Learning how to swaddle a baby step by step requires love and attention, but how to wrap a baby is probably easier than you may think.
The beauty of swaddling a baby is in its simplicity. If you have muslin and two loving hands, you can’t go wrong.
The key to swaddling a baby is just about finding swaddle techniques and establishing a swaddle steps routine that both you and your little one are most comfortable with.
Swaddling can be beneficial for your baby in her early months.
If you’re wondering what the best way to swaddle is, look no further than the soft blankets that make swaddling infants not just easy–but adorable, too.
The answer to how to wrap a baby in a blanket doesn’t need to be complicated.
Discovering the ins and outs of swaddling with a blanket is one of the safest and most effective ways of calming and soothing a baby.
Pediatricians suggest swaddling techniques and proper swaddle methods so that new parents can offer their newborns and infants safe while they sleep.
The best part about learning how to swaddle with a muslin blanket is that muslin is soft-to-the-touch and incredibly breathable, meaning that the baby won’t overheat. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Learn more about this soothing technique used for newborns and get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about swaddling, including how to swaddle your baby step by step, the benefits of swaddling, and how long you are can safely swaddle your baby.
What Is Swaddling?
Swaddling is a simple technique in which you wrap your baby up in a swaddle blanket to soothe him. You might even think of your swaddled little one as a baby burrito!
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 sleep more soundly.
- A swaddle helps your baby feel safe and secure as she adjusts to life outside the womb.
- Swaddling helps prevent her from flailing her arms and legs, which can trigger her startle reflex and potentially cause her to wake up.
- A swaddle keeps the 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).
What Are the Benefits of Swaddling?
The benefits of swaddling include:
- Helping to keep your baby warm when she’s sleeping
- Limiting the startle reflex, which can wake your baby during sleep
- Providing her with a sense of safety and security by mimicking the snug environment of the womb
- Helping keep your baby calm, possibly even when your baby has colic
- Comforting your baby during something that can be a little uncomfortable, like a vaccination, for example
Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to swaddle a newborn like a pro, the keys for sticking with safe swaddling techniques, and when it’s time to stop.
How to Swaddle, Step-By-Step
Getting your swaddling skills down-pat may seem a little daunting, but wrapping up your baby only takes a few steps.
Here’s how to swaddle with a blanket, including how to wrap a baby with arms out (if that’s what your little one prefers!), plus tips on how to manage swaddling a wiggly baby:
Step 1: Find a Flat Surface.
Spread your baby’s swaddle blanket out in the shape of a diamond with one corner pointing up on a flat surface (like the middle of your bed).
Fold the swaddle into a triangle, and place your baby in the centre with the shoulders below the fold. Fold the top corner down about 6 inches.
Step 2: Place Your Baby Face-Up on the Blanket.
Her head should sit above the folded edge of the blanket, and her body should extend straight down toward the bottom corner.
Tuck the edge of the swaddle under the body, leaving the left arm free.
Step 3: Straighten Your Baby’s Left Arm.
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.
Your baby’s left arm will be covered at this point, but her right arm will be free.
Step 4: Bring up the Bottom.
Fold the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body and tuck it under the first fold, under her chin. Straighten your baby’s right arm and pull the right side of the blanket over your baby’s body and tuck it under her left side.
Fold the bottom of the swaddle up and over your baby’s feet, tucking the fabric into the top of the swaddle.
Step 5: Secure the Blanket.
Loosely twist the bottom of the blanket and tuck it underneath your baby.
A Few Important Things to Keep in Mind:
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 veil should be loose around her hips so she can move her legs freely.
If your baby seems to prefer having her arms free, it’s OK to leave one or both arms out of the swaddle.
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 squirming out before trying again.
But if it seems like your baby is always trying to wriggle out of her swaddle, she might not be a fan (not all babies are!) or might be getting too active for swaddling.
In both cases, it’s a good idea to consider trying an alternative swaddle (like a swaddle wrap that comes with Velcro or zipper closures) or calling it quits altogether, since a kicked-off blanket while your baby is sleeping can pose a suffocation or strangulation risk.
