The first few weeks post-birth are the most tiring days for any new mom. You experience a rollercoaster of emotions — you’re excited yet overwhelmed and fatigued almost all day every day. You find yourself trying everything possible to get your little bambino to nap just a little while longer so you can catch a bit of rest and sleep.
But do you remember how calm your baby was before you left the hospital? And how they’d sleep for hours until you started getting worried? Yes, that’s because your nurse used an effective baby swaddling technique to keep your baby comfy, calm, and restful. You’ll learn at least 5 simple baby-wrapping strategies in a while.
Moms Have Swaddled their Newborns for Ages
Many early societies including those in Crete and Cyprus practiced baby swaddling thousands of years ago. New mothers would wrap their newborns with a thin blanket to keep them warm and calm.
Baby wrapping was believed to mimic the warm, self-sufficient conditions the baby had enjoyed for months in its mother’s womb.
Baby Swaddling is Alive and Well
Many moms in some modern societies still swaddle their newborns. But do you know why this age-old practice persists to date? It’s because moms everywhere have always seen great benefits from wrapping their little bundle of joy.
Dr. Claire McCarthy of Harvard Medical School says that swaddling a newborn delivers a few great benefits. According to this medic, properly wrapping a baby up tends to encourage or compel them to sleep supine.
Sleeping supine means falling asleep on the back. And did you know that having your little one fall asleep on their back is one of the best-known strategies to insure against SIDS?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a similar opinion on baby swaddling as does Dr. McCarthy. According to this respected professional body, swaddling is an effective technique when done correctly.
Below are 3 great benefits a mom can expect from swaddling their baby the right way, according to the AAP:
1.Wrapping helps calm down babies especially those with colic and neurological problems. Swaddling is also a great strategy for appeasing overly fussy babies.
2.It’s a great way to help your baby adjust to life outside the womb as it provides safety, warmth, and security.
3.Swaddled babies sleep deeper, for longer. This is because the wrapping keeps them from flailing their arms and legs, which tends to disrupt sleep.
Ready to master baby swaddling? Learn 5 different ways of wrapping a newborn correctly in the below list.
5 Different Ways to Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling is a pretty easy process, but some new moms find it a little overwhelming. Some first-time moms don’t even know what a swaddle is until their delivery-room nurse explains it all.
In this section, you’ll learn five easy ways to swaddle your newborn baby and do it properly. Afterward, you’ll choose which technique seems easier to you, one which would work best for you and your baby.
Method 1: Using a Traditional Wrap to Swaddle Your Baby
Using a traditional wrap is perhaps the easiest way to swaddle a baby. I think this is the most ideal swaddling technique for new moms. Most likely, your delivery-room nurse taught you how to execute this technique.
But if you didn’t quite get the hang of it, I get it, completely. That happens a lot with new moms, you know. And that surprises no one given all the things first-time moms have to learn in such a limited time.
To use this method, it’s best to use a soft, stretchy breathable material. Why? It’s because you can use such a swaddle way past the baby swaddling phase.
So, here’s how to create a comfort-packed, womb-like swaddle:
1.Take your swaddle blanket and lay it on a flat, firm surface. A firm mattress should do, but you should remove the bedding first.
2.Spread out the wrap to a diamond shape.
3.Fold the top corner of the swaddle to make an upside-down triangle.
4.Place your baby on the surface with the head and tummy facing upward, and with the shoulders on and parallel to the fold’s edge.
5.Making sure to have the arms down to the sides of your baby, grab the left side of the swaddle blanket, and pull it across the baby’s body with the left arm in. Pull the blanket tightly, but not too tightly.
6.Next, snugly tuck the blanket under the baby’s right side. While doing this, make sure that the hips aren’t too tightly wrapped. Also, you’ll need to lift the baby’s right side a bit to tuck the end of the blanket under them.
7.Then, take the bottom fold and tuck it into the top of the swaddle around your little one’s chest.
8.Finally, grab the yet-to-be-tucked right side of the swaddle and wrap it right across the chest to the other side (left). At this point, you’ll have to cover the right arm, so that no hand sticks out now.
9.Gently hold your baby, lift them, and place them tummy-down. As you do that, tightly pull the free end of the swaddle, as you did in step 5.
