How to Swaddle a Baby
Swaddling your newborn promotes warmth, comfort, and better sleep. Learn the proper technique with this step-by-step guide.
Swaddling involves wrapping your baby snugly in a receiving blanket. It keeps your little one cozy in a womb-like environment, which soothes them and promotes better sleep. Keep reading to learn how to swaddle a newborn safely and comfortably.
How to Swaddle a Newborn
Before swaddling, note that not all babies like to be bundled tightly. Some find it too hot and confining; others find it delightfully reassuring. Follow these tips for how to swaddle a baby, then gauge your little one's reaction.
1. Position the Blanket
Start by spreading the receiving blanket out on a bed, the floor, or a couch in a diamond shape. Fold down one corner, about the length of your hand. Then lay the baby on the blanket so their head and neck are above the fold. They can be dressed in light clothing or bare except for the diaper.
Remember: If your baby is on a raised surface, keep one hand on top of them at all times. Though babies young enough to be swaddled don't have the agility to roll over, a sudden reflex could cause them to move.
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2. Tuck the Left Side
Pull the left side of the blanket across the baby's body, keeping their right arm slightly bent underneath it. Tuck the blanket under the baby's left side. Keep a little wiggle room around the hips; too-tight swaddles on the lower body might lead to hip dysplasia.
3. Fold the Bottom
Fold the bottom tail of the blanket up (toward the baby's head), covering their feet and legs and overlapping the left-side fold. Tuck the tail under the top right edge. Make sure the baby's nose and mouth are not covered.
4. Wrap the Right Side
Pull the right side of the blanket across the baby's body. Wrap it around your baby (it should go over their left arm, belly, and back). Tuck the loose end into the top fold near their chin.
5. Let Your Baby Sleep
Make sure that your baby isn't wrapped too tightly. They’ll be most comfortable if they feel snug, not squeezed. Once they fall asleep, you can lay them on their back in the crib.
Caution: Since swaddling is confined and may restrict a baby's motor development, a full-body swaddle is not recommended after the baby's first 60 days. When the baby has reached this age, it's best to use a version that leaves their arms unrestricted.
Is Swaddling Safe for Babies?
Swaddling promotes deep sleep in babies, which is exactly why parents rely on it. But this restful slumber can also be dangerous: Decreased arousal raises the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To prevent SIDS, follow these tips:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back.
- Never place pillows, blankets, toys, or anything else in the crib.
- Ensure the swaddling blanket doesn’t come unwrapped; it could cover your baby’s face and suffocate them.
- Swaddling warms your baby’s body temperature, so don’t let them overheat. According to the AAP, signs of overheating include “sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing.”
- Don’t wrap the swaddle too tightly. Parents should be able to insert two to three fingers between the baby and the blanket.
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby
The AAP recommends that parents stop swaddling their baby once they show signs of trying to roll over (usually around 3 or 4 months). That’s because swaddling limits movement, which could hinder important motor development. Consider keeping your older baby warm and comfortable with a sleep sack once they outgrow the swaddling stage.