One of the first skills all parents should learn is swaddling babies.
A newborn is used to the snug environment of the mother’s womb. Swaddling will give them a similar feeling and make them feel calm and happy!
At the end of this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to swaddle your baby like a pro and turn them into a cute baby burrito!
How to Swaddle a Baby: 6 Easy Steps
Step 1: Find a Flat Surface
Before picking up your baby, find a comfy, flat surface where you can swaddle your baby.
The best surface we recommend is a firm mattress.
Place your swaddle blanket on the surface and orient it to the shape of a diamond.
Fold the top corner down about 6 inches or until it reaches the center of the swaddle blanket. This should create a flat edge at the top.
Step 2: Place Your Baby Face-up on the Blanket
After preparing the blanket, place your newborn face-up and on their back on top of the blanket.
Your baby’s neck and shoulders should be aligned with the top edge, with the head being just above it.
This can be a good time to try and prep your baby for swaddling. There will be times when your little one will be fussy and difficult to swaddle, so take your time and try to get them to relax before starting!
Step 3: Wrap the Left Corner
Straighten your baby’s right arm with your right hand while you grab the left corner of the swaddle blanket with your left hand.
Bring the left side of the blanket across your baby’s chest and wrap it under the body. The blanket should be covering your baby’s right arm while the left arm is still free.
Step 4: Bring Up the Bottom
After securing your baby’s right arm, fold up the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body and tuck it under the fold from the previous step. At this point, your baby’s left arm is still free.
Make sure to keep your baby’s feet and legs secure, but don’t make the bottom area too tight!
Step 5: Wrap the Right Corner
After that, straighten your baby’s left arm and bring the right side of the blanket across your baby’s chest. Wrap it over and around your baby’s entire body until you use up the entire length of the blanket.
Your baby’s body should be completely covered inside the blanket.
Voila! You’re done swaddling your baby!
Step 6: Inspect the Swaddle
After completing the swaddling process, make sure to check if your baby is swaddled properly.
Here are some points you should keep in mind:
- The swaddle should have a snug fit, but it shouldn’t be too tight.
- You should be able to place two fingers between the blanket and chest of your baby.
- The blanket should be loose around the legs and feet area, allowing some freedom of movement.
- The blanket should not be too loose and become a breathing hazard for your baby.
Do You Really Need to Swaddle a Newborn?
Yes, swaddling a newborn is necessary. Swaddling is the best way to keep newborns calm and happy while they’re trying to adapt to their new environment.
Medical professionals know this, which is why all newborns are swaddled when you see them at the hospital nursery!
Whether you use standard muslin swaddling blankets or more convenient cocoon-shaped ones, it would be best to master your swaddling technique as soon as possible.
Once you’re out of the hospital, nurses can’t swaddle your newborn for you anymore. Make sure to get the technique down so you can keep your baby warm and relaxed in their new home!
When to Stop Swaddling
The general rule is to stop when your baby turns 3-4 months old. Although according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can stop the swaddling phase as soon as your baby reaches 2 months of age.
By this time, some babies can already start to roll over to their stomachs. This makes swaddling dangerous.
Your baby might roll over in their sleep and won’t be able to use their hands to give themselves more breathing room.
This is a deadly breathing hazard and can be a risk to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)!
The American Academy of Pediatrics is one of the most reliable sources of information for all-things-baby, so it would be best to trust their information!
However, as reliable as the American Academy of Pediatrics is, every baby is still different. Some babies can stop being swaddled earlier, while others need a little more time.
To know when it’s already time to stop swaddling, you should look out for these 3 signs:
- Fewer occurrences/no occurrences of startle reflexes
- Your baby is starting to roll over
- Your baby is ALWAYS trying to break out of the swaddle
Once your baby starts to show any or all of these signs, that’s when you know it’s already time to transition out of swaddle blankets and start using a sleep sack instead.
Is Swaddling Safe?
Swaddling is safe for newborn babies up to the ages of 2-4 months. As long as your baby can’t roll over yet and still has startle reflexes, it would be best to swaddle your baby to keep them calm and safe.
