How to Swaddle a Baby
Swaddling is an age-old practice and it seems it’s not gonna go anywhere in the near future, which is why talking about it seems never to be enough. While new mommies might be perpetually surprised that it’s still going around, a lot of veteran moms swear by it. In fact, a baby wrapped up in sheets or blankets burrito-style (which is what the practice of swaddling essentially is), was a popular method of putting restless babies to sleep, while it was also used to hold them with a better grasp, calm them down or downright protect them. And even though this method was kinda losing its popularity in the course of the 17th and 18th century, it started to get it back somewhere around the 1970s.
Nowadays swaddling is having its days of renaissance, as parents are more and more appreciative of natural child-care methods. It has also been generally well received by modern pediatricians and has been recommended as a successful method for calming down your little one and has been linked to overall better infant sleep (and with that yours as well!).
That’s why in this article we’re going to cover the basics on swaddling - how to swaddle a baby, why some babies don’t need to be swaddled, as well as when to stop swaddling your baby. Hopefully, after you finish reading you’ll feel like a real pro in the business of swaddling!
If you’re interested in why babies sometimes have trouble sleeping, you can check our article here
, along with some tips and tricks
on how to help your little one fall asleep faster and easier.
What is Swaddling and Why Swaddle?
But first, a little intro on the technique itself. Swaddling is a technique of tightly wrapping a baby in blankets or other types of cloths with which you restrict the movements of their limbs. While it might sound scary, put like this, don’t worry, it isn’t.
Remember seeing nurses in hospitals wrap up babies in a way that almost seems like they’re bandaging them up, and lightning fast, at that?
And while it might seem like some secret technique that only a handful know and can do masterfully, it’s actually pretty simple and it comes down to only a couple of steps. The nurses only had lots of training, and we mean lots!
Swaddling immediately after birth is meant to make the baby feel more safe and secure - like they’re in their mother’s embrace or belly. It’s one of the simplest and most natural ways of soothing babies. And, if done properly, it’s considered to be safe.
You can try swaddling anytime your baby is being too upset or fussy and is crying for no particular reason (we’re assuming by now you’ve already checked the diaper
and also made sure they’re not hungry). Coupled with other well-known baby-soothing methods and techniques, such as the gentle swaying or rocking, and the low, calming voice of the mother making sounds. And as we said earlier, if it’s done right, swaddling is a great way to help your baby fall asleep faster - and stay asleep for a longer time.
What are the Dangers of Swaddling?
A lot of parents are simply terrified by the SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and they sometimes connect it with the method of swaddling. However, swaddling is not considered to be directly connected to SIDS.
Of course, swaddling decreases the baby’s fretfulness during sleep, which has been connected with an increased risk of this syndrome, making it harder for the baby to wake up. But this is the reason why it’s used in the first place - precisely because it allows the baby to sleep longer while limiting some of their reflexes and movements that might make them wake up more easily during sleep.
However, there are certain considerations to have in mind, as well as certain recommendations that pediatricians give when swaddling is in question.
It’s important that you should be careful that your baby doesn’t sleep on their side or their stomach, and this is extra important when babies are swaddled. This means that the acceptable position for babies while swaddled is to be on their backs. After a while, babies begin to become able to roll in their sleep, which also marks the time when you should stop swaddling (but we’ll get to that part a bit later).
Incorrect swaddling of the baby may cause hip dysplasia, which is why we’re going to go over the steps on how to properly do it in the next section .
How to Swaddle a Baby?
We know this is the part you’ve been waiting for - you want to learn how to swaddle a baby like a pro. Well, there are a couple of ways you can swaddle your little one. The easiest one involves only a special sleepsack swaddle with a zipper or a Velcro and it’s as easy as tucking in.
But the most famous one, also sometimes called the ‘diamond swaddle’, includes the following steps:
- Get a blanket (you can check out our guide on best baby blankets here), spread it over a flat surface and arrange it into a diamond shape (hence the name). This means that the top corner of it should be folded towards the center of the blanket and will form a straight line.
- Next, you should place your little one on the blanket, face up, while their neck is in line with the folded corner, aka the straight line mentioned above.
- Pull the left side of the blanket and tuck it snugly under the baby, on the opposite side. Be careful of the baby’s hips and make sure to keep them loose. It’s important to remember never to force their joints or pull their legs straight, because this is one of the instances where hip dysplasia may be caused.
- Next you should take the bottom corner of the blanket and lift it up, putting it over the legs and right arm and then tuck it behind the baby’s right shoulder. It’s good to keep it a little loose, so your little one has a bit of space to move their legs and feet (but not enough so they easily wriggle out!).
- Wrap the remaining corner of the blanket all the way around the baby and tuck it underneath them.
Another, arguably faster way of swaddling your little one is the so-called ‘square swaddle’ or the ‘quick swaddle’. It’s pretty similar with the diamond swaddle, with minor differences. For this, you’ll want to do the following:
- Lay a blanket on a flat surface and fold the top corner (basically, diamond shape the blanket again).
- Lay the baby down with their head along the top line of the diamond shape top.
- Next, pull the right side of the blanket over the baby and tuck it under them (here we remind you again to make sure that their hips are loose and their legs are in the natural frog position).
- Then pull the left side of the blanket and tuck it on the other side of the baby.
- Lastly, take the bottom of the blanket and tuck it behind the baby.
- You’re good to go!
When you’re doing the swaddling, remember to avoid letting the blanket touch the baby’s cheeks, because this might set off their rooting reflex and upset them by tricking them into thinking they’re should or are about to be fed.
When you’re doing the swaddle for the first time, it’s always good to consult with a nurse or a pediatrician as well. You can also search for classes on newborn-care where you’ll get the chance for real hands-on instructions on baby-swaddling.
If you’ve ever considered purchasing a weighted blanket for your little one but were too wary of the risks and questions surrounding them, you can check our article
on them and find out the final verdict on whether they’re safe to use for babies or not.
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby?
Babies eventually outgrow swaddling and move over to other methods that calm them down and soothe them for bed.
As we mentioned earlier, swaddling is not recommended once the baby starts to become able to roll over during sleep. In those instances, the blanket poses a risk of suffocation and that’s when the danger of the emergence of SIDS becomes possible. This means that parents usually stop with swaddling when their babies are around 1 or 2 months old (till around 8 weeks old) and when they start to hold their head up.
Swaddling is not always a good idea and it may not be appropriate for all babies. You should reconsider doing it in the following instances:
- When babies are co-sleeping - swaddling here becomes risky if they somehow get to close to each other.
- Babies who continuously resist swaddling, after a lot of time spent “persuading” them. This just means that you’ll have to find some other method of calming them down (the sleeping sack option is worth considering here).
- Babies in environments which are unusually hot - swaddling in too hot temperatures can lead to overheating.
Just remember that nobody has done it right from day one. It’s totally okay if your swaddle doesn’t look perfect the first time around, and also the next couple (or even dozens) of times around. The good old ‘practice makes perfect’ couldn’t be truer in this instance as well. Even if your baby is often crying during the swaddling sessions, this shouldn’t discourage you (unless they’re in pain, but we’re sure it’s very unlikely it’ll come to that).
After you master it you’ll see its magic and the changes in your baby’s mood and sleeping pattern. But as we said earlier, the swaddle isn’t for everyone and if you find that it’s just continuously not working for you and your baby, don’t worry, there are many other ways to soothe them and ensure them a better sleep.