth over the baby’s arm and chest.
  5. Tuck the cloth under the left side of the baby. The weight of the baby will hold the cloth firmly in place.
  6. Twist or fold the bottom end of the cloth and tuck behind the baby, ensuring that both legs are bent up and out.

Many parents find swaddling is the way to go when it comes to the care and comfort of their newborn.  After some trial and error, they usually get the hang of it and appreciate the multitude of benefits that go with swaddling baby correctly.

Dream Weighted Sleep Swaddle, 0-6 months