Humans have swaddled their babies for a very long time. Swaddling seems to help newborn babies sleep better. But it has to be done just right. If you want to give swaddling a try, there are a few things you need to know.

How to Swaddle a Baby

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is how you swaddle a baby:

What You Need

You need a blanket that’s big enough. Receiving blankets will work for a newborn baby, but babies outgrow the blankets before the need for swaddling disappears. Below is a link to one of the blankets I’m currently using. The Safari-themed blanket is pretty big, which works well for an older baby who still likes to be swaddled. It also makes swaddling easier if your baby is on the chunky side. I really like the feel of the fabric of this blanket, too. But you can also purchase swaddling blankets at Wal-Mart. While they’re not as big, they are certainly large enough to swaddle my 4-month-old who already weighs 18 lbs.

The 5 Most Common Swaddling Mistakes

When it comes to swaddling, it’s easy to get it wrong.

  1. Not swaddling tightly enough: Loose blankets present a suffocation hazard. If your baby can get his arms out of the swaddle, then you didn’t swaddle him tightly enough. Many parents are worried about swaddling too tightly and restricting movement and blood flow. This is not really possible when using lightweight stretchy blankets for swaddling.
  2. Not straightening baby’s arms: If your baby’s arms are bent, then it’s easier for him to get them out of the blanket. It may seem mean, but restraining his arms is what helps make him feel cozy and protected.
  3. Not keeping baby’s legs bent: If your baby’s legs are straightened when you swaddle him, then he may not stay swaddled for long. As soon as he bends his legs, the blanket will come loose.
  4. Not lining up baby’s neck with the top of the blanket properly: If the blanket is too low, then your baby will get his arms out. If the blanket is too high, then the blanket will cover his face.
  5. Not including baby’s arms in the swaddle: Newborn babies sleep better with their arms swaddled. As your baby gets older you can leave one or both arms out to see if he is ready for it.

It’s important to NEVER EVER put a swaddled baby to sleep on his tummy. And once your baby is old enough to roll over, you should top swaddling altogether.

Swaddling Doesn’t Fix Everything

Swaddling is only one thing you can do to help soothe your baby. Some babies need a lot more than that to calm down (rocking, shushing, etc.). But before you swaddle your baby, you need to make sure all of her needs have been met (she is fed, burped, changed, etc.). It’s also important to pay attention to her body temperature (check her neck to make sure she is not too cold or too hot). The swaddling blanket counts as an extra layer of clothing, so you need to think about that when you dress her.
If you already co-sleep or babywear, then you may never end up swaddling your baby. Otherwise, swaddling can be a real lifesaver for some parents. If you’re interested to read more about swaddling, why it helps your baby sleep, and how to do it right, you should read The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. Happy swaddling!
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