How to Swaddle Your Baby

When your baby was brought to you shortly after birth, she was likely wrapped tightly in a blanket, arms inside so that only her head was visible. You may have watched in amazement as the nurses took a small square blanket and created a cocoon from it for your little one. The practice of swaddling babies is very common in hospitals, and with good reason. The tightly wound blanket mimics the closeness of the womb, which is a comfort to a newborn who has suddenly emerged into a new and frightening world.

Swaddling and Sleep

Babies who are swaddled tend to sleep better than those who are not, both because of the comforting feeling and also because the startle reflex common to newborns is less likely to wake them. Swaddled babies are also at a lower risk of SIDS as they are not in danger of suffocation due to loose blankets; however, be sure to use a lightweight blanket when swaddling to prevent baby from overheating, a risk factor for SIDS. If your baby’s face appears flushed or she feels sweaty when you unwrap her, the blanket may be too warm.

Learning to Swaddle

If you find yourself frustrated by attempts to create that perfect swaddle that appeared so easy when the nurses did it, you are not alone. Many parents find themselves stumped by how to manipulate a blanket for effective swaddling. While there are many different swaddling techniques, here is a step-by-step method for a very simple swaddle.

  1. Choose a light, thin blanket made of a fabric that is not slippery. Make sure the blanket is neither too small nor too large. Both excess fabric and not quite enough can make swaddling difficult.
  2. Lay the blanket out on a flat surface. The floor is often the easiest place to learn the technique.
  3. Take one corner of the blanket and fold it down to create a small triangle.
  4. Lay the baby on the blanket so that his shoulders line up just below the folded edge.
  5. Take the pointed piece of the blanket that is below the baby’s feet, and fold it upwards so that it points towards his chin.
  6. Take one side of the blanket and fold it over the baby’s body, then tuck it tightly underneath him so that his arms are held at his sides.
  7. Finally, pull the other side over and tuck it under baby’s body. When you lay him down to sleep, ensure this end is beneath him to keep him swaddled.

Make sure that the baby is swaddled tightly enough to keep the blankets from coming loose and to create the feeling of security, but be careful not to swaddle too tightly to avoid compressing the baby’s chest and making breathing difficult. If your baby is fighting the swaddle, it may be too tight.

Making it Easier

If despite your best efforts you just can’t seem to master swaddling, don’t sweat it. There are now a number of products available to make swaddling easier and faster. They use fasteners such as Velcro to keep the blanket in place, and are so easy to use you will probably be able to re-swaddle your baby half asleep and in the dark after that midnight diaper change.

Swaddling is a very old practice and still popular for good reason; it comforts baby, helps him sleep, and also keeps him warm without the danger of loose blankets. With a little practice you can learn to swaddle your baby safely and effectively.

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