What’s best for newborn sleeping: Arms in, hands up, arms out?

Newborn Sleep Product Information
Three newborn sleeping positions: arms in, arms up and arms out Three newborn sleeping positions: arms in, arms up and arms out

We often get asked what the best way to sleep a newborn is: arms in, arms up, or arms out. We wish we had a magic potion to give you that answer, but we can tell you ALL babies are wonderfully different. Some are born and immediately want to stretch their arms out. Some want to feel like they're still in the womb, and some like the feeling of arms up. If you're new to the swaddling game, head over to our Swaddling Guide, it will give you a head start. 

We hope this article can help reassure you more, and if you have not had your buba yet, you won't know until they are earthside, so pop that worry to the side because we have you covered.  

Common arm positions for sleeping babies

Newborn sleeping arms inside swaddle Newborn sleeping arms inside swaddle

Arms-in swaddling

Swaddling a baby's arms in is the most *well-known* swaddling style. You can opt for this with an ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle Sack

There are many pros to swaddling your baby's arms in:

  1. Swaddling arms in can help soothe newborns and promote better sleep by mimicking the feeling of being in the womb. 
  2. Swaddling can help prevent the startle reflex, which can wake a newborn up from sleep.
  3. An ergopouch is designed to be snug and secure, preventing the swaddle from coming undone and reducing the risk of suffocation.
  4. There is no need for blankets when using a TOG-rated Cocoon Swaddle Sack, making them a safe alternative to traditional wraps and blankets. 

For more information, explore the benefits of swaddling and how to swaddle safely.


  1. Swaddling with a blanket can cause overheating, so choosing a TOG-rated sack is essential to ensure comfort. All ergoPouch products are TOG-rated. 
  2. If the swaddle is too tight or restrictive, it can interfere with the baby's hip development. All ergoPouch Cocoon Swaddle Sacks have a bell-shaped design approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as being hip-healthy and promotes proper joint development in the hips and shoulders joints.
Baby wearing Butterfly Cardi to transition arm positions Baby wearing Butterfly Cardi to transition arm positions

Hands up position

Not all babies enjoy having their arms swaddled in. That's where the Butterfly Cardi comes in. This innovative design allows you to keep your baby's arms close to their face, with the hands up option. Additionally, it can be used as a transition aid for when your baby is ready to move into arms-free sleeping. You can simply wear it over your baby's swaddle to help them adjust to the change.

Hands-up sleeping

Some newborns find comfort sleeping with their hands up near their face. If your baby falls into this category, simply wear the Cocoon Swaddle Sack (sold separately) with arms-out, pop the Butterfly Cardi on over the top, and contain the hands in the butterfly wing pockets in a position near the face. This is safe from birth, when using our 0-3 month size. If your newborn baby changes sleep style regularly, the Cocoon Swaddle Sack paired with the Butterfly Cardi gives you three sleep options to switch between (arms-in, arms-out and hands-up). Get 20% off with our Cocoon and Butterfly Cardi bundle

Safe for sleep

No matter which way you choose to use the Butterfly Cardi, the super stretch in all directions will ensure your baby remains comfortable and allow for full chest expansion when breathing. The position of the Butterfly Cardi on the body will not interrupt the natural sleeping position for healthy hip joint development.

Arms out

It is generally *recommended* that parents swaddle their newborns to help them feel secure and comfortable, as it can simulate the feeling of being in the womb. Swaddling also helps to contain the startle reflex, which *CAN* wake your baby up. However, some babies may not like being swaddled with their arms swaddled in and may prefer to have their arms free. Following your baby's cues and adjusting the swaddling technique is important. If your baby is sleeping well with their arms out of the swaddle, there is no harm in doing so. Just make sure that the sleeping environment is safe and that there are no loose fabrics or blankets that could pose as unsafe for sleeping, and always follow the AAP safe sleeping guide

Storytime: My boys immediately slept with their arms out in our Cocoon Swaddle Sack!

Noticing signs of rolling? It’s time to transition to arms-out sleeping

Once your baby has built the necessary strength and muscle tone to hold their head up and roll their body over, they need their arms free to help them roll from back-to-front and back again and/or to lift their neck and head sideways for clear and unobstructed breathing whilst face down.

What are the signs of attempting to roll?

  • Attempting to roll body when unswaddled;
  • Pushing up on hands during tummy time, lifting one hand off the ground;
  • Fussiness when swaddled/fighting the swaddle when going on;
  • Disrupted sleep;
  • Disappearance of the startle (moro) reflex;
  • Attempting to have hands free/up around their face when the swaddle is on.

Learn more and read our guide on How to safely transition your baby to arms-out sleeping in a sleep sack.

What’s the safest arm position for newborn sleeping?

The best arm position is what your baby chooses; they will naturally bring their arms to their preferred position. You'll get to know them and what they wantl when they join you earthside. Both our Cocoon Swaddle Sack and Butterfly Cardi offer all types of swaddling styles, so you can be prepared for what your little angel will show you. 

If you have any further questions about swaddling or any of our products, please contact our knowledgeable customer service team.


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