10. Turn the baby again (back facing down) and pull any remaining fabric. Repeat the process until you have no more fabric, and tuck the end into the swaddle by the chest.
Congratulations! You just did it. Using a traditional wrap to swaddle my baby took me 7 seconds tops. It’s easy.
Method 2: The Classic Swaddle
The second method is the classic swaddle technique. This approach is similar to the traditional swaddling style, but with a little twist to it.
Here’s how to design the classic swaddle:
1.Take a large light blanket and place it on a bed or a soft, firm, flat surface.
2.Spread it to a diamond shape and fold the top corner 4 to 6 inches down to make a small triangle.
3.Place your baby at the center facing up. The neckline and the shoulder should lie on the edge of the fold just like in the first method.
4.Take the left side of the blanket and pull it across the baby, with the arm in. Do likewise for the right side. Remember to make the fitting snug enough.
5.Next, gather the bottom edge and fold it into a reverse triangle. Then, pull the fabric upward over the baby, finally tucking it underneath the sides. It’s that easy. But if your child is too big, follow the advice given in the step.
6.If your baby is bigger than most at that age, you can opt to tie the bottom into a knot instead.
Method 3: The Cozy Swaddle
The cozy swaddle is probably the best way to wrap your baby to keep them warm on a cold, wintry night. That’s because both the head and the body remain wrapped once you’ve implemented this swaddling technique.
1.Take a large blanket preferably a rectangular shaped one and place it flat on a bedding-less mattress.
2.Placing the baby at the center of the blanket, fold the top toward the baby to wrap their head. Ensure that the baby’s head gets well covered.
3.Tuck in their left arm and pull the left side of the wrap across the baby to the right side, tucking it all underneath that side of his body.
4.Hold the bottom side and tuck it into the swaddle (by the chest).
5.Finally, take the right side and wrap it across the baby. Tuck the fold underneath the bottom one.
Method 4: The Hands-up Swaddle
The hands-up swaddle works similarly to the traditional technique. The only difference is that you place the arms of the baby across the chest toward the chin, and their legs bent slightly up. That makes the baby assume a position similar to the womb position they’d grown accustomed to pre-childbirth.
This approach is the best swaddling technique for the first couple of weeks when your baby is still trying to adjust to being out of their safe haven (your womb). The hands of the baby stay close to their face. As for the legs, you should have them assume a position similar to a frog’s legs.
1.Take a large baby blanket and spread it on a bed into a diamond shape. Fold the top corner of the blanket and make a fold that’s roughly equal to the length between the neck and the bum. What you have now looks pretty much like a triangle.
2.Next, put your baby at the center.
3.Hold the left arm and place it on the chest such that it touches the chin. The arm should form a V-shape.
4.Take the right side and wrap it across your baby’s body, with the right hand tucked in near the face, and tuck it underneath the other side. Then, take the tip of the bottom and neatly tuck it into the top of the blanket. Be sure to leave ample room around the legs so they can stay in a natural position, like a frog’s.
5.Finally, take the right side and do just as you did with the left one, tucking it underneath the left side of the body.
If you did this correctly, the left side of the blanket should intersect with the right side forming the letter V.
Method 5: The Modern Swaddle
The modern swaddling technique is the easiest way to swaddle your baby. In this technique, you use a modern swaddle whose intelligent design makes wrapping incredibly easy.
These are pre-shaped swaddles that feature different types of closures- Velcro, zips, or tucks. All you have to do is attach, tuck or zip.
The modern swaddle’s design fosters comfort right out of the box. And these swaddles work great for even the youngest babies, even week-old infants.
But, is Swaddling Safe?
Yes, swaddling is mostly safe if you follow the recommended safe sleep guidelines by AAP. The guidelines recommend that you swaddle your baby with a breathable blanket. The APP also warns against swaddling using too many blankets.
This professional organization also highly recommends that babies sleep supine (on their back) at all times rather than prone, or on their sides.
New mums may have concerns that swaddling their baby might cause SIDS since the baby’s limbs stay restrained, and the baby can’t turn or lift themselves in case of suffocation. But many experts agree that baby swaddling done right is mostly safe.
