The swaddle looks so easy when the nurse tightly wraps your newborn in their first blanket. Once you get home, however, you might be full of questions about how exactly to accomplish that perfect tuck. Review this guide to explore the most important swaddling dos and don'ts.
Why Swaddling Is Good For Babies
Why wrap babies tightly? That snug blanket helps your baby feel just as secure as he or she did in the womb. Many new parents also find that their infant sleeps better and longer with a nice tight swaddle, which will benefit your entire tired household. The gentle pressure of the wrap prevents your newborn from startling and waking up (a reflex in the early days of life as your baby adjusts to the sounds and stimuli of the world).
Swaddling Do's: Tips For New Parents
These strategies can help you become a swaddle master:
- Use a lightweight blanket made from muslin or cotton. These stretchy, soft fabrics are easy to wrap and prevent your baby from overheating. Signs that your little one needs a lighter blanket include a rapid heartbeat, flushed face and skin that feels warm to the touch.
- Lay the blanket in a diamond shape on a comfy surface, then fold the top corner down by about 6 inches to make a flap.
- Place your baby face-up so that the top edge of the blanket falls just below his or her head, feet pointing straight down.
- Gently move your baby's left arm down by his or her side. Then, fold the left side of the blanket over the left arm and chest and tuck it snugly under the right side of your baby.
- Fold up the bottom of the blanket over your baby's feet, then tuck that edge into the left side you just folded over.
- Repeat the left side steps with the right side of the blanket.
- Tuck in any loose ends at the bottom of the blanket so these edges are under your baby.
- If you get stuck, look at pictures of each step in the swaddling process or watch a video that walks you through it. Practice makes perfect!
- Always put your baby on his or her back to sleep. Doing so reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
If you can't get the hang of swaddling, look for a sleep sack. These adjustable blankets provide the sensation of a swaddle but have a special shape and Velcro flaps to simplify the process. If you have a premature infant, you can put his or her arms across the chest in the swaddle, which can enhance comfort and security.
The most important don't? Avoid swaddling your baby too snugly, which can affect hip and leg development. Wondering how to tell if swaddle is too tight? Try sliding two fingers between the wrap and your little one's chest. If they don't fit, it's too tight.
As mentioned above, don't put your baby to sleep on his or her side or stomach in the swaddle.
Some babies don't take to the swaddle, so don't force it if your little one resists the roll. You may want to take a break and try again when he or she calms down.
The swaddling stage doesn't last for long. Most babies grow out of their startle reflex by three or four months as they become more alert. Your active infant will likely begin to resist or kick out of the swaddle around this age.
Don’t feel overwhelmed with the swaddling process. Take your time and you will soon become a natural.