This Is Why Babies Sleep With Their Arms Up

Last updated on 7 November, 2022

Find out why babies sleep with their arms up when sleeping and what it is about this position that makes babies love it this much.

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This Is Why Babies Sleep With Their Arms Up

It’s a common heart-melting sight: babies sleeping with their arms up in the air. If your little one makes it a point to wiggle out of every swaddle just to get their hands free and up by their head, you might be wondering if they do this just to annoy you. So why do babies put their arms up when sleeping, and what is it about this position that makes babies love it this much?

The most important thing to know is that your baby sleeping with their arms up is a good sign! This position means that your baby is happy and comfortable. Curling up while sleeping on the other hand can be associated with stomach pain, colic, or feeling cold.

A picture of a newborn (or even older babies) in this “starfish” or “superman” position often captures the very essence of a newborn literally surrendering to sleep. And while it may look like they’re reaching for the stars, the truth is that they’re just getting comfy.

Why Your Baby Loves Sleeping with Their Arms Up

Here are a few other things that may contribute to why your baby loves sleeping with their arms up:

A Way of Cooling Down

If your baby is feeling warm, having their arms up in the air is an effective way to cool themselves down. On the other hand, if your baby is keeping their hands by their sides it could be that they are feeling cold and trying to retain their body heat.

The Moro Reflex

The Moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex) is a reflex that babies are born with and typically starts to disappear around 4 to 5 months. When a baby feels like they are falling, the Moro reflex is what causes them to throw their arms and legs out as if to catch themselves. This reflex can sometimes be triggered by a loud noise or even just the sudden movement from being in a deep sleep.

A Relaxing Position

Sleeping with their arms up may just be the most comfortable position for your baby. This position is arguably the most relaxing position for the human body because it involves no pressure on any joint or muscle.

It May Help with Breathing

The arms up position opens up the diaphragm and chest, which makes it easier for babies to take deep breaths. This is especially beneficial for newborns who are still learning how to control their breathing. Notice how when you want to take a deep breath yourself, you might find it more efficient to inhale while reaching up with your hands.

So how Do You Keep Your “supernewborn” Swaddled?

This is a common question that parents of little Houdinis have. The truth is, you don’t have to swaddle your baby with their arms tucked in!

Babies who love sleeping with their hands up can get pretty upset when you swaddle them with their arms by their sides, and would often wake themselves up trying to break free and force their arms out. In this case, it really defies the purpose of swaddling which is to help your baby sleep soundly through the night.

Try this instead:

The “angel Wrap” Swaddle

This is a swaddling technique that comes all the way from Australian hospitals. It keeps your baby’s startle reflex under control while allowing them to use their arms for self-soothing.

To swaddle your baby with the “angel wrap” take a basic muslin that is big enough to get you a good and secure wrap (these large muslins from Aden+Anais are great for this wrap). Lay the muslin on a flat surface and fold the upper part horizontally and place your baby in the middle so their head is poking out of the upper part.

From there, slide your baby’s right arm into the pocket created by the horizontal fold and tuck the fabric under your baby’s left side. Then do the same with your baby’s left arm. Finally, tuck the leftover fabric at the bottom under your baby’s body, and voilà! You’ve got a perfect and safe swaddle for your little one who loves sleeping with their arms up.

Here is a video from “Simon Lindsay” channel that shows this technique step by step:

The “bat” Swaddling Sleepsack

If you want to make your bedtime/naptime routine a bit easier, there are sleepsacks out there that are made specifically for babies who like to keep their arms up. The “Bat” swaddling sleepsack from Love to Dream swaddle is a parents’ favorite. It’s very easy to use and works really well if your little one is busting out swaddles.

Just place your baby inside the sleepsack swaddle and zip all the way up. You can also unzip from the bottom so that you can change diapers without taking the whole swaddle off. This type of sleepsack is also a good idea if your baby is starting to roll over and you’re transitioning out of swaddling.

Swaddling your baby with their arms up also helps with keeping their armpits aired out which helps in preventing skin rashes.

Bottom Line

If your baby loves sleeping with their arms up, don’t worry! This is a perfectly normal and healthy position that allows them to get extra comfy and shows that they are content. Some parents even say that their babies sleep better when they are in this position.

If you’re having trouble swaddling your baby with their arms up, try using the “angel wrap” swaddle technique or get a “Bat” swaddling sleep sack. These are both safe and easy ways to keep your baby snug as a bug while they (hopefully!) sleep soundly through the night.

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