Soothe your fussy newborn with these swaddling tips. Read on and learn how to do it properly here to avoid putting your baby’s life at risk! We really liked the Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D which gave great tips on swaddling!
RELATED: How To Calm A Crying Baby Quickly
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In this article:
Swaddling Tips and Tricks for the New Mom
What Is Swaddling and What Is It For?
Swaddling is a technique where parents wrap up a baby in a blanket to make the baby feel secure and warm. It also keeps the baby from waking up with his/her startle reflex.
For thousands of years, parents have been using this technique. Although its popularity died down during the 18th century, it made a resurgence in the 1970s.
While most parents swaddle their babies to help them sleep for longer stretches, it is also a great way to calm down fussy babies. As long as you’ve made sure the baby is fed and has a clean diaper, it can be used to soothe a baby who is crying for unknown reasons.
Remember, newborn babies are going through a massive transition — they’re learning to adjust to a world that’s very different from their mamas’ wombs. Swaddling will make your baby feel safe and secure, just like how they were in their first home.
The Swaddling Do’s
1. Do Choose the Right Swaddling Gear for Your Needs
These days, mamas have different swaddling options. The most commonly used ones are:
Generally, suits are easier to use than blankets. While each suit will come with its own set of instructions, it doesn’t require much practice and is usually straightforward — it’s like putting your baby in a tiny sleeping bag. We found these made late-night diaper changes much easier with the help of two-way zippers.
The downside of using a suit is it has specific sizes. You may have to buy a larger one when your little one hits his/her next growth spurt.
On the other hand, swaddling blankets can usually be used until your baby is ready to sleep swaddle-free. They’re also more versatile and can be repurposed for other uses.
2. Do Follow These Steps to Swaddle Your Baby with Swaddling Blankets
If you choose to use a swaddling blanket, it may take some practice before you get it right. Here’s how to do it in five simple steps:
- Step 1: Lay the blanket down on your baby’s changing table or crib. It should create a diamond shape from where you’re standing. Fold the top corner toward the center.
- Step 2: Put your baby on top of the blanket. Make sure the baby’s head is above the folded top edge.
- Step 3: Hold the baby’s left arm so that it’s straight down along his/her side. Pull the left corner of the blanket across the baby and tuck it underneath the right side (facing you) of your baby’s body.
- Step 4: Using the bottom corner of the blanket, cover the baby’s legs and right arm. Put the bottom corner in between the baby’s right shoulder and the top blanket cover.
- Step 5: Make sure the right arm is straight along his/her side. Pull the right corner of the blanket across the baby’s body and tuck it under the baby’s left side (facing you) of the body.
It might help if you practice on a doll or a stuffed animal before you try it out on your little one. Your baby might not like it if you experiment on swaddling on the spot.
3. Do Stay Calm and Prepare for Your Baby to Initially Resist Swaddling
Some parents give up because their babies begin to cry when they attempt to swaddle them. They think the baby doesn’t want to be swaddled.
Keep in mind, though, that babies are used to sleeping with their hands by their faces in the womb. So when it’s time to straighten out their arms, most babies will protest.
Try not to let their resistance discourage you. Swaddling is less effective when it’s introduced later rather than sooner.
4. Do Make Sure Your Baby’s Arms Are Straight Down in the Swaddle
It’s important that your baby’s arms are straight because they can wriggle out of the swaddle if they’re bent. It’s not safe to leave a baby alone with an undone blanket.
Leaving loose beddings, such as blankets and bedsheets, near your baby may put him/her at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
What is sudden infant death syndrome? It is the sudden and unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby. It normally occurs during sleep and usually happens among babies under a year old.
Try to coax your baby into keeping his/her arms down by applying gentle, constant pressure. After a few seconds, you should your baby’s muscles relaxing and it should be easier to keep his/her arms on the side.
5. Do Practice Hip-Healthy Swaddling to Avoid Hip Joint Problems
While the swaddle should be snug on the baby’s upper half of the body so that it doesn’t come undone, you should leave some room for the baby to move their legs in the swaddle.
If the legs are kept in a straightened position or bound together tightly for extended periods, it may lead to hip dysplasia. A newborn’s hip joints are still soft and developing, so it’s best to allow the baby to keep his/her legs flexed in their natural state.
Usually, babies tend to keep their legs bent with their knees pointing upwards and outwards. Make sure you give them enough room in the bottom half to accommodate this position.
The Swaddling Don’ts
1. Don’t Leave the Blanket Near the Baby’s Face
It’s important to keep the blanket away from your baby’s face. Make sure the baby’s airways are free to reduce the risk of SIDS.
If a baby feels the blanket on their cheek, it may trigger their rooting reflex. This can be problematic because when the rooting reflex is set off, your baby will expect to be fed.
Your baby may become confused and start to cry because he/she isn’t getting any milk.
2. Don’t Let Your Baby Sleep on His/Her Tummy or Sideways When Swaddling
Even when you swaddle your baby, always follow the American Academy Pediatrics’ recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment.
Your child should sleep on their back until their first birthday. It’s not safe to let your baby sleep on his/her tummy or sideways, especially when they are in a swaddle.
Swaddling tends to decrease the baby’s arousal response, which is why it promotes longer sleep in infants. This decreased arousal paired with an unsafe sleeping position may put your baby at greater risk for SIDS.
3. Don’t Just Dress Your Baby the Way You Like
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if your baby is too cold or too warm. Add swaddling to the mix and it gets even more confusing.
When dressing your baby for bed, consider the room’s temperature rather than the current season. The rule of thumb is to dress your baby as you would dress yourself to sleep before swaddling him/her.
Also consider the material used for the suit or the blanket. On warmer days, you may want to use thinner, more breathable swaddle blankets on your baby.
Just like your bed’s duvet, certain suits may have a Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) rating that lets you know how insulating the material is. Here’s a quick guide to TOG ratings:
- 2.5 TOG – standard room temperature (61-69 °F)
- 1.0 TOG – warmer weather/room (68-73 °F)
- 0.5 TOG – hot weather/room (73-80 °F)
4. Don’t Cover Your Baby’s Head When in a Swaddle
While your baby is swaddled and sleeping indoors, it’s best to keep his/her head uncovered. Babies can actually regulate their body temperature by releasing heat from their heads.
A hat may interfere with this and cause the baby’s body to overheat.
5. Don’t Keep Swaddling If Your Baby Is Ready to Sleep on His/Her Own
Most babies begin to wean from the swaddle at around three or four months. By the time your baby is two months old, you can test to see if he/she is ready to sleep without swaddling.
Start off by leaving one of their arms free instead of doing the full swaddle. If this doesn’t cause any sleep disruptions, then your baby may be ready to transition.
You may want to experiment during one of the daytime naps so you can keep an eye on your baby.
Once your baby starts rolling over or wiggling out of his/her swaddle independently, you’ll need to stop swaddling your baby completely, even if it means going cold turkey.
Your swaddled baby may attempt some nighttime acrobatics that may increase the risk of SIDS or suffocation.
Smart Parenting demonstrates how to properly swaddle a baby in this video:
If you’re getting ready to welcome your baby, it might be worthwhile for you and your partner to practice swaddling. Newborns are notoriously fussy sleepers, and this often means that mama and papa aren’t getting enough sleep either.
All of the experts agree that swaddling, when done properly, is a safe way to calm your baby down and get them to sleep for longer stretches. It’s definitely worth trying to get some extra much-needed sleep for you and your baby!
Have you tried any of these swaddling tips and tricks? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below.