Swaddling is a traditional practice that has been practiced for centuries and revitalized in the modern world, thanks to its numerous benefits. It mimics the warm environment of the womb which can be extremely comforting for a newborn baby trying to get acclimated to the new unfamiliar outside world.
It helps newborn babies sleep better by reducing startling which can cause self-stimulation and irritation causing sleepless nights for both the baby and the mother. More importantly, research has shown that swaddling can reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by allowing babies to sleep on their backs.
Good organic cotton muslin swaddle blanket is something your baby will come to love with time. It is something that will allow you to relax knowing your bundle of joy is wrapped up safe and sound.
It can be a bit overwhelming to choose the right swaddle blanket given the number of options available today in the market, which is why we put together a comprehensive guide to help you choose just the perfect one.
How To Choose Baby Swaddling Blanket?
A swaddle blanket is your baby’s source of comfort and is worthwhile paying attention to certain details that ensure safety as well. There are three important things to get right while choosing a swaddle blanket: the right fabric, the right size, and the right color.
The Right Fabric
The fabric that you choose is in immediate contact with your baby’s delicate skin, therefore the type of fiber used and the weave helps determine the way your baby’s skin reacts to the fabric.
Natural fiber fabrics like cotton muslin are known to be hypoallergenic and do not elicit any reaction from the baby’s skin and therefore do not cause redness, rashes, or irritation of the skin. Artificial fibers involve various chemicals in the manufacturing process which can be harsh for a newborn’s skin and can cause rashes.
Natural fibers also absorb moisture and regulate temperature which makes them breathable and comfortable.
So, choosing the right fabric can make all the difference between your baby being irritable and being calm.
The most important factor to consider while choosing a swaddle blanket is the fabric. The type of fiber used and the weave done determine the properties of the fabric.
A little understanding of these factors helps you determine how to choose fabric not only for a swaddle for all your other needs.
Fibers can be natural fibers like cotton or artificially made fibers like polyester, rayon, nylon, etc. The weave is the way various fabric fibers are interlaced together which determines the thickness, strength, breathability of the fabric.
Natural fibers are obtained from sources like plants or animals. They are naturally available hair-like structures that are processed into long threads that are eventually weaved into fabric.
The most common naturally derived fiber in use is cotton. There are also other natural fibers like bamboo and wool which also share the same benefits.
Natural fibers, particularly cotton fibers are the safest choice of fiber for baby apparel because of the following benefits:
- They require no to minimal chemical processing during the manufacturing process, which in turn reduces the residual chemicals that can stay absorbed in the fibers. This makes them safe for your baby’s delicate skin.
- Natural fibers like cotton are known for being highly capable of absorbing moisture which prevents sticking to the skin, making a more comfortable choice.
- Natural fibers also have a lower specific weight due to which they are much higher strength and therefore are durable.
- They require less energy and emit low carbon dioxide during processing, making them the more environmentally sustainable option.
- They are biodegradable which means they do not add to the fabric waste that is otherwise created by artificially manufactured fibers.
- They have good thermal insulating properties which makes them breathable.
- Given the relatively simple manufacturing process in comparison to man-made fibers, these are also very cost-effective in terms of production cost and energy consumption.
Among natural fibers, cotton and bamboo which are plant-based are known to be hypoallergenic as they do not elicit an allergic reaction in comparison to wool and manmade fibers.
Artificial fibers, on the other hand, are prepared from plant cellulose or petroleum-based polymers like polyamide, polyester, polyvinyl, etc., which undergo extensive chemical processing to be turned into fibers that are eventually weaved into fabric. Hence, these fabrics can be expensive, energy-consuming, and non-biodegradable.
Most of these fibers do not absorb moisture nor regulate heat. They stick to the body when there is moisture-like sweat, which makes them quite uncomfortable.
The Right Size
The right-sized swaddle blanket can be wrapped comfortably around the baby without having too much loose fabric and also allows the child to grow into it. Anything over or undersized can make it uncomfortable for the baby.
The ideal size for a swaddle blanket is between 40 and 48 inches on all sides. A square shape is best suited as it allows for the baby to be wrapped on three sides while giving the optimum support for the head on the other side.
The Right Colors
The process of dyeing a fabric can involve the usage of dyes and chemicals. While most dyeing processes are safe for infants it still involves chemicals that can sometimes cause irritation to newborn skin.
So it is ideal to pick an undyed plain white fabric that is free from any chemical processing.
However, whites can be difficult to maintain with the constant spit ups of a newborn and hence, most mothers prefer dyed fabrics that can hide difficult stains.
Cooler pastel tones require much less dye and can be soothing for the baby. So, if white isn't your preference these can work well too.
Types of Muslin Swaddling Blankets Available in the Market
The market is flooded with various swaddle blanket options that can leave you overwhelmed. But now that we have all the information needed to make the right choices the options can be narrowed down to three broad categories.
Organic cotton muslin swaddle blankets
100% organic cotton swaddle blankets are the most popular and the safest choice for swaddle blankets.
