In the first few months of their life on earth, swaddling a baby mimics the security of their mother’s womb. It also helps to limit motor activity to help them sleep better. Which parent would not opt for a newborn that sleeps more soundly? Master the art of the baby burrito with our guide on how to swaddle a newborn.
How to Safely Swaddle Your Baby
What is a swaddle? A traditional swaddle is a square blanket that you fold and tuck in a certain way to fit snugly around your infant. These days there are many variations on this theme, with baby goods companies developing specially shaped or accessorized swaddling blankets to make it much easier to swaddle a baby securely. Here are a few things to keep in mind when swaddling your newborn:
- Your infant’s neck and head should not be covered. Only swaddle up to the shoulders.
- To avoid the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), always put your baby to sleep on their back. Never on their side or on their tummy.
- Make sure that your baby is wearing clothing appropriate for the ambient temperature. Do not swaddle them in too thick blankets or cover them in too many heavy blankets. Check their temperature regularly to make sure that they don’t overheat.
Step-By-Step: How to Swaddle Your Baby
No, you do not need a master’s degree in origami. With a little bit of practice, you will have the art of swaddling down in no time at all!
Step 1: Spread your square swaddle cloth out over a flat surface. Angle the blanket in a diamond shape with one corner pointing upwards.
Step 2: Fold this top corner down by about 6 inches.
Step 3: Place your baby on their back in the middle of the blanket. Your infant’s head should be above the fold line with their body extending towards the bottom corner.
Step 4: Straighten your baby’s left arm and wrap the left side of the blanket over their body. Tuck the blanket under the other side of the body.
Step 5: Fold the bottom corner of the swaddling cloth up over your baby’s body. Tuck this piece in under the chin, under the first fold. Take care to leave enough room for their legs to move.
Step 6: Straighten your little one’s right arm and wrap the right side of the blanket over their body. Tuck the blanket in under the other side of their body.
Important Tips for Swaddling
For safe swaddling, there are a few vital points to keep in mind:
- The swaddle should not be too tight. You should be able to fit two to three fingers between your newborn’s chest and the swaddling cloth.
- The swaddle should be loose enough around your baby’s hips so that they can move their legs freely.
What Makes a Good Swaddle Blanket?
A swaddling cloth should be a square of natural fabric such as cotton or bamboo. A square measuring between 20 x 20 inches and 28 x 28 inches should be sufficient. The material should be thin and breathable. Use something like a cotton or bamboo receiving blanket or cotton muslin wrap. You will want something hypoallergenic and gentle on your baby’s skin. The fabric should have some give so that it can stay in place once you have tucked your little one in.
5 Good Reasons to Swaddle Your Baby: Swaddling Benefits
Swaddling you a newborn baby is not a flash in the pan fad. It is a tried-and-true technique that has stood the test of time. There are a bunch of good reasons why you should swaddle your baby.
- For the first few months your newborn baby has something called the Moro reflex, or startle reflex. In response to movement or a loud sound, the baby throws back its head and extends out its legs and arms. Swaddling can prevent your little one from waking up necessarily due to their startle reflex.
- It is easier to transition a sleeping, swaddled baby from your arms to their crib without waking them.
- Swaddling an infant helps them to feel more secure and enclosed, as they did in the womb.
- Your little one must still master the art of regulating their own body temperature. A swaddle helps to keep them warm and cozy.
- As they become more mobile, babies are less likely to kick off their blankets if they are in a swaddle. This has a double benefit. Your baby will be less likely to get cold from lack of sufficient covering. And there is less chance of SIDS due to blankets covering their face.
The Dangers of Incorrect Swaddling
Your baby should be firmly and gently wrapped. The blanket should be securely tucked away so that it doesn't come loose and pose a suffocation risk during sleeping.
To limit the risk of the development of hip dysplasia, your little one should still be able to move their lower limbs freely. In other words, your baby must be able to move their hips and knees so that their legs can fall into the natural 'frog legs' position.
When You Should Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling works best to calm the startle reflex if you introduce it from day one. If you consistently make swaddling part of your nap time and bedtime routine, your baby will quickly develop the association between swaddling and time to sleep.
At What Age Do I Stop Swaddling My Baby?
The Moro reflex is already notable in the womb, and it lasts until about four to six months of age. After this time, there is little need to swaddle your baby. Once your infant starts showing signs of rolling over, it is safer not to wrap them with their arms tucked in. If they roll over onto their tummies, you want them to be able to use their arms to push themselves away from the mattress so as not to suffocate. Rolling over usually starts at four to six months too, so these two milestones happily coincide!
What to do instead of swaddling? Does your baby love to sleep with that wrapped-up feeling? Do you have better peace of mind knowing that they cannot kick their blankets off and get cold? There are some lovely products on the market these days that can act like a swaddle without restricting your growing child’s movements too much. Wearable blankets or sleepy sacs that you can zip your baby into.
Different Ways to Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling is not a one size fits all solution. From day one, your newborn is an individual and will have preferences.
- Does your little one like to suck on their thumb or hands to self-soothe while falling asleep? Tuck their arms so that their fists are at their face when swaddled.
- If your baby prefers to have their arms free, you can leave one or both arms out of the blanket when swaddling them.
- Remember: Not every baby loves a swaddle. If your little one seems extra wriggly when you try to wrap your baby burrito, then swaddling might not be for them. Perhaps you can try a swaddle wrap or sleepy sac instead.
Safe Swaddling for Sound Sleeping
Safely swaddling your newborn is a great way to help them acclimatize from the warmth and security of your womb to life on earth. We hope that our tips and tricks on how to swaddle your baby will help you feel more confident to give this age-old baby-wrapping technique a try!