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How to Swaddle Your Baby

Katlyn Joy |22, August 2011


How to Swaddle Your Baby

Swaddling babies is an age old practice brought back into the parenting repertoire in recent years. However, for many parents it's like a present you just can't wrap or a burrito that won't fold right. Swaddling isn't a natural gift, but rather a learned skill.

Benefits of Swaddling

Newborn babies are used to a confined environment and position and may find swaddling calming. Only swaddle a baby who is awake in the first month of life. After that, you should save the process for sleeping or fussy ones. After six weeks, allow an arm to be free to wave, suck or generally move.

Babies who are swaddle tend to cry less and become less frightfully angry during colic bouts. While it is not a cure-all, it is another tool in the kit for new parents to try when comforting a crying newborn.

What Type of Blanket to Use

It's best to use blankets that are lighter weight, such as the receiving blankets used in the hospital. Heavy blankets will cause baby to become overheated which may cause sweating, discomfort, heat rashes or even possibly interfere with temperature regulation or breathing.
Some commercially available products are made specifically for swaddling and take the mystery out of the swaddling process. These specially shaped blankets have Velcro or zipper to secure baby just tightly enough.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Should you decide to swaddle your newborn the old-fashioned way follow the simple steps below.

  • Choose an appropriately sized blanket that is soft and not too heavy
  • Work on a flat surface where baby is secure and cannot roll off and hurt herself.
  • Lay the blanket out in a diamond shape with the top pointing upwards.
  • Fold down the top point and place baby smack in the center of the blanket.
  • Bring the blanket from the left side over the baby's body and tuck under his right side near his arm.
  • Do the opposite side of the blanket the same way, perhaps leaving one arm free.
  • Fold up the bottom of the blanket over baby's legs and feet, allowing movement so baby can stretch if desired.

When to Swaddle

  • Baby is sleepy but having trouble settling down.
  • Baby is fussy or having a colic spell.
  • Baby is fresh home from the hospital and seems to enjoy being swaddled.
  • Baby has been fed, changed and comforted yet still seems restless though tired.

When to Abandon the Swaddle

  • If baby kicks and fights throughout the process and even after the swaddling is complete, you should take baby out of the blanket.
  • If baby looks flushed or perspires.
  • Baby has been swaddled more than one hour of wake time per day, in the first month of life. You don't want to swaddle a significant portion of baby's time as it can interfere with development and proper leg and hip positioning.

Swaddling Precautions

Be wary of over-wrapping baby. An overheated baby is not better than a chilly one. Newborns cannot regular their little body thermostats so it's up to Mommy and Daddy to keep them just right.

Also, don't swaddle a baby who hates being confined. While some little ones love being as snug as a bug in a rug, others seem to consider it tortuous. If it makes your baby fuss or fight, you've lost sight of the reasoning behind even attempting to swaddle which is to provide comfort and security to your baby.

The most important precaution when swaddling is to avoid doing it too tightly and particularly about keeping the legs too bound up. This can actually cause serious problems with the hip joint including hip and ball socket dislocation. Allow baby to be able to draw up his legs or kick them without having to fight free.

Generally, babies past the age of three months no longer enjoy swaddling, so keep it to the newborn age range.

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Hbuffington Jul 30, 2014 09:56:47 AM ET

I love to swaddle my new born but Baby Paislee is starting to feel otherwise. Paislee is only 2 weeks old and could care less how cute she looks bundled up. lol

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