How to Swaddle a Baby
There are many ways you can hold your baby. Do it the right by learning the ABCs of swaddling your newborn.
Swaddling starts with a receiving blanket -- an adult-size blanket is often so big it could swamp your infant. Not all babies like to be bundled this tightly. For some, it's just too hot and confining; others find it delightfully reassuring. Swaddling limits movement, however, so it's best only for young infants.
Start by spreading the receiving blanket out on a bed, the floor, or a couch. Fold down one corner, then lay baby diagonally on the blanket so that her head and neck are above the fold. She can be dressed in light clothing, or bare except for her diaper.
Take one corner of the blanket across baby's body and tuck it under her back. If she's on a raised surface, keep one hand on top of her at all times. Though babies young enough to be swaddled aren't agile enough to roll over, a sudden reflex could cause them to move.
Next, take the opposite corner of the blanket and fold it over baby's chest. Tuck some of it behind her back and some of it into the rest of the blanket. Make sure her nose and mouth are not covered.
Finally, take the bottom triangle of the blanket and tuck it gently under baby's chin to complete the swaddling. Be certain that baby is not wrapped too tightly. She'll be most comfortable if she feels snug, not squeezed.
Baby will feel most snug if her arms are tucked in at her sides. Once she falls asleep, you can lay her on her back in the crib and gently unwrap her. Undress baby down to her diaper.
If your baby is cranky and your normal methods of soothing don't seem to be working, give one of these holds a try:
This hold was developed for preemies because skin-to-skin contact seems to stabilize their heart rate, regulate their breathing, and calm them down. But Mom or Dad can "kangaroo" with any baby -- even a 1-year-old.
Open your own shirt so baby can press her chest against yours (but don't cover baby with your shirt). Then wrap a light blanket around her and tuck the sides behind your back. Many parents prefer to do this hold lying down, but it also works sitting or standing.
The Airplane Hold
If you suspect baby's cries may be due to gas, try this gentle abdomen press. This hold also forces baby to let her arms and legs dangle, which helps her release tension.
Lay baby chest-down on your forearm. Her head can be facing down or resting on your palm and turned to the side. Use your other hand to give her a gentle back rub. Swing her lightly back and forth, if that calms her.
William Sears, MD, pediatrician and author, gave this hold its name. According to Dr. Sears, in this position a fussy baby who tenses her tummy and arches her back may settle down and relax. Lean your baby's back on your chest and let her bottom rest in your arms or hands. Slide her down just a bit so her knees are higher than her waist.
Reviewed 11/00 by Jane Forester, MD
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.