Do you like to swaddle your baby? If you do, have you ever wondered if it’s safe or recommended to breastfeed while swaddled? Keep reading to learn more about breastfeeding while swaddled and get some tips on how to make it work for both you and your baby.
If you’ve given birth in a hospital, you more than likely had your sweet newborn swaddled – and it probably seemed like something your baby really enjoyed!
Swaddling has become commonplace in our culture for many years, and while there are undoubtedly benefits – there can be too much of a good thing – especially when it comes to breastfeeding.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about breastfeeding while swaddling…plus a few other things you might want to know about swaddling!
- Should you breastfeed a baby while swaddled?
- My favorite swaddle alternative
- Tips for Swaddling and Breastfeeding
- Why do we swaddle babies?
- What do babies wear under a swaddle?
- How long do you swaddle a baby?
- How to Wean from a Swaddle?
- Should I swaddle my newborn at night?
- Should I swaddle my baby during the day?
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Should you breastfeed a baby while swaddled?
I would recommend not breastfeeding while your baby is swaddled. And here’s why.
Babies use their hands a lot, especially as newborns when their vision isn’t as great. They use their hands to find the breast and to nurse more effectively. They even use their hands to help compress the breast to encourage milk flow.
When they are swaddled up, their little hands are tethered down to their sides, and they are far less involved in the breastfeeding process.
I also don’t recommend mittens while breastfeeding for similar reasons – they can’t feel around the breast, and I find it does interfere with breastfeeding.
I actually am a huge fan of nursing newborns with as little clothing as possible – skin-to-skin contact is amazing and great for milk supply! It can also help the baby latch more easily and on their own. They can get chilly, so you can put a receiving blanket over the both of you. I also like this
Now does this mean I think you should never swaddle your baby? Of course not. I love swaddling as much as the next person (maybe even more…), but it can be overused and interfere in other ways. For example…
- Swaddling restricts movement. This can lead to a baby being gassier/more uncomfortable. Gassy babies sometimes struggle to breastfeed. Babies need to move around!
- Swaddling can almost relax a baby too much. If you have a newborn, and they are sleeping a lot and not waking to nurse, swaddling might be part of that problem.
- Overheating – and if they overheat, this can cause extra sleepiness and even may encourage them to be less effecient nursers.
- Less opportunity for skin to skin – skin to skin is one of the most beneficial practices for breastfeeding, and if your baby is all swaddled up, this may happen less.
My favorite swaddle alternative
I love sleep sacks, especially a swaddle alternative. I feel like they can keep your baby nice and cozy but allow for more movement and, of course, freedom of their hands. You can even nurse in them, which is more convenient at night (because let’s be real – most of us don’t want to strip our babies to just their diapers at night!).
I have used a lot of swaddles, sleep sacks, etc. Probably most that are in existence. But the one that I could sing it’s praises for into eternity? The Dreamland Baby Sleep Sack.
Yes, it’s expensive. But oh man, it is SO worth it. It literally transformed my third child’s sleep (you can read more about that here). It is lightly weighted (still safe for baby), which I feel helps to calm that startle reflex and allows for more restful sleep. However, it gives your baby plenty of freedom for movement and it can be used for much longer than it is recommended to swaddle.
I also like how easy it is to unzip a sleep sack, which allows for easy access for doing skin to skin while breastfeeding.
They do have weighted swaddles, which, if you still want to swaddle, are a great option, too. But I highly recommend their weighted sleep sack. You can save if you buy more than one, but you can always save 15% with the code TBM!
Here are some other sleep sacks to consider as well. I prefer the ones that are sleeveless.
- Burt’s Bee’s Wearable Blanket
- Carter’s Microfleece Wearable Blanket (this one looks a bit toasty)
- Nested Bean Zen Sleep Sack (this is another one that we liked with our third baby)
- HALO Cotton Sleep Sack
- Yoofoss Baby Sleep Sack – 3 Pack
Tips for Swaddling and Breastfeeding
If you decide you do want to swaddle, I recommend the following tips:
- Only swaddle when baby is sleeping
- Keep one, or even both, arms out of the swaddle
- Make sure baby isn’t overdressed under the swaddle
- Remove the swaddle when you are nursing and ideally do skin to skin
- If you start to notice your baby isn’t waking on their own to nurse, especially during the day, consider switching to a sleep sack
Don’t feel guilty if you want to swaddle. In full transparency, I have probably been the biggest swaddler around with my babies – with my third baby, we even double-swaddled him for awhile because he seemed to love it! I think it’s important to gather all the information out there and make the best decision for your family.
Why do we swaddle babies?
Swaddling is primarily used to help calm your newborn’s startle reflex. It isn’t really a bad thing that they have this startle reflex, but it can wake them up prematurely. However, some say that swaddling actually keeps the startle reflux in tact for longer! With that said, I haven’t found much information to support that.
With that said, this startle reflex may be part of your baby’s internal “alarm” system, so to speak, which helps to keep them from falling into too deep of a sleep or if they fall into too deep of a sleep. When we cause this to be diminished too much, it may cause issues. But, again, I don’t have any solid research on whether or not swaddling causes an increased incidence of SIDS.
Another problem is when, as mentioned above, they get a little too comfy in their swaddle and they don’t wake up to nurse!
What do babies wear under a swaddle?
It really just depends on the weather and climate a baby sleeps in. Some babies will be fine with just a onesie while others wear some lightweight pajamas. They generally just need 1-2 layers of clothing, depending on the climate you live in and the temperature of your home.
How long do you swaddle a baby?
It is usually recommended to stop swaddling once your baby is regularly rolling over on their own. This is often between 2-4 months, though it may be sooner or later for some babies. This is also another reason I like the sleep sack, because you can use it for longer.
How to Wean from a Swaddle?
Here is a great post about how to wean from a swaddle. It discusses the four primary methods for weaning from a swaddle:
- Arms Out Method
- Legs Out Method
- Sleep Sack Method
- Loose Swaddling Method
Should I swaddle my newborn at night?
This is totally up to you. A lot of people find that it does help their baby to sleep more soundly at night, but if you find that your newborn is sleeping for very long periods at night, not waking to eat, and it’s taking a toll on your milk supply or their weight gain, you may want to consider your swaddle techniques and swap it out for a sleep sack.
Should I swaddle my baby during the day?
In general, I think the more movement and freedom you can give your baby during the day, the better. If you want to swaddle them to sleep, that is just fine. However, I wouldn’t recommend swaddling your baby while they are awake during the night.
We hope this was helpful in explaining breastfeeding and swaddling. If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience with breastfeeding or swaddling, please leave a comment below or reach out to us on social media.
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Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.