Is the method for how to swaddle a preemie any different? Swaddling is just as soothing for premature babies as it is for full-term newborns.
But consider bringing her hands together on her chest in front of her instead of straightened at her sides, which can be more comforting for some preemies.
Chances are you’ll become a swaddling expert in no time. But if you’re feeling unsure, ask your baby’s pediatrician.
He or she can check your swaddle skills and share some helpful pointers if you aren’t getting it quite right.
What Kind of Swaddle Should You Use for Your Baby?
A swaddle blanket can be made of cotton, a cotton blend, linen, muslin, or another natural material.
It’s a good idea to choose a fabric that allows for breathability, which can help keep your baby from overheating.
Besides swaddle blankets, you can also find wraps or sleeping sacks on the market, which may be easier to use.
It’s worth weighing your options when you’re shopping for one. Or, you can go with a receiving blanket, such as the one you used to take your newborn home from the hospital for the first time.
When Should You Swaddle Your Newborn?
You can swaddle your newborn for nighttime sleep, for a nap, or when she needs some soothing due to colic. Swaddling can help your baby stay warm, calm, and secure. And at bedtime or naptime, swaddling can help promote better sleep.
How Long Should You Swaddle Your Baby For?
Although swaddling is usually acceptable to do in your baby’s first couple of months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you stop swaddling once your baby can roll over, which may happen around the time he turns two months old. Reach out to your baby’s healthcare provider if you have any questions.
When to Stop Swaddling?
Parents should stop swaddling as soon as their baby shows any signs of trying to roll over. Many babies start working on rolling at around two months of age. There is no evidence about SIDS risk related to the arms swaddled in or out.
Is Swaddling Safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep when done correctly.
But if you plan to swaddle your infant at home, you need to follow a few guidelines to make sure you are doing it safely.
Back to Sleep
To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, it’s essential to place your baby to sleep on his back every time you put him to sleep.
This may be even more important if your baby is swaddled. Some studies have shown an increased risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation when babies are swaddled if they are placed on their stomach to sleep or if they roll onto their stomach.
If babies are swaddled, they should be placed only on their back and monitored not accidentally roll over.
Know the Risks
Parents should know that there are some risks to swaddling.
Swaddling may decrease a baby’s arousal so that it’s harder for the baby to wake up. That is why parents like swaddling – the baby sleeps longer and doesn’t wake up as quickly.
But we know that decreased arousal can be a problem and maybe one of the main reasons babies die of SIDS.
For your little one’s safety, keep these tips in mind when swaddling your baby:
- Remember to always place your baby on his back in his crib, whether he has been wrapped or not. Putting your baby to sleep on his back is crucial as it can help reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Also, ensure that there are no blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, or any additional bedding or delicate items in your baby’s crib. Since your baby will be pretty warm and comfortable in his swaddle, he won’t need the extra blanket anyway.
- Since swaddling may lower your baby’s natural ability to rouse himself from sleep, it may make it harder for him to wake himself up. Be aware that this, too, can increase the risk of SIDS.
- Swaddling your baby too tightly can cause him to develop hip problems. If you can fit two to three of your fingers in between your baby’s chest and the swaddle, then you’ve swaddled just right.
- Ensure that your baby isn’t too warm when he’s wrapped. If you see that he’s sweating, has damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, or rapid breathing, he is most likely overdressed.
Keep Hips Loose
Babies who are swaddled too tightly may develop a problem with their hips. Studies have found that straightening and tightly wrapping a baby’s legs can lead to hip dislocation or hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip joint where the top of the thigh bone is not held firmly in the socket of the hip.
Hip-healthy swaddling allows the baby’s legs to bend up and out.
Safe Sleep Recommendations
The AAP recommends parents follow the safe sleep recommendations every time they place their baby to sleep for naps or at nighttime:
- Place your baby on her back to sleep, and monitor her to ensure she doesn’t roll over while swaddled. My Baby Nursery has the biggest range of nursery baby monitors for you to choose from.
