How to Swaddle a Baby: Your Step-by-Step Guide

How to Swaddle a Baby: Your Step-by-Step Guide

Swaddling is something that we mamas have been doing for millennia. And there are plenty of good reasons why we do it. But do you know how to swaddle a baby?
In most mamas’ experience, swaddling helps babies sleep better. And that means it helps you sleep better too. Win-win!

It replicates the warmth and security of our touch, for one. And it calms a baby that may startle themselves awake.

But do you know how to swaddle your baby? Or how long to swaddle baby? As with so many parts of motherhood, it’s not something you just know.

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.

In this article: 📝

  • What is swaddling?
  • Do you have to swaddle a newborn?
  • Benefits of swaddling
  • Is swaddling safe?
  • How to swaddle a baby: step-by-step
  • Safe swaddling techniques, FAQs, and tips

What is swaddling?

Before we get started, what is swaddling?

Simply put, swaddling is a technique of dressing baby for sleep in a breathable blanket ‒ tightly, securely, and safely.

It’s basically a baby burrito swaddle!

Do you have to swaddle a newborn?

Swaddling your baby is a choice.

Some experts recommend it, others advise against it ‒ but it all depends on what you think is right for your family.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that, should you choose to swaddle baby, it can help them sleep quickly and more soundly.

It’s all about your swaddling technique, making sure you don’t swaddle too tightly, and practicing how to swaddle baby.

Benefits of swaddling

So are there any benefits to swaddling a little baby burrito?

There can be a few, should you choose to swaddle baby:

  • Baby sleeps quicker. Swaddling can mimic similar conditions to the womb, so it can help baby to feel safer and fall asleep faster.
  • Baby sleeps more soundly. Know about hypnagogic jerks? They’re that feeling you get when you’re falling asleep, and you get the sensation you’re falling, then you jolt yourself awake. Baby gets those, too. But swaddling baby can reduce this startle reflex for a sounder sleep.
  • Baby stays warm. If you’re worried about baby getting chilly on a cold winter night, swaddling can help keep their sleep temperature just right.

Is swaddling safe?

When done right, swaddling is totally safe for baby.

There are just a few key things to bear in mind, which we’ll dive into later on:

  • Keep baby on their back
  • Don’t swaddle too tightly
  • No loose fabrics near baby
  • Make sure baby’s not too hot (if they’re sweating, have rosy cheeks, heat rash, or are breathing fast, they’re too hot).

How to swaddle a baby: step-by-step

Let’s start with the basics. Swaddling’s not just wrapping baby 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 newborn swaddling. But bear in mind that other women might have different ways.

There isn’t one “best” swaddle technique ‒ there’s probably a swaddling method for every mama out there. And that’s okay with us!

What do you need to get started? A blanket, a comfy surface, and your little sleepyhead.

Step 1: Blanket + baby

To start, place your baby wrap 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 baby wrap 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 baby burrito swaddle!

Safe swaddling techniques, FAQs, and tips

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, along with some swaddling baby FAQs.

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 from getting all tangled up in any loose blanket.

Can you swaddle too tightly?

How do you know how tight to swaddle baby? After all, 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. You should be able to fit two or three fingers between baby’s chest and the swaddle to make sure it’s not too tight.

Baby arm position when swaddling

Next question when it comes to your baby swaddle:arms up or down?

Typically, when swaddling baby, arms down is the norm ‒ straight down by their sides, not crossed over their chest.

But can you do a baby swaddle “arms up”? When they have their arms up, it can be easier for baby to flip themselves over so they’re not on their back, which can lead to an increased risk of SIDS, according to the AAP.

Keep baby’s 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.

Should I swaddle my 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.

Should you swaddle for naps?

It’s totally up to you ‒ you can choose to swaddle for naps, for general ‘calm’ time (like if baby has colic), or just for nighttime.

That’s all there is to know about how to swaddle a baby, how long to swaddle, and swaddling techniques for safe sleep.

Share your baby burrito pictures with the other mamas on Peanut!

💡 You might like:
How Many Swaddles Do I Need?
How to Dress Baby For Sleep
Baby Sleep Training 101
How Much Do Newborns Sleep? A Rough Guide
The Bedtime Routine: The Foundation for a Good Night’s Sleep
All About the Baby Sleep Cycle
5 Things I Wish I Knew About Baby Sleep as a First-Time Mama
Newborn Sleep Schedule: Rough Patterns and Timings
How Safe Is Co-Sleeping?
When to Stop Using a Sleep Sack for Your Baby
Bringing Your Newborn Baby Home from Hospital
Baby Car Seat Installation: How to Install A Car Seat

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