Swaddling is something that we mamas have been doing for millennia. And there are plenty of good reasons why we do it. It replicates the warmth and security of our touch, for one. And it calms a baby that may startle themselves awake.
In most mamas’ experience, swaddling helps babies sleep better. And that means it helps you sleep better too. Win-win!
But how to swaddle a baby? As with so many parts of motherhood, it’s not something you just know. But to ensure your baby is safe, comfy, and secure, there are some things you sure need to get straight before you swaddle.
With that in mind, here’s a step by step guide on how to swaddle a newborn baby. We’ve got swaddling techniques and tips – and a bit of advice on when to stop swaddling, too.
How do you swaddle a baby? Step by step
Let’s start with the basics. Swaddling’s not just wrapping them up and hoping for the best. But while it shouldn’t be too tricky, it is useful to get it right. Otherwise it may not help your little one at all.
This is our step-by-step guide to swaddling. But bear in mind that other women might have different ways. There’s probably a swaddling method for every mama out there. And that’s okay with us!
What you need to get started? A blanket, a comfy surface, and your little sleepyhead.
Step 1: Blanket + baby
To start, place your blanket, sheet, or muslin flat onto a surface and fold down the top corner. We find it helps to make a triangle pointing towards you. Once this is down, lay your baby face up on the blanket so that their shoulders are just below the folded edge.
Step 2: The first corner
Now, hold your baby still, with their right arm relaxed alongside their body (or their left – whichever is easier). Take the corner of the same side of the blanket and fold it securely over baby’s chest and right arm. With your little one’s left arm still free, tuck the blanket beneath their body.
One little piece of advice here. The blanket should be nice and secure. More on that below.
Step 3: Wrap up those feet
From here, take the corner of the blanket at baby’s feet. That’s the one pointing toward you. Fold it up over their feet and legs and tuck it into the swaddle at their chest. Again, secure is best, but not too tight. Their legs want to be nice and relaxed.
Step 4: Polishing it off
Now, we repeat step 2 but on the other side. Hold their free left arm gently at their side and pull the free corner of the blanket securely over their chest. Then, again, tuck it beneath your baby to make sure it stays in place.
There you have it: a comfy and secure swaddled baby!
Tips for swaddling a baby safely
While swaddling a baby is an age-old practice, some clever doctors have pointed out that it’s not always a good idea. With that in mind, here are a couple of tips to make sure you’re doing it in the best way for your baby.
Keep your baby on their back
When your baby is swaddled, it is important that they stay on their back.
This might sound counterintuitive, as many mamas find that their babies sleep better on their front or sides. However, a study found that, when swaddled, the risk of babies suffering breathing issues during their sleep was much higher when on their front or side.
Simply, being on their back stops them getting all tangled up in any loose blanket.
Secure, not tight
Loose fabrics and sleeping babies shouldn’t mix. When your little one moves around too much among loose sheets and things, the chances of smothering increase.
When swaddling your baby, we recommend making sure that the blanket is secure and can’t come loose. But that doesn’t mean do it tightly. Your baby needs space to breathe – and they want to be comfortable. For the same reason, they should never be swaddled around the neck or head.
Secure, not tight, is the keyword when swaddling.
Keep the legs relaxed
Recent research has pointed out another potential risk of swaddling. To let their joints develop properly into adulthood, babies want to lift up their legs at the hips. That means they need a bit of space and freedom around the hips to move a little – and to avoid too much pressure on the joints.
The same thing is true if babies are swaddled too often. They just don’t get the opportunity to move as much as is necessary. Bear it in mind – and consider giving them a little freedom.
Are you supposed to swaddle a newborn at night?
Swaddling a newborn baby at night can be a good idea – as it can help them (and therefore you!) get to sleep. However, you need to be sure that they are not going to roll over.
It’s best if you monitor them, as recommended by the AAP. And ultimately stop swaddling when they are becoming old enough to be moving around at night.
How long do you swaddle a baby after birth?
When your little one starts to move too much, it’s best to stop swaddling. It is only really safe to swaddle when they lay on their back – and when you can be sure that they’re going to stay there.
Babies usually tend to show signs of trying to roll at about two months (though every baby is different). From then on, they’ll want a bit more freedom.
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