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How to Swaddle Your Baby




How to Swaddle Your Baby


Master the magic of swaddling your baby and you just might get a little extra sleep yourself!


may interest you Normal sleep of the infant

How to Swaddle Your Baby


The first time your baby visited the hospital nursery, she probably came back wrapped in a neat little package with only her head poking out. That's because nurses know one of the secrets to a happy, calm baby: swaddling.

Swaddling is an ancient method for wrapping newborns in a thin blanket or cloth. It’s adorable (who doesn’t love a baby burrito!), but it also serves the all-important purpose of helping your sweet pea stay calm and 

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sleep more soundly. Here's how:

  • A swaddle helps your baby feel safe and secure as she adjusts to life in the outside world. "They're used to feeling snug in the womb, so they find swaddling comforting," explains Kyle Monk, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Opens a new window in Los Angeles and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.
  • Swaddling helps prevent your baby from flailing those little arms and legs, which can trigger her startle reflex and potentially cause her to wake up. "This may prevent them from settling down and getting deep sleep," says Dr. Monk. "The swaddle helps dampen the startle reflex until a baby outgrows it." 
  • A swaddle keeps your baby cozy and warm until her internal thermostat kicks into gear. 

In short, there are lots of good reasons to try this age-old practice. But figuring out how to do it yourself can be a little intimidating (especially when you’re feeling bleary-eyed).

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to safely swaddle a newborn baby like a pro 

 and when it’s time to stop swaddling.

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How to swaddle your baby

Getting your swaddling skills down-pat may seem a little daunting, but wrapping up your baby only takes a few steps:

Step 1: Prep the swaddle.

Spread your baby’s swaddle blanket out on a flat surface (like the middle of your bed) in the shape of a diamond, with one corner pointing up. Fold the top corner down about 6 inches.

Step 2: Place your baby face-up on the blanket.

Your little one's head should be above the folded edge of the blanket, and her body should extend straight down toward the bottom corner.

Step 3: Gently straighten your baby’s left arm so that it's dangling down.

Then take the left side of the blanket and wrap it over her left arm and chest. Tuck the blanket underneath her right arm and her back. At this stage, your baby’s left arm should be covered and her right arm is free.

Step 4: Bring the bottom of the swaddle up.

Bring the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body and tuck it under the first fold, below her chin. Gently straighten your baby’s right arm down like you did with the left. Be careful to wrap baby snugly, but not too tightly.

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Step 5: Finish wrapping baby.

Pull the right side of the blanket over your baby’s body and tuck it snugly under her left side. Twist the remaining piece of blanket at the bottom and tuck it under your baby. Again, make sure the swaddle isn’t too loose or too tight.

Tips for swaddling baby

Keep these important tips in mind when you're swaddling your baby:

  • The swaddle should be snug, but not too tight.
  •  You should be able to place two to three fingers between your baby’s chest and the blanket, and the blanket should be loose around her hips so she can move her legs freely.
  • The "arms out" technique works too.
  •  If your baby seems to prefer having her arms free, it’s fine to leave one or both arms out of the swaddle.
  • Squirmy babies can be swaddled ... carefully.
  •  If your baby is too wiggly for you to get a snug swaddle, take a break and give your little one a few minutes to get her squirmies out before trying again. But if it seems like your baby is always trying to wriggle out of her swaddle, she simply might not be a fan (not all babies are!) or might be getting too active for swaddling. Try a different type of swaddle ("You can try a Velcro swaddle wrap" or one with zipper closures, recommends Dr. Monk), or stop swaddling altogether, since a kicked-off blanket while your baby is sleeping can pose a suffocation or strangulation risk.
  • Preemies can also benefit from swaddling.
  •  Swaddling is just as soothing for premature babies as it is for full-term newborns. But consider bringing your preemie's hands together on her chest in front of her instead of straightened at her sides, which can be more comforting for some preemies.

How to swaddle with a wrap

Like the idea of swaddling but don’t want to use a blanket? Swaddle wraps with Velcro tabs or zippers are as safe as blankets, and deliver the same benefits without the need for any folding or tucking. The specific instructions vary depending on which wrap you buy. 

"It's often easier to get a tight swaddle with a wrap, which can be more comforting for newborns," says Tina Feeley, M.D., M.P.H., a board-certified pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital Opens a new windowin Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board. They're also much less likely to become untucked than a blanket.

Is swaddling safe?

Baby sleep and blankets don’t usually mix, so does that make swaddling dangerous?

It’s true that swaddling isn’t entirely risk-free. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says Opens a new window that swaddling can encourage your newborn to snooze better[1] — as long as it’s done correctly and practiced in accordance with other safe sleep guidelines.Opens a new window

Swaddle blankets that are too loose or that come unwrapped during sleep could be dangerous. "There is always a risk of suffocation if a blanket goes over a baby's face," says Gina Posner, M.D., F.A.A.P., a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Medical Group Opens a new windowin Fountain Valley, California, and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.

