Babies have been swaddled for thousands of years. Even in the Bible, we read of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Today, babies are still swaddled by labor and delivery nurses (and new moms and dads) across the world.
Why Swaddle a Baby?
Swaddling a baby has at least two major benefits. First, swaddling helps mimic the tight conditions of the uterus, which makes the baby feel safe and soothed. Second, swaddling helps prevent babies from self-waking due to the Moro reflex.
There are other benefits, too, such as keeping the baby warm, and preventing it from scratching itself (if you swaddle with hands inside the blanket). Plus, babies just look extra cute and cuddly!
How to Swaddle a Baby
Learn how to swaddle a baby: To swaddle a baby, you must first have a suitable swaddle blanket (also called a swaddling cloth). Not all blankets are fit for swaddling, and many “receiving blankets” that you’ll find in stores are a little to small to do the job right.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to find a blanket that is specifically designed for swaddling. These blankets are usually square in shape, thin and breathable, and measure 44″ x 44″ or 40″ x 40″.
Watch the free video below for a visual demonstration:
Steps to Swaddle a Baby
- First, take the blanket and place it onto a secure surface. Place it into a rhombus shape so that there is a corner on the top, bottom, and sides.
- Fold the top part of the corner down a bit. The size of the fold will depend on the size of your baby and the size of the blanket. Generally speaking, there is an inverse relationship between the fold and the baby’s size: Use a big fold for a small baby, or a small fold for a big baby.
- Place the baby on its back near the fold you created at the top of the blanket. It’s shoulder’s should be roughly even with the fold, or perhaps slightly below it.
- Hold down the baby’s right arm (left from your perspective), and fold the left side of the blanket over the baby’s body, tucking it under it’s left arm (right arm from your perspective). Tuck the blanket under baby’s torso.
- Fold the bottom of the blanket up, and either tuck it into fold you just created over its chest, or tuck it under the baby’s left shoulder (right shoulder from your perspective). Be sure you don’t restrict the legs too much, as you’ll want to allow the baby movement to prevent hip issues.
- Place the baby’s left arm down, and take the right side of the blanket over the arm and baby’s torso. Tuck the blanket under the baby’s body.
Congrats. You’re now a master at learning how to swaddle a baby. Your baby should now be as snug as a bug in a rug, or at least look like a beautiful baby burrito.
You Can Swaddle in Different Positions
The instructions above will help you swaddle your baby in a very common way (and the way I prefer). However, there are other ways to swaddle your baby. You can position the arms bent across the chest so that both hands are out to soothe the face. You can also leave one or both arms out.
The only downside to those positions is that if the baby’s hands are out, they can scratch its face. Mittens can help mitigate that risk, though.
In addition, keeping one or both arms out might not prevent a strong Moro reflex (also called the startle reflex) from waking the baby up. Nevertheless, use the swaddle method that your baby prefers.
Swaddling Safety Considerations
Although swaddling is very common and relatively safe practice, there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind.
- First, you’ll want to keep the baby on its back. This is considered the safest position for the baby.
- Read instructions. It can be helpful to read the instructions on swaddle blankets, especially if they have straps or Velcro, as sometimes specialized swaddling devices can have other risks or important steps.
- Not too tight or loose. You don’t want the swaddling blanket to be too tight on the neck, chest, or legs, which could restrict movement or breathing. On the flip side, you don’t want the swaddling blanket to be so loose that it could come off and cover the baby’s face, creating a suffocation risk.
- Consider the baby’s overall dress. You’ll want to consider the temperature in the room, as well as the layers the baby will have on when swaddling. You don’t want baby to get too hot or too cold.
- Stop swaddling at the proper time. Swaddling is great for a newborn, but once a baby can flip over, there is a serious risk of suffocation. Therefore, you’ll want to stop swaddling at this point, which is usually around the 3 month mark (developmental milestones can vary).