A swaddled newborn is an adorable baby burrito. But swaddling isn’t just about the precious image it makes. Swaddling helps your newborn as they adjust to life in a big, broad world instead of the snugness of the womb. It also keeps the baby warm and comfortable, so they can sleep through the night without being chilled or startling themselves awake. However, if not done right, swaddling your baby could actually be dangerous. Here’s how to safely swaddle your newborn so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.
Use a Flat Surface
The middle of your bed or a large open area on the floor are two excellent places to swaddle your baby. You want plenty of room to lay your swaddling blanket out in a diamond shape, with one corner pointing up. Fold that corner down approximately six inches.
You can also use surfaces like a dining room table, counter, or even the cargo space in the back of a minivan or SUV in a pinch if you want to swaddle baby for a nap. Just make sure the surface isn’t too hot and that you don’t leave the baby unattended.
Place the Baby on Their Back on the Blanket
Once you’ve laid out the blanket, place your baby on the blanket. Place their head just above the folded down corner (so it’s not on the blanket) and their body in a straight line pointed toward the bottom corner of the blanket.
Do the Left Side
Take the baby’s left arm and place it against the side of their body. Fold the left side of the blanket over and tuck it under the right side of their body with the right arm free. Their left arm will be tucked inside the blanket while the right arm is free to move at this stage.
If you’re swaddling a preemie, you can instead tuck their hands at the center of their chest. This is more comforting to some premature babies. However, swaddling your baby with their arms at their sides helps prevent them from getting their arms out of the blanket and loosening the swaddle.
Bring up the bottom corner of the blanket and tuck it into the fold you just made beneath the baby’s chin. Straighten the baby’s right arm, and bring the right side of the blanket across the baby’s body and tuck it underneath them. Now both arms and the baby’s entire body are safely tucked in.
Secure the Blanket
Give the bottom of the blanket a gentle, loose twist and tuck it under the baby. Place the baby in their crib, playpen, bassinet, or other safe sleeping space and it’s time to take them out of the swaddle.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Swaddling should be snug enough that your baby can’t free themselves of the blanket, but loose enough that they can wiggle a little bit. They should be able to bend their hips and knees enough to kick a bit. Keeping the swaddle so tight that they can’t move their legs at all could actually damage their hips and cause problems in the future.
If your baby prefers having one or both arms free, follow the same steps outlined, but lift their arms before tucking swaddling blankets over and under their body. Some babies might want their legs to be free instead, so you can simply leave the blanket unsecured after their arms are wrapped.
If your baby is squirming and you can’t get a snug swaddle, try giving them a few minutes to get the wiggles out. You can also try gently rocking them to settle them before trying again.
Swaddling is a great way to soothe and settle your baby for a good sleep, whether it’s for a nap or for going to bed at night. While it might not guarantee that your baby doesn’t wake up all night, it can help them get more sleep, meaning that you can get a few extra ZZZ’s before they wake up too. And even a few extra winks are treasured when you’ve got a newborn.
About the author:
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. You can follow her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.