Looking for a simple way to calm your baby? Try swaddling. Swaddling is when you wrap a baby gently in a lightweight blanket from the neck down, a bit like a burrito.
Swaddled babies tend to sleep longer and cry less, possibly because they feel secure. Being swaddled helps keep babies from startling themselves awake. It also helps them feel snug and warm like they did in the womb.
If you’re new to swaddling, you may be wondering where to start. Here are some tips on how to swaddle your baby safely. And always reach out to your pediatrician if you need further guidance.
6 Steps on How to Swaddle a Baby
Follow these simple swaddling steps to help calm and comfort your little one.
1. Spread out a blanket and fold one corner down.
Choose a lightweight cotton blanket—do not use a weighted blanket. On a flat surface, spread the blanket like a diamond and fold the top down to the bottom corner to form a triangle. As your baby grows, you may only have to fold the top corner slightly.
2. Place your baby's head above the fold.
Lay your baby on their back with their neck and head above the fold at the top of the blanket. Babies should not be swaddled above their shoulders.
3. Wrap one side of the blanket over the body, arms inside.
Hold one of your baby’s arms against their side, and wrap the blanket around them from one side to the other.
4. Tuck the blanket underneath your baby.
Hold the blanket taut and tuck the extra material from the blanket under their back.
5. Fold up from the bottom.
Fold the bottom corner of the blanket diamond up to the baby’s shoulder. Make sure your baby's legs can bend and that the blanket isn't wrapped too tightly.
6. Wrap the other side.
With your baby’s other arm at their side, wrap the other side of the blanket across the body and tuck it under.
When swaddling, make sure the blanket is taut but not too tight. You should be able to fit two to three fingers between their chest and the blanket. You can also look to your baby for cues: If they look uncomfortable, the swaddle might need to be loosened.
Always lay your baby on their back on a firm, flat surface. Playing some soothing sounds can help them drift off to sleep. Monitor your little one to make sure they don’t roll over while swaddled.
Now that you’ve swaddled your little bundle, enjoy the extra calm a swaddled baby can bring. Still need a little help? Watch the swaddle video above for a tutorial.
How long can a baby stay in their swaddle?
If your baby seems comfortable and has enough room for their hips and legs to move, they can be swaddled during sleep time. Don't swaddle them when they are awake and active.
When to stop swaddling a baby
Swaddling is just for newborns. For safety reasons, you should stop swaddling your baby once they show indications they are trying to roll over, such as:
- Pushing up on their hands and arching their back during tummy time
- Moving a leg across their body while lying on their back
- Scooting in a circular motion and kicking their legs while on their back
- Rolling the hips from side to side, which is an indication of hip strength
- Using swimming arm motions during tummy time
This milestone typically happens between four and seven months but can be as early as two months. Always check with your pediatrician for guidance on when to stop swaddling.
How to transition out of swaddling
If your baby is ready to transition out of swaddling, here are some methods that may help make the change smoother
Do a one-arm swaddle. Swaddle your baby, but leave one arm out for a couple of weeks. After they have adjusted well to one arm out, try both arms, eventually removing the entire swaddle.
As your baby becomes comfortable with their arms out, consider transitioning to a sleep sack or wearable blanket.
Remove the swaddle at night. Remove the swaddle for your baby’s nighttime sleep, but re-swaddle on their first night waking. Cuddle and soothe them, and as your baby adjusts, you can wean your baby off the swaddling when they wake up.
Once nighttime becomes easier, move on to removing the swaddle at nap time using the same method.
Cold turkey. Remove the swaddle entirely and observe how your baby responds. Some babies are good at self-soothing and will adjust quickly. Other babies may need more time, and a gradual transition using the other methods will be better.
As you try to get your baby to sleep without a swaddle, create a cozy environment conducive to slumber. Turn down the lights, remove any distractions, and consider using a white noise machine. Take it slow and be patient—and as always, reach out to your healthcare provider with any questions.
Is swaddling safe?
Swaddling is a safe way to comfort your baby when it is done correctly. It is important to follow the proper guidelines for swaddling and look to your pediatrician for guidance.
Swaddling is unsafe once your baby indicates they are trying to roll over. Always monitor your baby and follow other safe-sleep recommendations:
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back on a firm, flat surface.
- Avoid the use of weight swaddles or blankets.
- Don’t keep pillows, toys, loose blankets, bumpers, or other soft items in your baby’s sleeping area.
- Avoid over-bundling that could lead to overheating. Make sure the clothes they’re wearing suit the room temperature.
- Don’t let your baby sleep with a hat or anything covering their face.
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