Whether you are a parent or not, you’ve probably heard the term swaddling before. If you are a new parent you might have probably researched or learned How To Swaddle Your Newborn in a birthing class or from the internet. Swaddling is an essential part of child care and it’s a skill every parent, guardian, or care provider should have. Swaddling is the process of tightly (but not too tightly) wrapping up a baby in a blanket or swaddle cloth.
Wrapping the baby like this makes them feel secure as it mimics the feeling they had when they were in the womb because, in the last few months before birth, a baby didn’t have much space in the womb and could only make small movements, as he tries to reposition his hands and feet. Swaddling when done properly is safe as the baby is wrapped like a burrito and so is secure.
Many experts recommend swaddling as a safe practice. The author of the best-selling book The Happiest Baby on the Block, strongly recommends the practice as a way to soothe babies. If your baby is fussy or restless or crying for no reason, swaddling them can help them calm down. Swaddle the baby and sway from side to side while making soothing sounds and it will help make your baby fall asleep pretty quickly and stay asleep for longer.
Swaddling Techniques: How to Swaddle a Newborn
There are various ways that you can swaddle your baby and different techniques out there. But each technique has the basic steps that you need to follow. Let’s talk about these basic and general step by step swaddling techniques.
Lay a square blanket on a flat surface: Lay a square blanket down on a flat surface so it looks like a diamond. Fold the top corner down toward the center of the diamond; the top now forms a straight line.
Lay the baby on the blanket diagonally so the fold is above the top of the baby’s neck. Place baby faceup on the blanket so her neck is along the top edge. (Don’t let the blanket touch the baby’s cheek. She may think it’s a breast, which would set off a rooting reflex and make her cry in confusion at not being fed.
Pull the right side of the blanket across the baby’s body. Tuck it under the baby’s left side. Gently hold baby’s left arm down along his side. (If baby’s arms are bent, he can wriggle out of the swaddle.) Take the blanket about 4 inches from his left shoulder and pull it down and across his body tightly, tucking it snugly underneath him on the opposite side.
Pull the left side of the blanket across the baby’s body. Tuck it under the baby’s right side. Finally, take the remaining corner, pull it tightly across baby’s body (again making sure the arm is straight), and tuck it snugly underneath her on the opposite side. Double-check to make sure the swaddle is nice and tight and won’t unravel. If the tuck-in loosens easily, secure it with duct tape.
Lift the baby and tuck the bottom tail of the blanket under the baby’s legs and back.
When to Start Swaddling a Baby
Some babies might not like to be swaddled so if it looks like your baby does not enjoy this, do not be alarmed as this is quite common. Some babies in the womb had a resting position of their arms on their faces, so when you try to swaddle them and tuck their hands in they might not like this very much. To possibly prevent this, it helps to start swaddling the baby soon after birth and not wait weeks before you start. This gives them time to get used to the feeling. If the baby is resisting because of the elevated arm, apply gentle but constant pressure to the arm till you feel the baby’s muscles relaxin and then wrap it in the swaddle.
Some newborn babies might not need swaddling and will be content and very relaxed without any swaddling at all. If this is the case then you don’t have to try to swaddle them when it’s obviously not needed to put them to sleep or keep them calm. However, the fussier the baby, the more swaddling you’ll need to do. IF you swaddle a baby, they might not calm down immediately but don’t get offensive when this happens. Just keep swaying them from side to side, cooing and shushing them and they will eventually calm down.
When to Stop Swaddling a Baby
Since swaddling is confining and may restrict a baby’s motor development, a full-body swaddle is not recommended after the baby’s first 60 days. When the baby has reached this age, it is best to use a version that leaves her arms unrestricted, such as the altered Burrito Roll. As babies get older, their need for a swaddle will diminish. When you start to notice the baby moving more and trying to use their extremities more, the you know it’s time to start stopping swaddling. You can try the one arm swaddle for a week and if the baby takes it well, then you can stop swaddling all together.
Also if you notice that the bay starts to wiggle out of the swaddle or escape from the blankets, then you know it’s time to stop swaddling. This means your baby is growing and is ready to sleep on their own without the help of swaddling blankets.