How To Swaddle A Baby – Step By Step Guide For First Time Parents

How To Swaddle A Baby – Step By Step Guide For First Time Parents

Mothers have been swaddling their babies for centuries and that is the first thing a nurse does when a baby is born. There is a reason and importance for knowing how to swaddle a baby. It soothes and comforts them when they are distraught. It helps the babies get longer, more restful sleep. It reduces fidgeting during sleep, so they are less likely to end up on their stomachs (which is deadly). 


You may be interested in learning how to swaddle your infant properly to calm and soothe them. This will allow you both to get some more sleep. Read on to learn more about how to swaddle a baby, the benefits of swaddling and when to stop swaddling. Nowadays, there are several great clothing lines to swaddle your baby for you so you don't have to wrestle with the corners of the blankets while your child is fussy. However, if this is not a financially viable option, you can still swaddle your child in four easy steps with nothing more than a blanket.

What Are The Benefits Of Swaddling?

There are a multitude of benefits to swaddling your infant. These include longer, sounder sleep, soothing babies when they are upset, and reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. 

 

Longer, Sounder Sleep

Rest is important for us all but especially newborns as they are growing so rapidly. Babies sleep around 16 hours per day, but this is usually in intervals of three to four hours. Research shows newborns get more REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep when swaddled. This deeper sleep not only ensures more rest, but also makes it less likely for the infant to fully awaken when roused from slumber. This means less frequent trips to your baby's crib to lull him or her back to sleep.


Soothe A Crying Baby

Imagine being able to calm your wailing baby with just a blanket and a few simple folds. Learn how to swaddle a baby and you won't have to imagine. Research shows that in infants eight weeks old and younger, swaddling reduces crying by 42%. This two months of increased peace will help you rest and is important for both you and your baby. Babies spend nine months in the womb with not a lot of space to move around. As newborns, they have a Moro or startle reflex, where if one of their limbs experiences too much movement, they will be startled and begin to cry out in fright. This is the same as the free-falling experience that terrifies many adults. Swaddling has been a scientifically proven method of calming infants since the 1960s.


If your baby does not wake up in terror in the middle of the night, he or she will experience a lowered heart rate and normal breathing. This means there will be no undue strain on your baby's heart, diaphragm or lungs.


Reduced Risk Of SIDS

Sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is one of a mother's worst nightmares. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are at much greater risk of this occurring. If you properly learn how to swaddle a baby, he or she will not roll onto their stomach and suffocate to death in their sleep.


When Not To Swaddle Your Baby

There are certain circumstances under which it is not appropriate to swaddle your baby. 

  • Do not swaddle your baby if he or she is actively resisting. This is meant so calm and soothe babies, not punish them. It may be that your infant is resisting the tightness of the swaddle, so try a lighter weight blanket if this is the case. If your swaddle is too tight, this can lead to joint problems including hip dysplasia and knee pain. 
  • Do not swaddle your baby if you co-sleep. Babies cannot move the covers away from their faces if they begin to suffocate and cannot alert you if you are too close. 
  • Do not swaddle babies who can roll over on their own. This usually occurs at around two months or eight weeks. All babies develop differently, though, so look for signs like activity during tummy time that your baby is ready to stop being swaddled. 
  • Do not swaddle babies in hot environments. If you live in warmer climates such as the Midwest or Southeast and do not have effective or any air conditioning, take steps to reduce the likelihood of your baby overheating. 

Remember to always place your baby on his or her back when it is time for bed and avoid loose fitting sheets or blankets that could lead to suffocation. Remove stuffed animals, pillows and any other choking or suffocation hazards before putting your baby down for the night.

When To Stop Swaddling

It is just as important to know when to stop swaddling as it is how to swaddle a baby. Parents commonly reduce the amount of swaddling after one month when babies can hold their heads up by themselves. However, research suggests a baby can benefit from swaddling for up to eight weeks. After this point, swaddling begins to inhibit motor control and may lead to joint pain. Furthermore, once babies are more independently active, the swaddle will not prevent them from rolling onto their stomachs but will pose a risk of suffocation. When you feel your baby is making great strides in their mobility, remove one limb from the swaddle at a time at night or loosen the swaddle to form more of a gentle baby burrito. 

Step-By-Step Guide

There are several methods on how to swaddle a baby. 


Lay a blanket on a flat surface, making sure it is at least 40" by 40". Slightly fold one corner and lay your baby on top of the folded corner, ensuring his or her head is above the edge of the blanket.


Hold your infant in place and pull an edge across his or her chest. Your blanket should now have gone from a diamond to a triangle. Gently tuck this edge underneath the baby's torso.


Fold the bottom of your blanket up towards your baby's face. Leave enough room for the feet to move slightly so baby does not feel too constricted or overheat, but make sure it is difficult to flail. This will give baby the feeling of being back inside the womb, safe, secure and warm without overheating the baby.


Wrap the remaining corner of the blanket around the baby's chest and tuck the edge underneath the torso. Only your baby's head and neck will be exposed and you can enjoy reduced crying and longer, deeper slumber.

Swaddling Swag

Some mothers are fortunate enough to receive baby shower gifts from friends, family and coworkers. You will be spending enough money on clothing as your baby grows, so if you have a gift registry, ask for swaddling clothes at your baby shower. 

smiling baby
  • Woombie offers a one-zip option that makes swaddling your baby as simple as possible. 
  • The Miracle Blanket is made up of 100% cotton and you will not have to worry about coordinating corners with a fussy, thrashing baby screaming and struggling against your attempts to soothe and calm. 
  • The Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap only swaddles baby's arms, so there is no risk for hip dysplasia, luxation of the knee or any other joint issues below the waist. It is great for any weather and totally cute!
  • Swaddle Up and Zipadee-Zip are two great options for transitioning your baby away from swaddling, so you don't have to worry about the correct pressure while reducing the swaddling and wrestling the blanket against your baby. 
  • SwaddleMe is a very affordable Velcro option for parents who cannot afford zippers. 
  • Halo Sleepsack is ideal for babies living in colder climates to keep them warm at night, particularly if you do not have the best heat. 
  • Lilbaby is an affordable option for swaddling made of 100% organic cotton muslin and ideal for both the diamond and square methods of swaddling. 
  • Aden + Anais muslin swaddle plus is made from 100% lightweight cotton muslin to reduce the risk of your baby overheating during the night.  

Conclusion

Swaddling provides many benefits for your baby including longer, more restful sleep, a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome and soothing when crying. While there are several methods for swaddling a baby, you can learn how to swaddle a baby in just four easy steps. If you can afford it, swaddling clothing is another great option and a good choice to add to your gift registry. You can buy clothing swaddles for warmer climates, colder climates and even transition swaddles, so your baby does not go from sleeping peacefully throughout the night to waking up frequently. 


As important as knowing how to swaddle a baby is knowing when to stop swaddling. While initially reducing the risk of suffocation, once your baby is more active during tummy time, it is time to start reducing the swaddling he or she receives. Start by removing one arm from the swaddle and then after a week or so, remove the next arm. Continue progressing slowly until the baby no longer needs to be swaddled to sleep through the night. Be prepared for your baby's sleep to regress as he or she adjusts to the new sleeping arrangement, listen to your instincts and the nonverbal cues your baby is giving you. Seek professional help if you need any advice or have any questions that you need answered about baby care. 

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