When you swaddle a baby, you’re keeping their arms secure. This helps protect babies from their startle reflex, reducing the chances of waking themselves up in the middle of the night while they sleep!
The American Academy of Pediatrics also mentions how swaddling can help your baby sleep easier. To add to that, you should always follow the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines, whether you swaddle your baby or not.
Swaddle Your Baby Properly
The way you swaddle a newborn should also be correct to get all the benefits out of it. It shouldn’t be too tight, especially around the bottom area.
This can straighten the legs out and damage their hips and joints. Worst case scenario, this could lead to hip dysplasia in the future. Make sure to give some wiggle room to avoid this risk!
Your baby should be able to lift their legs in a natural position as if they didn’t have a swaddle on them.
On the other hand, you should also make sure you don’t swaddle your baby too loosely. Loose swaddle blankets can’t contain your baby’s reflexes effectively.
It also might become a breathing hazard for your little one, so make sure none of the fabric is covering your baby’s face.
Keep Your Baby Cool
Another safe sleep tip is to make sure you keep your baby cool. Sure, a swaddle is great at keeping them warm, but you don’t want to make them TOO warm.
Since your newborn is already inside a swaddle, avoid adding extra layers underneath. One layer of safe, organic baby pajamas should be enough.
Some signs that your baby might be too warm are flushed cheeks, damp hair, sweating, heat rash, and rapid breathing.
If you notice any of these signs, you should probably lessen the layers of clothes your baby is wearing.
Put Your Baby to Sleep on Their Back
It’s vital that you place your baby on their back when they sleep, with or without a swaddle. This is the safest sleep position for infants.
Swaddling newborns should be enough to keep them on their backs, but once they reach 2-4 months of age, it might be safest to transition out of the swaddle just in case they start rolling to the side.
When Should You Swaddle Your Newborn?
You should swaddle your newborn for their nighttime sleep and when they take naps during the day. You can also swaddle babies to soothe discomfort because of colic or gas.
You should continue swaddling your baby until they reach 2-4 months of age or start to roll over.
Is It Okay Not to Swaddle Your Baby?
A lot of parents swear that swaddling is the best way to soothe their babies. However, not all babies are the same, and your little one might not be a fan of swaddling.
Some babies become fussy and try to break out of a swaddle every chance they get!
If your baby falls under this category, you’re probably wondering if swaddling is still the right way to go.
As long as your newborn is still under 2-4 months of age, try your best to keep them swaddled as much as possible. The risks of not swaddling them can be too dangerous, so don’t give up on them yet!
If traditional swaddle blankets aren’t working well for them, you might want to experiment with cocoon-shaped swaddles instead.
These are more convenient to put on your baby too, so it won’t hurt to try.
You can also see if your baby is calmer if one or both of their arms are free from the swaddle. We talk more about this below, so read on!
Should You Swaddle Your Baby With Arms Up or Down?
For newborns who still have startle reflexes and haven’t started rolling over yet, it’s important to swaddle them with both arms down to their side.
However, if your baby is always fussy and won’t cooperate when both arms are swaddled, you can experiment with leaving one of their arms out.
Observe if this makes your baby feel calmer during their naps and nighttime sleep. If they do feel calmer, then there’s no harm having one of the arms out when they’re swaddled.
Eventually, your baby won’t need their arms to be swaddled, so it also pays to know how to swaddle them with both arms up.
How to Swaddle With Arms Up
Before swaddling your baby with arms up, make sure your baby doesn’t have startle reflexes anymore.
The swaddling technique will still be the same, except this time, you don’t have to keep their arms straight to their sides.
Instead, you can place them on their chest to still keep them warm while they’re swaddled.
As an alternative, you could also switch to swaddle transition suits or sleep sacks instead to make your life easier.
Keeping your little one as calm and happy as possible is a priority for all parents. Swaddling them will make them feel more comfortable, just like how they were in their mother’s womb!
We hope this step-by-step guide helped you learn how to swaddle a baby easily, effectively, and with care. Now, you can turn your little one into a baby burrito in no time!
If you’re ready to start swaddling, take a look at our guide on the best organic swaddle blankets to find the best swaddling products for your baby.
July 22, 2021 – reviewed and updated article links