- Do not have any loose blankets in your baby’s crib. A loose blanket, including a swaddling blanket that comes unwrapped, could cover your baby’s face and increase the risk of suffocation.
- Use caution when buying products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. According to the AAP, wedges, positioners, special mattresses, and specialised sleep surfaces have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Your baby is safest in her crib or bassinet, not in your bed.
- Swaddling can increase the chance your baby will overheat, so avoid letting your baby get too hot. The baby could be too hot if you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing.
- Consider using a pacifier for naps and bedtime.
- Place the crib in an area that is always smoke-free.
Swaddling in Child Care
Some child care centres may have a policy against swaddling infants in their care.
This is because of the increased risks of SIDS or suffocation if the baby rolls over while swaddled, in addition to the other dangers of overheating and hip dysplasia.
We recommend infants wait to enter a child care centre until they are about three months old, and by then, swaddling should have been phased out because the babies are more active and rolling.
The guidelines, Caring for Our Children, National Health and Safety Performance Standards, jointly published by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, the AAP and the American Public Health Association, do not ban swaddling in child care centres. Still, they say swaddling is not necessary or recommended.
As a result, some child care centres, and the states they are located, are implementing more forceful recommendations against swaddling in child care settings.
Compared to a private home, where one or two people care for an infant, a child care centre usually has several caregivers, who may have variations in their swaddling technique.
This raises a concern because studies show babies who are not usually swaddled react differently when wrapped for the first time at this older age. They may have a more challenging time waking up, which increases their risk of SIDS.
The difference in the advice for swaddling at home or the hospital nursery versus in a child care centre comes down to the child’s age and the setting.
A newborn can be swaddled correctly and placed on his back in his crib at home, and it can help comfort and soothe him to sleep.
When the child is older, in a new environment, with a different caregiver, he is learning to roll, and perhaps he hasn’t been swaddled before, swaddling becomes more challenging and risky.
Most Commonly Asked Questions on How to Swaddle a Baby
Can You Swaddle a Baby Too Tightly?
It’s unlikely that you might use a swaddle method that’s too tight, but to test your swaddle, a quick swaddle technique for testing is to use the two-finger test. Simply place two fingers between the swaddle and your baby’s chest.
If your fingers fit easily beneath the fabric, you’ve achieved the just-right swaddle fit.
Can You Breastfeed a Swaddled Baby?
It’s not recommended to swaddle your baby while breastfeeding, but the reason might not be what you think.
It’s not suggested to swaddle your baby while breastfeeding for the simple fact that your infant might get too cozy and fall asleep. and though that’s not a bad thing, it can become an issue if it means your baby isn’t getting enough food.
If your chosen feeding journey is breastfeeding, try to keep your baby awake and stimulated throughout the feeding process so that they can enjoy all the nutrients they need.
Is it OK Not to Swaddle a Newborn?
Plenty of parents swear that swaddling is essential for soothing their newborns. But if your baby doesn’t seem to be a fan, you might be wondering whether it’s necessary.
The truth is that not every baby loves swaddling. Some seem to find swaddles restrictive and will try to fight their way free every time.
So if getting wrapped up makes your baby 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.
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 a zip-up cocoon or sleep-sack-swaddle hybrid (which allows 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 in case of diaper leaks or spit-up.
And if none seem to be the right fit? Feel free to move on. There’s no need to force your baby into a swaddle if she doesn’t like it.
The Bottom Line
Swaddling your newborn offers many benefits, including comforting your little one and possibly promoting better sleep, but there are a few risks, too.
Your baby’s healthcare provider can help you weigh the pros and cons if you’re on the fence about whether you should swaddle your baby or not.
If you do decide to go ahead with swaddling, you’ll get the hang of how to do it easily by following our step-by-step guide or by asking a nurse or your baby’s healthcare provider to show you how it’s done. Looking for the best tables and chairs for a baby playroom? Look no further. My Baby Nursery has you covered.
In no time at all, you’ll be a pro at wrapping your little one into a cute baby burrito.