How to Swaddle a Newborn

How to Swaddle A Newborn BabySwaddling a newborn baby is an essential skill for new parents. A swaddled infant will stay warmer, safer, and more comfortable in bed. Thus, it should help them sleep longer. Translation: more sleep for you. Here we’ll discuss some of the reasons for why you should swaddle your baby, how to swaddle a newborn, and when to stop swaddling.
Why Swaddle A Newborn?
How to Swaddle A Newborn
Newborn Swaddling Tips
When to Stop Swaddling

Why Swaddle A Newborn?

Newborn babies, having just left the womb, are a little frightened by their new world. Swaddling gives newborns a sense of the snug comfort they need to feel secure. There’s a reason that swaddling techniques are practiced by most hospital nurseries: Many newborns won’t sleep without it. Swaddling also keeps babies warm, especially their arms and legs, by keeping them close to the trunk of the body. Finally, swaddling is a safety measure for baby sleep; in fact, it’s the only safe way to keep a blanket in the crib.

How to Swaddle A Newborn

This step-by-step guide describes how to swaddle a newborn using a standard receiving blanket. You can and should master this technique. Do it right, and your newborn will never be cold at night!

Newborn swaddle blanket Before you begin: Choose a good blanket. A square or rectangular-shaped blanket, such as a receiving blanket, is best for this. The extremely popular Aden & Anais blankets are well-suited for this. Make sure that the blanket is big enough to perform all of the steps below; if you can’t tuck it securely, the swaddle won’t hold.
How to swaddle a newborn step one Step 1. Fold one corner down, making a triangle. You can make this a perfect triangle if the blanket is big enough; the point must extend far enough below baby’s feet that you can fold it up and reach the chin. If not, don’t fold the corner all the way to the other side (see image to the left).
How to swaddle a newborn step two Step 2. Add the baby. Your newborn’s neck should be over the edge of the fold that you just made or slightly above it so that the blanket stays away from the face.
How to swaddle a newborn step three Step 3. Fold over one corner and tuck under your baby. Which side you choose doesn’t matter, but be sure to tuck the corner so that it’s smooth and secure under your baby’s back. Not loose, and not scrunched up.
How to swaddle a newborn step four Step 4. Bring up the bottom corner. This is what separates swaddling from simply wrapping your baby up in a blanket. If your baby is a kicker, allow enough room for his legs to move so that he doesn’t kick out of the swaddle. The bottom edge should come up to your baby’s chin; if there’s extra reach, fold it over and around the first side-corner you folded in.
How to swaddle a newborn step five Step 5. Fold over the other side. This should be a nice, even fold, wrapping over the bottom-folded section and reaching the other side. You will tuck the extra bit under your baby’s back, so that his weight holds it in place.
How to swaddle a newborn step six Step 6. Your newborn is swaddled! Now you can feel free to feed him, rock him, or put him to bed. You’ll notice that I recommend keeping the newborn’s arms free, instead of wrapping them up. This bit of advice comes from the pediatric nurse who taught our baby class. She’s adamant that a baby’s arms should stay free, allowing a newborn to comfort himself.

Newborn Swaddling Tips

  • Use a relatively thin blanket of appropriate size. Due to the number of folds involved, swaddling doesn’t seem to work as well on blankets that are too thick or too large relative to the baby.
  • Start over, don’t salvage. If a fold was off, the newborn was positioned funny, or it just doesn’t seem to be working, start the swaddling over from the beginning. The result will be much better than a salvage job.
  • Practice swaddling a baby one-handed. Trust me, you’ll need to know how. You can watch nurses in the NICU or hospital nursery; they’re experts at this.
  • Try a velcro swaddle blanket. These things make swaddling much faster, and hold more securely in place around your newborn.

When to Stop Swaddling

Cute Sleep Sack for NewbornsAt some point, it will be time to stop swaddling your baby. You’ll probably realize this over time, as your baby gets too big to be swaddled with most blankets, and manages to kick out of them whenever you do it. If you bought a velcro swaddler, you’ll notice that it doesn’t fit them completely any more and only wraps around the lower half. This, incidentally, may be around the same time that your baby starts moving on his own and rolling over.

When you start seeing these signs, it’s probably time to replace the swaddler with a plain sleep sack, which I highly recommend. These are light fleece garments, with or without sleeves, that zip up in the front. They are very warm and comfortable; both of our twins are currently sleeping in them. For more, see our review of sleep sacks and sleeping bags.

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