How to Swaddle your Baby

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Swaddling, many parents swear by it. Is it the baby sleep solution you have been searching for? Let’s get you up to speed on sleep techniques known as swaddling.

What is swaddling?

Swaddling is the practice of wrapping a blanket tightly around your baby’s body. The cocoon effect of the snug-fitting blanket can resemble the mother’s womb and helps soothe your baby to sleep.

It may surprise you that swaddling isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the practice has existed for over 4000 years. In biblical times cloth held tight by bandage-like strips was used to swaddle babies.

How to swaddle your baby for better sleep

Why should you swaddle your baby?

Research shows that swaddling not only keeps your baby warm and comfortable but can also assist in better longer sleep. Swaddling prevents babies one from startling themselves awake which can result in you getting a longer chunk of sleep.

What do I need to swaddle my baby?

For swaddling, you have two choices. You can either buy a purpose-designed fitted swaddle wrap or you can do it the old way, with a blanket. Which is right for you comes down to personal preference.

The Swaddle Blanket

If you are going to use a blanket to swaddle your baby you will want to make sure that it is made of a breathable material like cotton. This will help air circulate around your baby’s body and prevent over heating.

The disadvantages of using a blanket to swaddle is that you will need to perfect the technique for it to be effective. You do not want the blanket too tight or you can harm your baby. Too loose and the blanket will unfurl and the swaddling effect is lost.

Instructions on how to swaddle with a blanket are located further down in this guide. Once the technique is perfected, you will be able to swaddle your baby quickly and effortlessly.
bay swaddle blanket with giraffe and elephant print

Swaddle Blanket

Style: Various Designs.
Features:
– 100% Cotton muslin.
– Breathable.
– Soft.

Check it out

When shopping for a blanket suitable to swaddle try to stick to natural fibers such as cotton or bamboo. Swaddle blankets made of muslin, an open weave, light-weight cotton fabric that breaths incredibly well. Perfect for keeping your baby swaddled in comfort.

Swaddle blanket recommended sizes:

  • Newborns: 44 x 44 inches
  • Larger Babies: 47 x 47 inches

The Fitted Swaddle Wrap

There are many different swaddle wraps on the market. The problem with swaddle wraps is that all babies are not only different sizes but also wiggle differently as well. This means that you may have to a few different swaddle wraps before you find one that is suitable for your baby.

If you are uncoordinated like me and struggle with using a blanket to swaddle then swaddle wraps are a blessing. You simply place your baby in the wrap and fasten the sides. No practice or technique needed. Don’t believe me? Look at the picture below. Swaddling has never been easier.

three steps to using a swaddle wrap

On top of being easier to use than the traditional receiving blanket, swaddling wraps can come with extra features to make your life easier. More fancy versions, like the one below, will allow you to change your babies diaper without unwrapping your baby.
Adjustable swaddle wrap for babies

Swaddle Wrap

Style: Various Designs.
Features:
– Soft.
– Breathable.
– Leg pouches open for easy diaper change.

Check it out

How to swaddle your baby with a blanket

Like tying a tie knot, there is more than one way to swaddle a baby. I was originally taught the swaddling method that is promoted on healthychildren.org, a website run by the American Academy of Pediatrics. When I finally got the hang of using a blanket to swaddle I found it a safe and effective swaddling technique.

Swaddling is easier learned by watching rather than reading. The short video below covers how to effectively swaddle your baby. For those of you who prefer written swaddling instructions, you can find them below the video.

Instructions

  1. Place the blanket flat in a diamond shape. Fold the top point of the diamond down towards you.
  2. Place your baby face-up on the blanket with the head sitting off the folded edge of the blanket. Ensure that your baby’s shoulders are below the fold.
  3. Straighten your baby’s right arm and wrap the left corner of the blanket over the body and tuck it under your baby’s left side.
  4. Pick up the blanket at the bottom and fold it loosely over your babies legs
  5. Straighten your baby’s left arm and wrap the right corner of the blanket over your babies body and tuck it under the bottom
  6. Check the tightness of the swaddle. You want to be able to get at least two fingers between your baby’s chest and swaddle.
  7. Check to make sure that the hips can easily move.