The risk is compounded by the fact that swaddled babies tend to sleep extra soundly. So if their faces do get covered by swaddle blankets, they might be less likely to wake up and change positions.

Swaddle blankets that are too snug, especially around your baby’s hips, aren’t good either. Tight swaddles that prevent your baby from straightening or bending her legs can be harmful to her hips, joints and cartilage.

To encourage healthy hip development, the bottom of the swaddle should be loose enough for your baby’s legs to stay bent up and out, like they naturally would if your newborn were lying on her back without a swaddle. You'll also want to "allow your baby's legs to strengthen and bend, which is important for their hips," Dr. Feeley says.

Wrapping your baby the right way will encourage your little one to sleep more soundly while giving you peace of mind (so you can get some sleep yourself!). Some important swaddling safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Swaddle snugly, but not too snugly.
  •  To recap: At the top of the swaddle, you should be able to fit two to three fingers between the blanket and your baby’s chest. The bottom of the swaddle should be loose enough so your baby’s legs stay bent and flared out.
  • Always put your baby to sleep on her back. It’s the safest position, whether you’re swaddling or not. Be sure to tuck the bottom of the blanket underneath your baby too.
  •  Keep your baby cool. 
  • Swaddling could cause overheating, which can raise the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Keep the room at a comfortable temperature (between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round). And resist the urge to bundle your baby in extra layers — a pair of pajamas and the swaddle blanket are likely enough to keep her comfy. Sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash and rapid breathing are all possible signs that your baby might be too hot. As a general rule of thumb, dress your baby in one more layer than you would wear.
  • Swaddle for nighttime sleep and naps. Swaddling can help your baby sleep more soundly during the day and at night. If tucking her into a little burrito blanket for hours overnight makes you nervous, know that as long as you stick with safe swaddling and sleep guidelines, swaddling at bedtime isn’t any riskier than swaddling during naps. You’ll also have plenty of built-in opportunities to check on her, since she’s waking frequently to eat. But if checking her swaddle while she sleeps gives you extra peace of mind, feel free to peek more often.

Is it okay not to swaddle a newborn?

Plenty of parents swear that swaddling is key for soothing their newborns. But if it doesn't seem to be working for your baby, you might be wondering whether it’s absolutely necessary.

The truth is, "not all babies like to be swaddled," says Jesil Pazhayampallil, M.D., F.A.A.P., a board-certified pediatrician at Good Samaritan University Hospital Opens a new windowin West Islip, New York, and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board

Some babies seem to find swaddles restrictive and will try to fight their way free every time. So if getting wrapped up makes your little one more crazed than calm, you don’t have to do it.

Before giving up completely though, you might want to experiment with some alternatives. If your baby seems to want her arms out, try leaving her arms out of the swaddle blanket. The extra freedom might make swaddling more appealing to her. "Arms in or out are fine and not shown to increase the risk of SIDS," says Dr. Pazhayampallil (aka “Dr. Paz”). 

Got a little one who loves to kick? She might do better with a Velcro tab swaddle. They’re harder to kick off, and some secure baby’s arms with swaddle "wings." Or try a zip-up cocoon or sleep-sack-swaddle hybrid, which can allow for more leg movement.

You might have to try a few different swaddles to find the one your baby likes best — but once you do, stock up on a few so you have extras on hand.

But if none seem to be the right fit, it's okay to skip the practice entirely. There's no need to force your baby into a swaddle if she doesn’t like it.

When to stop swaddling

Swaddling can be good for some newborns. But it’s dangerous for older babies who can break free from their blankets. Being wrapped up can interfere with healthy development for older babies too, since it can prevent them from practicing age-appropriate motor skills.

So when should you stop swaddling? You’ll want to quit once your little one becomes more active and starts to try to roll overrecommends the AAP. "Many doctors will advise stopping at 2 months of age," since that's when some babies begin to attempt rolling, says Dr. Paz. Other babies may not roll over until around 3 or 4 months.

Even after your baby grows out of swaddling, though, she’s still too young to sleep with a blanket. To keep her cozy while continuing to stick with safe sleep guidelines, try a sleep sack. These wearable blankets add an extra layer of warmth, and some come with features designed to help babies transition away from their swaddles more comfortably.

Swaddling can be intimidating at first, but rest assured: Parents have been wrapping their babies to sleep for ages, and with so many opportunities to practice, you’ll be able to perfect your technique too. Chances are, you’ll become a swaddling expert in no time. But if you’re feeling unsure, ask your baby’s pediatrician to check your swaddle skills and share some helpful pointers if you aren’t getting it quite right.




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