Should you swaddle your baby?

Swaddling has been around for thousands of years, and though it may sound outdated, some parents still use it and say that it helps with their babies’ sleep. Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping a baby up in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm, secured, and comforted. It is somewhat an art form: wrap this, tuck that.

Today, swaddling is used in most countries to help soother and encourage babies to sleep longer. This tight wrap of a swaddle is like the snug comfort babies experience in the womb. 

Why swaddle?

There are many advantages to swaddling your baby. Here are some reasons why you should swaddle your baby:

  • It protects your baby against its natural startle reflex.
  • It can help calm a colicky baby.
  • It can help your baby learn to self-soothe by imitating your touch and eliminating anxiety.
  • It can keep her hands off her face and helps prevent scratching.
  • It keeps your baby on her back while he sleeps longer and better.

What are the risks of swaddling my baby?

Swaddling your baby also carries some risks. It’s potentially unsafe if swaddling is not done correctly. There’s a risk of your baby overheating if she is wrapped around in too many blankets, in too thick or heavy covers, or if they are wrapped around too tightly.

How to swaddle, step-by-step.

Step 1. Find a flat surface. Spread your swaddling blanket out in the shape of a diamond with the bottom of the diamond pointing towards you and fold the top corner down about 6 inches.

Step 2. Place your baby face-up on the blanket. Her head should sit above the folded edge, and her body should extend straight down toward the bottom cover.  

Step 3. Straighten your baby’s left arm. Then take the left side of the blanket and wrap it over her left arm and chest. Tuck the blanket underneath her right arm and her back. Your baby’s left arm will be covered, but her right arm will be free.

Step 4. Fold the bottom of the swaddle blanket up over your baby’s feet. If the blanket is long enough, tuck it behind his shoulder.

Step 5. Secure the blanket. Complete the swaddle by pulling the remaining side of the swaddle up and over your baby’s remaining arm and across his body. 

The swaddle should be snug but not too tight. You should be able to place two to three fingers between your baby’s chest and the blanket, and the blanket should be loose around the hips so she can move her legs. Ensure to do it right and avoid danger or discomfort to your baby. Follow the safety tips below:

  • Don’t wrap too tight. Aim for a tight enough swaddle to hold your baby’s arms firm without completely immobilizing her entire body.
  • Always lay your baby down on her back after swaddling.
  • Stop swaddling your baby as soon as he can roll over.
  • Use light and breathable blanket for swaddling. Do not use thick covers or double up on blankets; this could cause your baby to overheat or be dislodged easier, which increases the risk of suffocation. 

Remember to do what is comfortable for you and your baby. If you’re not comfortable with swaddling, you can consider wearable blankets, sleep sacks, or one-piece sleepers to promote safe sleep. But rest assured that swaddling has been practiced for millennia, and parents have been wrapping their babies to sleep. With so many opportunities to practice, you can perfect your technique too! It can be a great way to get your baby to sleep better. And when your baby sleeps better, so do you.