Troubleshooting for Houdini babies

Are you scratching your head as to how your baby escaped the swaddle like a magician? here are the common factors that can contribute to an unsuccessful swaddle.

  • The wrap was not tight enough.
  • One or both arms not being straight, allowing them to wiggle free.
  • You didn’t pull the blanket corners right round the baby
  • The wrap you are using is too small

It may take a few tries before you perfect your swaddling technique. Hang in there, it will get much easier with practice. Pretty soon you will be swaddling like a pro.

What a baby should wear when being swaddled

With the swaddle covering your whole baby’s body, its easy to forget that there are clothes underneath.

Rule of thumb, count the swaddle as a layer of clothing. In summer its fine to have your baby in nothing more than a nappy underneath the swaddle. In winter, a light onesie. Use your best judgment to determine the correct amount of clothing and watch for any signs that your baby is uncomfortable.

Never use a hat while swaddling. A hat can easily slip over your baby’s nose and mouth. With your baby unable to move his arms, the hat can pose a serious suffocation risk. Rather than use a hat, try to keep your baby in the shade when swaddled.

What are the risks associated with swaddling?

On top of not letting your little one wear a hat when being swaddled, there are some other risks you need to be aware of.

  • Watch the temperature
    Swaddling can increase the risk of your baby overheating. Use breathable material for swaddling and Look for signs that your baby is getting too hot such as sweating, flushed cheeks and rapid breathing.
  • Let those hips waggle
    If a baby is swaddled too tightly then there is a risk of hip problems such as hip dyplasia. Practice “hip-healthy swaddling”. Your baby should still be able to bend his or her legs up and out.
  • Place your baby on the back to sleep
    Watch your baby sleep to be sure your little one does not roll over while swaddled.

Swaddling, when done correctly and safely, can be surprisingly effective at soothing your baby.

When to stop swaddling

The problem is that swaddling can be so effective that some babies will refuse to go to sleep without it, even when they can rollover. Fortunately, there are many products on the market to help keep your baby sleeping safely while still providing that swaddled comfort.

The most commonly used product to solve the problem is an arm-free swaddle. Arm-free swaddles allow your baby free use of his or her arms while still providing that snug feeling across the chest.

With the arms being unrestricted, your little baby will be free to use his or her arms to roll back over should the need arise.
Baby sleeping in an arm free swaddle

Arm Free Swaddle Wrap

Style: Various Designs.
Features:
– Soft.
– Comfortable yet secure.
– Leg pouches open for an easy diaper change.

Check it out

A less common swaddle that prevents the risk of suffocation attaches directly to your baby’s mattress. The swaddle locks your baby in position preventing the possibility of your little one rolling over.

I have tried this swaddle on both of my children without success. Once they were able to roll over they hated having this device lock them into position on their back.

While I had no luck with this swaddle, other parents swear by it. If the idea of preventing your little baby from rolling over in his sleep appeals to you, then you could give it a go. Be warned, it does come with a hefty price tag.

Swaddling in action

I had to include this video of a baby’s screams coming to a complete halt after being swaddled and rocked. The effect is almost instant. I can picture all of you staring wide-eyed in jealousy. I wish it was this simple.

And that brings me to the end of yet another option to get your baby to sleep. Parents either love or hate swaddling and nothing in between. What are your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “How to Swaddle your Baby”

  1. My newborn sleeps so much longer when swaddled. A few times, I’ve even had to wake him for his feedings because he intended to just sleep on through feed-time!!

    Reply
    • Glad to hear you had success with swaddling, Elise. Swaddling is definitely a great way to help soothe many newborns. I just wish my firstborn child was one of the success stories!

      Reply

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