How to Swaddle your Baby: Benefits and Safety Tips
Swaddling is tightly wrapping your baby in a blanket to restrict the movement of their arms and legs. This is especially helpful at this stage due to the Moro or startle reflex, where their arms and legs suddenly move involuntarily. This reflex occurs both when they are awake and asleep. The pressure of swaddling, similar to what babies felt in utero, comforts them and can lengthen their sleep—and it often works well along with white noise.
How to Swaddle Safely
- Baby’s legs and hips should not be wrapped so tightly as to completely restrict movement.
- Legs should be free to move up and out.
- Arms are bound firmly but not too tightly, either straight down next to their torso or bent across their chest.
- Avoid too much pressure on the chest.
- When swaddling your baby for sleep, never lay them down on their stomach. There is a high correlation between suffocation and babies who are swaddled and laid on their tummy to sleep.
- Be aware of their temperature and dress them accordingly sometimes, just a diaper underneath is sufficient.
- Swaddle your baby only to calm them or for sleeping.
- Swaddling should be discontinued once your baby is rolling or close to doing so, to prevent them from rolling onto their stomach and getting stuck there, unable to breathe.
As simple as it may seem, swaddling does come with some risks. There are some safety concerns that every parent should be aware of if swaddling their baby, including suffocation, hip dysplasia, and overheating. However, if swaddling is done properly and safely, most of these risks can be avoided.
Please keep in mind that while swaddling babies can be very helpful during sleep, it is not recommended that you swaddle your baby during their wakeful hours, as they need time to move and explore their world and environment.
Benefits of Swaddling
If you are swaddling your baby safely, you may see the following benefits:
- Longer and deeper sleep. (Note that this is also a risk factor, as a baby in deep sleep may not awaken even if they get into an unsafe sleeping situation.)
- Less crying.
- Easier calming and soothing. (When your baby’s arms are swaddled so that they cross their midline, their right- and left-brain hemispheres talk to each other and they experience a calming response.
- A newborn that cannot wiggle into dangerous positions in their crib (like getting a leg stuck between the mattress and the railing).
- A reduction in the risk your baby will roll onto their stomach.
- Less waking due to startling (less arm flailing).