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How to Swaddle a Baby – A Guide for New Parents

There is nothing more precious in life than seeing your newborn baby for the very first time. As you hold your sweet newborn in your arms, you know that from this point forward your life will never be the same. And it’s in this moment, that you realize you’ll do whatever it takes to keep your sweet child healthy and happy for the rest of your life. Learning how to swaddle your new baby is a great first step to keeping them happy and calm in the outside world.

As a part of your new commitment to this tiny human, you set out to read all of the books and articles you can get your hands on. But what you notice quickly, is that while reading about babies is one thing, actually taking care of them is entirely different.

After all, a lot of parenting is accomplished through trial and error. And discovering what works best for your baby and family as a whole is all a part of the journey. Because within a few short days, you’ll be sent home from the hospital with this little bundle of joy, and that’s when the real fun begins.    

To make this journey into parenting a little bit easier for you—and a whole lot less intimidating—we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on swaddling.

In it, you’ll find everything you need to know about swaddling and simple swaddling instructions that anyone can try at home.

What is Swaddling?

Swaddling is an age old practice many parents use to safely and securely wrap their baby in a lightweight blanket. Doing so gently restricts the movement of the baby’s limbs and helps them feel more secure.

Interestingly enough, parents have been swaddling babies for hundreds of years. And it’s all thanks to a startle reflex babies have at the time of birth. This startle reflex—called the Moro reflex—can affect your baby during both their waking and sleeping hours.

If you’ve ever noticed your baby suddenly splaying their arms and legs, jerking their head, and arching their back, these are all signs that their Moro reflex may have been triggered. While completely natural, newborn babies are often startled by things like bright light, loud noises, sudden movements, and even the sensation of falling.

In fact, in some babies, the Moro reflex can even be overactive, causing them to exhibit these signs more often than would be considered normal. And this can be very unsettling to babies who have this issue.

Fortunately though, swaddling helps to reduce or even eliminate the Moro reflex in young babies while they’re wrapped up, which in turn, allows them to rest without the constant interruption of being startled.

how to swaddle a baby

Swaddling Benefits

There are many benefits to swaddling your baby the first few months of their life. 

For starters, swaddling infants:

  • Puts the baby in a similar position to that in the womb
  • Helps them feel safe and cozy
  • Regulates the baby’s temperature
  • Allows them get more restful quiet sleep for longer periods of time
  • Helps to calm infants

Furthermore, swaddling prevents your baby from rolling over onto their stomach or scratching their face while they sleep. Plus, it can reduce colic and the risk of SIDS.

As if that were not enough, swaddling can make it easier for nursing mothers to breastfeed their child, especially late at night. And a sleeping baby means that everyone else in the house has a better chance of enjoying a restful night as well. 

Is Swaddling Safe?

Swaddling is very safe for your baby when it’s done correctly. In reality, it’s far safer than placing comfort items in your baby’s crib such as stuffed animals, blankets, or pillows—which are all considered by medical professionals to be suffocation hazards for children at this age.

Of course, safety concerns are always at the top of every parent’s mind. So, it’s only natural to question whether or not swaddling is safe for your baby.

To alleviate your concerns, keep the following in mind when swaddling your baby:

  • Always ensure that no portion of the blanket is ever in contact with your baby’s mouth, nose, or eyes when they are swaddled.
  • Be sure that the swaddling blanket is securely wrapped around your child so that it will never come loose.
  • Avoid wrapping the blanket so tightly that your baby’s arms and legs are forced into unnatural positions, their circulation is cut off, they can’t breathe properly, or their hips are displaced.
  • Always use a lightweight blanket or sleep sack to swaddle your baby so they do not get overheated.
  • Transition away from swaddling your baby once they can roll over onto their stomach easily, typically around 2-4 months of age.
  • Once your child is too old to be swaddled in a blanket, consider using a sleepsack to enjoy many of the same benefits of swaddling.

Swaddling Instructions

While swaddling a wiggly newborn may seem difficult at first, with a little practice, you can certainly master the art of swaddling your baby. 

As a matter of fact, there are several different ways to do it correctly, so you can experiment a bit and determine which swaddling techniques works best for you. 

To help you get started on your swaddle skills, here are 3 different ways to swaddle your baby with simple, easy to understand instructions: 

A. The Triangle Swaddle

  1. Fold a swaddling blanket into the shape of a triangle and lay it flat on the floor.
  2. Place your baby face up in the center of the blanket with their shoulders resting just below the top fold of the blanket.
  3. Take your baby’s right arm and gently place it along their right side. Then, fold the right side of the blanket across the baby’s chest and tuck it underneath them, making sure to leave the baby’s left arm free. 
  4. Next, fold the bottom of the blanket up over the baby’s feet and tuck the end of the fabric into the top of the blanket near the center of the baby’s chest.
  5. Lastly, take your baby’s left arm and gently place it along their left side. Then, fold the left side of the blanket across the baby’s chest and tuck it underneath them.

 B. The Diamond Swaddle

  1. Lay a swaddling blanket flat on the floor so that it makes a diamond shape in front of you.
  2. Pull the top pointed corner of the blanket down a couple of inches then lay it flat on top of the blanket. 
  3. Place your baby in the center of the blanket with their shoulders resting just below the top fold of the blanket.
  4. Take your baby’s right arm and gently place it along their right side. Then, fold the right side of the blanket across the baby’s chest and tuck it underneath them, making sure to leave the baby’s left arm free.
  5. Next, take your baby’s left arm and gently place it along their left side. Then, fold the left side of the blanket across the baby’s chest and tuck it underneath them.
  6. Lastly, fold the bottom of the blanket up over the baby’s feet and tuck the end of the fabric into the top of the blanket near the center of the baby’s chest.

C. The Sleepsack Swaddle

  1. Place the baby inside the sleepsack and close the zipper.
  2. Take your baby’s right arm and gently place it along their right side. Then, fold the right wing of the sleepsack across the baby’s chest and tuck it underneath them, making sure to leave the baby’s left arm free. 
  3. Lastly, take your baby’s left arm and gently place it along their left side. Then, fold the left wing of the sleepsack across the baby’s chest, securing it to the sleepsack itself with the snap or velcro.

Some babies prefer to not have their hands restricted when swaddling. There are special swaddle up sleep sacks that allow your baby to maintain some hand movement while still getting the benefits of a swaddle.

Remember, a big part of being a parent is trying out new things and seeing what works best for you and your child. There are several different ways to swaddle your newborn safely and effectively. 

Feel free to try each of them out and discover which one you like most.  

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