You’ve most likely heard of babies being wrapped in “swaddling cloths” before. Or maybe you’re familiar with those adorable images of little baby burritos with only their heads poking out. If your baby was born in the hospital he or she was most likely swaddled in that universal green, red, and white blanket.
Swaddling is such a quintessential baby thing, but you may be wondering what the point is, if you should do it, and how to swaddle a baby.
New parents who’ve never swaddled a baby before can rest assured because we’re going to give you all of the information you need to know about how to properly swaddle your baby as well as instructions on how to swaddle step by step, and swaddling techniques. Read on to learn more about the secret to a calm, happy baby.
Is Swaddling Safe for My Baby?
It’s an understandable concern. After all, you’ve heard that blankets aren’t safe for sleeping babies, so maybe it isn’t safe to wrap a newborn. Don’t worry, swaddling is for the most part safe, if you follow a few safety tips.
There are a few things to watch out for when swaddling a baby. Make sure the blanket is not too loose otherwise it can cover the baby’s face and cause suffocation.
Alternately, swaddling blankets that are too snug can damage your baby’s joints and cartilage, and can cause hip dysplasia. For safe swaddling, aim for a snug but not too tight swaddle and make sure to keep the room cool enough so that your baby doesn’t overheat in the blanket.
When Should I Swaddle My Baby?
If you’re wondering can babies sleep swaddled, yes, they can! You can swaddle your baby anytime he or she is sleeping, whether it is for a nap or overnight.
Just make sure you’re following safe swaddling guidelines. If you swaddle babies at night or for a nap they will sleep more soundly and not wake themselves up as often.
Why Safe Swaddling Is Important
Now that you know it’s safe, you may be wondering, why swaddle baby?
Babies in the womb have very little space, and once they are out in the world all that space can be terrifying. Swaddling your baby safely can give him or her a sense of security and safety while adjusting to all of that space. It helps keep your baby warm as well while they are adjusting to the temperature outside of the womb.
Another good reason to swaddle your baby is because babies have what is called a Moro, or startle reflex. Loud noises, sudden movements, or a sensation of falling can trigger that reflex. Baby’s flailing arms and legs can trigger the reflex as well. Swaddling keeps baby’s arms and legs still and keeps baby asleep longer.
What If I don’t swaddle my newborn?
That’s okay too! Some babies don’t like being swaddled and will fight it. If your baby is one of those that doesn’t like swaddling, or if you are just struggling with it too much, try some alternatives before giving up, such as leaving baby’s arms out or using a sleep sack.
If nothing works for your baby, don’t try to force it.
How To Swaddle A Newborn in 5 Simple Steps
- Spread out your swaddling blanket on a flat surface such as a bed or crib with a changing table. Fold over the top corner.
- Lay baby face-up on the blanket with baby’s head on the folded-down corner.
- Tuck baby’s right arm down by their side and fold the right corner of the blanket snug over their top. Secure the corner underneath baby.
- Fold up the bottom corner over baby’s feet.
- Tuck baby’s left arm down and fold over the left corner of the blanket so that just the neck and head are exposed.
How tight should a swaddle be?
A swaddle should be not too tight and not too loose! If you make a swaddling blanket too tight it can cause damage to your baby’s joints, especially their hips, but if it’s too loose it can come off as a hazard and your baby can suffocate in loose blankets folds.
How to swaddle tightly
An easy way to tell if the swaddling blanket is too tight is to try to fit two fingers between the blanket and baby’s chest. If your fingers fit comfortable then you’ve swaddled correctly.
Other Swaddle Methods
How to Swaddle with arms up
This method is good for newborns whose limbs are still curled up. Follow the directions above, but instead of tucking the arms down at baby’s sides, keep them up by their head.
This method is extra secure, and has the added bonus of making your baby look like an adorable little mermaid with a tail!
- Lay out the blanket in a diamond shape and fold down the top corner all the way down to create a triangle.
- Lay baby in the middle of the triangle with shoulders up at the top.
- Fold over right corner and tuck in. Repeat with the left corner.
- Pull the fabric at the base of baby’s feet together and tie in a knot.
Tired of the same techniques? You can consider the different swaddling ways as outlined in this video below:
Swaddling blanket materials
There are many different types of swaddling materials, and which one to use can be overwhelming for new parents. Some parents may escape from the hassle of picking one thanks to the baby shower gifts from friends and family.
Swaddle wraps come in a variety of colors and patterns as well, so you can choose from a simple design or a cute pattern. Swaddling blankets can also double as nursing cover-ups as well!
The most popular swaddling blanket material is cotton muslin because it’s lightweight and breathable, which helps keep the baby cool. You can often find organic cotton muslin if you’re looking for something that’s completely natural. The receiving blanket that your baby comes home from the hospital in is most likely cotton muslin.
