How to Swaddle a Baby Correctly & Why It Matters

Smiling swaddled baby on a bed

How to Swaddle a Baby Correctly & Why It Matters

TL;DR: Swaddling offers newborns warmth and security, aiding in sleep and calm. Correct technique and timing are essential for comfort and safety, with specific guidelines on when to swaddle and how long each day. Explore steps for proper swaddling, the debate between arms up or down, and alternatives like swaddle suits for older or more active babies. 

Swaddling, an age-old practice cherished across cultures, offers more than just warmth for your little one—it’s a cocoon of security, promoting calm and safety that can soothe even the most restless of babies. But like any art, swaddling is nuanced, with techniques that ensure it’s done lovingly and correctly.  

Today, we’re here to help guide you through the why and how of wrapping your baby with care. From understanding the perfect times to swaddle to mastering the technique with arms up or down, we’ll cover every step to ensure your baby feels snug, secure, and serenely sleepy.   

Join us as we unwrap the secrets of how to properly swaddle a baby, ensuring their comfort and safety, and discover why this ancient practice remains popular around the world. This guide is a tribute to the tender moments of early parenthood.  

The Importance of Safe Swaddling 

Whether you’re a new mother cradling your firstborn or a seasoned parent welcoming another cherished child into your arms, it’s important to understand the basics of safe swaddling. 

As University Hospitals explains, swaddling can be extremely beneficial for babies. Not only does a secure swaddle make a newborn feel safe and secure, but it can also help baby maintain their body temperature. Some research suggests that swaddling can also help babies sleep longer.  

However, swaddling must be done correctly. There are a few risks associated with swaddling, such as overheating and suffocation. These are both risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS. Hip dysplasia is another concern if baby is swaddled too tightly. That is why it’s important to swaddle your baby correctly and follow the recommendations of healthcare professionals. 

When to Swaddle Your Baby 

Swaddling your baby is not just about the how, but also the when. Timing is everything in the art of swaddling, as it can significantly influence your baby’s comfort and safety.  

Swaddling can be particularly effective at bedtime or naptime. The snug wrap mimics the cozy, compact feeling of the womb, reducing startle reflexes that can wake your baby. A swaddled baby often finds it easier to drift off to sleep and stay asleep longer, granting both baby and parents a much-needed rest. 

If your baby is fussy before a nap or bedtime, the warm embrace of a swaddle can also provide comfort. You may also want to swaddle baby before or after breastfeeding to help them relax. Just remember to keep the swaddle loose after they eat for added comfort. 

The important thing to remember is that swaddling is meant for newborns. Once your baby shows signs of trying to roll over – typically around the 2-month mark – you should stop swaddling. Even though rolling over is a developmental milestone that occurs around the 5-month mark, stopping swaddling as soon as your little one becomes more active is best for their safety and development. 

How Long to Swaddle a Baby Per Day 

Most experts recommend parents keep their babies swaddled for 12–20 hours per day for the first few weeks after birth. As baby becomes more active, you should slowly begin to swaddle less to allow for them to practice their motor skills. Once your baby is rolling, a swaddle also poses a greater safety hazard if it becomes loose. 

A good rule of thumb is to swaddle baby during bedtime or naps. If baby is awake, let them move around. Also, make time for skin-to-skin contact with your newborn during these first precious weeks. 

How to Swaddle a Baby Step-by-Step Guide 

Mother swaddling baby

These easy steps for how to swaddle a baby with a blanket can help you master the art of the swaddle. 

Step 1: Lay the blanket in a diamond shape and fold the top corner of the blanket down. 

Step 2: Place the baby on their back, face-up on the blanket, with their neck at the fold. 

Step 3: Gently wrap one side over the baby, tucking it snugly beneath them. 

Step 4: Fold the bottom of the blanket up, leaving room for the baby’s legs to move. 

Step 5: Wrap the other side around the baby, securing the swaddle but ensuring their hips can move. 

Once your baby is swaddled, make sure to follow safe sleep practices. This includes placing baby on their back to sleep, never on their sides or stomachs. Make sure baby has their own crib to sleep in and keep any loose blankets, toys, and soft items out of their sleep area.  

Tips for How to Swaddle a Newborn Baby 

When you swaddle a newborn, make sure to use a light, breathable blanket. This helps ensure there isn’t too much pressure put on their chest and lungs. Also, do not swaddle baby too tightly since this can cause overheating and hip dysplasia. 

You should also consider whether you want to try the arms down vs arms up method. The former is the classic way that mimics the snugness of the womb. However, some babies prefer to sleep with their arms up so they can self-soothe. 

The best way to decide between arms up or down is to observe your baby’s sleep habits and preferences. Moving from an arms-down to an arms-up swaddle can also be helpful as you transition your little one out of swaddling. 

Swaddling Alternatives: From Blankets to Swaddle Suits 

A traditional swaddle blanket is often the go-to for providing babies with comfort. These blankets are lightweight, breathable, and the perfect size for wrapping up your little one. 

If you don’t want to swaddle, or if your baby is becoming more mobile, options like a swaddle suit or sleep sack are also great. These alternatives allow for babies to have more movement while keeping them warm and snug. Plus, there’s no risk of them coming off in the night and becoming a safety hazard.  

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