Perhaps nothing is more beautiful to parents than a swaddled baby sleeping quietly and peacefully in a warm, comfy blanket. But, if you’ve never tried to swaddle a baby before, it can seem to be an unattainable mystery as to how to wrap your baby up so tightly and securely.
While swaddling a baby is only meant for a few months of a baby’s life, it’s a critical process to keep them safe and secure — and to put parents’ minds at ease. It doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve the perfect swaddle. As with many aspects of parenting, swaddling a baby is learned as you go. Practice makes perfect and education is crucial, so start by reading the information provided below.
Why Swaddle a Baby?
Before you even begin learning how to swaddle a newborn baby, you should know the answer to this important question: Why do you swaddle a baby?
There are many benefits of swaddling a baby — for the baby and for their parents. One of the biggest is the security and safety it provides to a newborn baby. It’s a big adjustment for a baby to go from the womb where they’ve spent the last nine months to the outside world, and swaddling a baby can help with that transition. Much like when a baby is in the uterus, a baby who is swaddled is warm, surrounded and comforted by the security of their environment.
In addition, swaddling a baby helps keep them relaxed and helps them maintain their sleep. All babies have a natural Moro reflex that can startle them awake when they are sleeping. It’s an instinctual move, designed to protect vulnerable babies from changes in the environment while they are asleep. A swaddled baby is much less likely to experience the Moro reflex, because their environment is stable — which, in turn, gives parents more of the relaxation and quiet they desire during naptime.
When you swaddle a baby, you also keep their fingernails away from their face, reducing the likelihood that they will scratch or injure themselves during their sleep.
How to Swaddle a Baby
Parents can find that swaddling a baby when they are fussy can help calm them down, by returning them to a calm and secure environment similar to the uterus. But, how exactly do you swaddle a baby?
The easiest way to swaddle a baby is to use swaddling material specifically created for this purpose. Often, these blankets will utilize Velcro or a zipper to make securing the baby easier. However, any blanket can work in a pinch.
We’ve described the best way to swaddle a newborn baby below, and you can view pictures of each step here, as well:
Step 1: Lay a square blanket down so it looks like a diamond. Fold the top corner to the center of the diamond so the top edge forms a straight line.
Step 2: Lay your baby face-up on the blanket so that their neck rests along the top edge.
Step 3: Hold her left arm close to her side, and then pull that side of the blanket across her body. Tuck the blanket under the right side of her body. It’s important that the baby’s arms are straight for this; otherwise, they will be able to wriggle out of the swaddle.
Step 4: Hold down the baby’s right arm, and bring the bottom corner of the blanket up and over the legs and the right arm. Tuck the corner of the blanket behind her right shoulder. Make sure to keep the bottom of the blanket loose so that the feet and legs and move around.
Step 5: Make sure to straighten the baby’s right arm, and pull the last corner of the blanket across their entire body. Wrap and tuck the end into the blanket behind her.
It is normal for your baby to initially struggle during the swaddling process. Keep in mind, the way that we go about swaddling babies is a bit different than how they rested in the womb. In a baby swaddle, they are unable to raise their arms up to their face. However, this doesn’t mean a baby doesn’t like to be swaddled. Be patient while swaddling, and follow up with other soothing methods like rocking and shushing.
Professionals highly recommend you begin swaddling a baby as early as possible to get them used to this kind of security and restriction.
How Long to Swaddle a Baby
Many parents wonder when to stop swaddling a baby. Babies can quickly outgrow their swaddling blankets, but some parents may be wary of halting this comforting process too early.
So, how long should you swaddle a baby?
A baby swaddle is not intended to be a long-term solution for fussy babies. As soon as a baby can roll over on their own, swaddling is no longer safe — as the baby could roll over and suffocate, being unable to use their arms to right themselves.
If you are looking for a timeline of when you should stop swaddling a baby, most professionals will recommend around 2 to 3 months old. Gently wean your baby out of a swaddle by swaddling with one, then two, arms out. Again, if you find your baby can roll over on his or her own, it’s time to stop the swaddling completely.
As for how long you should keep your baby swaddled, that will be up to you and your child. As long as your baby is comfortable and can move his or her hips and legs, he or she can remain swaddled for a while. Many parents will leave their baby swaddled throughout the night when they sleep. You will certainly know when to stop swaddling your baby, as he or she will cry or otherwise show their discomfort. Always speak with your pediatrician for more information on how long your baby should be swaddled.
As you get ready to swaddle your baby, remember this: Not all babies enjoy being swaddled, and that’s okay. It will take some time for both of you to get used to this new routine. Be patient when it comes to learning how to swaddle a baby, and don’t give up if it takes you a few times to get it right.
If you are struggling with how to swaddle your baby, consider taking some parenting classes or recruiting friends and family to help as you get used to this process. Remember, practice makes perfect.