While SIDS-related deaths happen, medical experts have seen a considerable decline in the mortality rate linked to SIDS over the past three decades, according to the CDC. The year 1990 saw 130 SIDS deaths in every 100,000 babies compared to just 35 deaths in 2018.
That’s likely because more new moms today than in the past are aware of the proper way to swaddle a baby. What’s more, today’s moms have clear and effective expert-formulated safe-sleep guidelines to follow.
Swaddling Can Cause Huge Problems — Be Careful
Swaddling can be a great baby-soothing technique if done correctly. However, the practice comes with its own fair share of risks.
Swaddling can cause your baby to overheat. As a caring parent or caregiver, make sure to monitor your baby constantly the whole time they’re in the swaddle blanket. Also, be sure to check for signs of overheating including damp hair, sudden rapid breathing, and heat rash on flushed cheeks.
If you notice any of these signs, immediately remove your baby from the baby blanket. Even mild sweating could be a sign you need to unwrap your baby. And if the signs worry you for some reason, contact your pediatrician immediately.
To prevent overheating, use thin swaddle blankets made of breathable fabrics such as cotton or muslin. If unsure of the fabric, it’s best to buy a specialized cotton-winged swaddle. You can find them in baby stores or baby product departments in large stores.
A lot of anecdotal evidence and quite a bit of research evidence reveal that swaddling makes a baby sleep deeply and for longer. While this is every new mom’s desire, swaddling (especially if done incorrectly) can cause decreased arousal which can increase the likelihood of SIDS. To reduce the chances of this happening, wake your baby up every 3-4 hours if they don’t wake themselves up.
Swaddle your newborn gently and not too tightly. An excessively tight swaddle can cause your baby to have hip dysplasia or even hip dislocation. According to the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, your baby’s legs should be able to bend up and out even when swaddled.
For that reason, don’t straighten your baby’s legs when swaddling. Instead, tuck them into the swaddle in their natural position.
Should You Swaddle your Baby with Arms Up or Down?
Pediatricians and other medical experts recommend swaddling a baby with the arms down and placed to the sides. These professionals view this arm position as being better than when the arms rest across the baby’s chest.
When a baby’s arms stay down, they’re less likely to wiggle their way out of the swaddle. The other reason why the down-to-the-sides arm position comes highly recommended is that it keeps newborns from bunching up the swaddle blanket into their faces. And that can significantly reduce the odds of suffocation.
When is the Right Time to Stop Swaddling a Newborn?
You should stop swaddling your baby roughly 3-4 months post-childbirth, or as soon as the baby starts to roll over. Doing that allows the baby to use their limbs to adjust to their new position when they roll. And that’s something they can’t do when swaddled.
Also, as mentioned earlier, when babies start to roll, they can easily suffocate when swaddled as they can’t turn or lift themselves up.
Safe Alternatives to Swaddling
Not every new mom wants to swaddle their little loved one, and not every baby enjoys being wrapped. And that’s fine.
The good thing is there are other easier-to-implement alternatives to swaddling. Using a wearable blanket or sleep-suit is one such baby wrapping alternative. You could also use either alternative as something your baby transitions into after the swaddling stage.
Now, you can find plenty of good quality wearable blankets in baby stores and on credible online places like Amazon.
Just like with traditional swaddling, you should stop using these alternatives as soon as your baby starts rolling over so they can freely turn and move.
How to Swaddle a Newborn: Final Thought
Since you’ve read this far, I believe you’ve mastered all 5 different ways to swaddle your baby. I’ve described these swaddling techniques in easy-to-follow steps so you can implement those instructions right away.
Hopefully, you’ve mastered a swaddling technique you clicked with. Now, it’s time to put your new skills to work so your baby can enjoy all the benefits baby wrapping offers.
Remember to be kind to yourself, mom. Being a new mum, it may take you a couple of trials to master any or all of these swaddling strategies. But in the end, you’ll learn how to do it correctly, just as most moms that start out completely clueless eventually do. With enough practice, you’ll evolve into a master swaddler.
So, don’t beat yourself up if your baby’s arms can’t stay in, or if they cry during the entire process. Once properly wrapped, your adorable little baby will become and stay calm, and they’ll sleep like a baby! And you’ll enjoy increased peace-of-mind while getting a little more rest and sleep, just like your baby.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.