Muslin is a type of loose and plain weave mostly with cotton fibers. These are thin and are featherlight which makes them breathable. As they are made from organic cotton they are non-irritant, hypoallergenic, and skin-friendly.
What's wonderful is that these fabrics are known to get softer and lighter with every use and every wash which makes them a great choice for swaddle blankets.
Jersey cotton swaddle blankets
Another popular choice is jersey cotton which is a type of knitting that allows the fabric to be stretchable. This type of knitting allows the fabric to have natural elasticity without the use of artificial elastane fibers.
These fabrics are also known to have fewer wrinkles compared to other fabrics like pure cotton which makes a popular alternative. They are also soft, smooth in texture, lightweight and breathable, absorbent, and easy to care for.
Stretchy Cotton-blend swaddle blankets
Cotton can be blended with other fabric types which can give additional properties like stretch or durability. Cotton blend fabrics can have varying proportions of other fabrics like polyester, rayon, linen, etc.
Pure cotton can get wrinkled quite easily whereas blended fabrics retain their structure resisting wrinkles which makes them easy to care for and much less maintenance.
However, cotton blend fabrics may not absorb moisture as well as pure cotton depending on the blend and the proportion of other fibers used which makes them more suitable for colder climates. There are also wearable swaddle blankets available in cotton blended fabric but our recommendation is to go with 100% organic muslin fabric swaddle.
It is also done to reduce cost as pure organically sourced cotton can be expensive.
Why are Organic Cotton Muslin Swaddle Blankets the best?
Now that we are equipped with a better understanding of fabrics it is easier to make a well-informed choice about the one that might be more suitable for our little one.
Based on everything we have learned organic cotton is the most ideal and the perfect choice for swaddling our little ones. Let's look at some of the most important reasons why :
Safe and gentle on the skin
Organic cotton is sourced from pesticide-free and chemical-free sources. Chemicals used during the growing or fabric manufacturing process can get absorbed into the fibers of the fabric and remain embedded despite thorough washing. These can cause skin irritation and rashes in your little one.
Organically sourced cotton, therefore, ensures safety for your baby all the way starting from the cotton grown through the whole manufacturing process up to the final product.
Given the light fibers and plain muslin weave of the fabric, these blankets are very light and breathable. This allows aeration, keeping your little one cool and comfortable.
Regulates baby’s body temperature
Newborn infants are at particular risk of overheating or hypothermia. Organic cotton fabrics are feathery light and have a very breathable texture that helps regulate the baby’s temperature. They are ideal even in the warmest temperature and can be layered for colder temperatures.
Easy to care for and wash
Muslin cotton fabrics are not only safe and comfortable for your little one, but they also age well with every wash. These fabrics get softer and cozier with every use and with every wash.
Cotton fabrics are known to release stains easily and therefore, are very simple to care for. These can be machine washed or hand washed according to your convenience and do not require any special care.
Multipurpose and versatile
As organic cotton fabrics are long-lasting and durable, they can be repurposed for your various needs. Their easy to care for nature makes them ideal to be used as a burp or dribble cloth to catch all the stains.
These can also be used as a nursing cover, tummy time blanket, stroller cover, sunshade, crib blanket, changing cloth, playmat scarf, and in numerous other ways.
Can be repurposed into a quilt
These indestructible fabrics can be repurposed for various needs for your growing child and the most beautiful of which is a quilt. A couple of these soft and cozy fabrics can be sewn together to make a quilt that will keep your little one warm and comfortable.
How to wash and care for an organic muslin swaddle blanket
Organic cotton fabrics are very easy to care for and are known for their low maintenance. These fabrics do not require any special care and age well with use.
Any baby clothing needs to be prewashed before first-time use. This ensures that any chemicals residues or dyes used during the manufacturing process are washed off from the clothing. It also removes stiffening chemicals that are often used to make clothes retain their shape during the handling process.
Wash in cold water
Organic cotton fabrics can be hand washed or machine washed depending on your preference. Irrespective of your choice it is always better to wash them in cold water which is known to release stains easily, retain the color of the fabric, prevent shrinkage of the fabric and also avoid wrinkling.
Warm water can age the fabric faster and set stains permanently. So it is best avoided.
Use gentle laundry detergent
Any baby clothing should be washed in a gentle detergent that is free of harmful chemicals including added fragrances. Cotton muslin fabrics are known to release stains easily and require very little detergent in comparison to other fabric types that absorb stains.
Despite thorough washing, the clothes can retain chemical detergent residues in their fibers due to absorption which can eventually react to the baby’s sensitive skin. Hence double rinsing fabrics can rid of any detergent residues.
Dry them hanging or laying them flat
Avoid drying the blanket in a dryer, as they turn crispy, losing their soft texture. Instead, consider trying them in the sunlight. You could also tumble dry and remove them before they are completely dry.
An organic swaddle blanket is not just a necessity, it's a luxury that your baby will enjoy. It will help him or her transition into this unfamiliar world much more comfortably and easily.