Bamboo is a newer, popular option. It’s naturally antibacterial and very soft and stretchy and durable. Bamboo helps to wick away moisture from baby’s skin, keeping your little one nice and cool while they sleep in the bassinet or crib. You can often find blankets in a bamboo-cotton blend.
Jersey is a cotton/polyester blend that is very stretchy and soft. It has more structure than other types of material so it will stay in place well. It is thicker than muslin, so just be aware of that and keep an eye on your baby’s temperature if you opt for jersey swaddles.
Swaddling sacks and pouches
If you’re not confident about swaddling, or if your baby doesn’t like it so much, swaddling sacks or pouches are a good option. They give your baby a cozy, wrapped-up feeling but you don’t have to worry about loose blankets.
They usually have plenty of room for your baby’s legs to move around, decreasing the risk of hip dysplasia. Swaddling sacks usually have some kind of snap or velcro closure that prevents baby from breaking free.
Swaddling sacks and pouches are also helpful when your baby is past the swaddling stage, as you can use the sack as a sleeping bag instead of having a loose blanket covering your little one. Loose blankets can cause suffocation, so it’s best to stay away from them until your baby is old enough.
The Best Type of Swaddle To Use For Your Baby
For a start, parents can consider getting at least three to six swaddles before adding more to your baby registry once you learn how many swaddles you need for your baby along the way. If you don’t know where to look if you want to use a swaddler for your baby, here are a few highly-rated blankets in each material to get you started.
Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets
These swaddle blankets by aden + anais are made of 100% natural cotton muslin for breathability. They’re easy to fold and come in a wide array of adorable colors and patterns. You get a pack of four for a decent price!
Upsimples Bamboo Muslin Swaddle Blankets
These Upsimples soft and silky bamboo cotton swaddles will keep your baby moisture-free with their antibacterial properties. They’re made from 70% bamboo and 30% cotton. You get a pack of four in cute gender-neutral patterns.
Owlowla Cotton Jersey Swaddle and Hat Set
Available in a variety of colors, this cotton jersey swaddle by Owlowla is soft and comfortable and will help keep your baby snug. Added bonus, you get a cute hat or headband as well!
EMBE Organic Starter Swaddle
This easy-to-use swaddle from EMBE that is available on Honeybug also comes in several different colors and patterns. It’s made out of 100% cotton and has a zipper design that makes it impossible for baby to break out. There’s plenty of room for baby’s legs at the bottom of the sack.
When Should I Stop Swaddling My Child?
While swaddling is a great idea for newborns, it can be dangerous for older babies. Once they are able to roll over and they get stronger they can break free from the swaddle. Loose blankets can be a suffocation risk if the baby swaddle wrap comes apart. Swaddling older babies can inhibit their development as it prevents them from using their motor skills.
Once your baby starts to roll over you should stop swaddling with a blanket. This can happen as early as 2 months, but is generally around 3 or 4 months of age.
Just be aware that after your baby grows out of a swaddle they’re still too young to use a blanket for sleeping. A great option at this stage is a sleep sack, which can give your baby warmth and security without the dangers of loose blankets and suffocation.
Tips & Safety Precautions When You Swaddle A Baby
It’s important to practice safety when swaddling your baby. Suffocation is one of the highest causes of SIDS, so make sure your baby’s bed is free of loose cloth that could pose a suffocation risk. Loose swaddles can be one of those risks.
- Swaddle on a flat surface.
- Use swaddle blankets that are thin and breathable.
- Never swaddle higher up than baby’s shoulders.
- Make sure the blanket isn’t too loose so baby can’t wiggle free.
- Make sure the blanket isn’t too tight, as well – check by inserting two fingers under the blanket and if they fit well then the swaddle isn’t too tight.
- Ensure that there’s enough room at the bottom of the swaddle for your baby’s legs to move around and wiggle.
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
- Keep baby’s bed free of loose blankets, pillows, and toys.
- Avoid overheating – keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.
- Check baby’s external temperature regularly.
- Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know all of the rules and precautions for swaddling.
- Don’t swaddle past the age of 4 months, or when your baby is able to roll over.
- Use a sleep sack when your baby is old enough to roll over.
Is it for you?
Now that you know everything you need to know about swaddling, you can decide for yourself if you want to try swaddling your baby. It may seem a bit intimidating at first to wrap a baby, but just follow the safety tips and practice a bit, and you’ll have the hang of swaddling in no time! You can practice swaddling on a baby doll before you try it on your real, live baby.
As with anything baby-related, if you have any doubts or concerns be sure to talk to your doctor. But rest assured that swaddling is an ages-old, safe, and effective way of providing a restful sleep for your little one.
What are your thoughts about swaddling? Do you swaddle, or do you avoid it? Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
Last update on 2023-06-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API