Swaddling for babies is used all over the world and has been around for centuries. Swaddling a newborn baby is common practice in the UK and Ireland; you may recognise the technique in family photoshoots, where the newborn looks like a little baby burrito.
However, a swaddle’s purpose isn’t just for cute photos! Swaddling your baby offers a range of benefits, but it can also present risk, which is why many people have mixed opinions on this. Swaddling your baby can be completely safe, as long as you follow the correct steps and advice.
Here is Babogue’s guide on how to swaddle babies.
What is Swaddling?
This involves wrapping your baby in a thin sheet or muslin to soothe them and help them to feel more comfortable. It is said that a swaddle can help your baby in the first few months as they will be transitioning to the outside world. Wrapping your newborn up in a blanket will help them to feel enclosed and keep the baby warm, a similar feeling they would’ve had when inside your womb. This is safe and popular, but there are a number of important things you need to know before swaddling and steps you must take to ensure that babies grow happily and healthily.
What are the Benefits of Swaddling?
Being wrapped up in a thin blanket can help your newborn to feel safe, warm, and calm. Another benefit is that your baby will sleep for longer; this is because their body is wrapped up in a blanket, so they won’t be able to accidentally hit their face with their arms or hands and disturb their sleep. They will also be protected from being woken by their Moro or startle reflex. A longer sleep schedule means a happier and calmer baby, which is the ideal combination for sleepy parents!
What are the Risks to Swaddling?
When learning how to swaddle a baby, it is extremely important you are aware of any risk that could affect your little one. Swaddling your baby involves firmly wrapping them up in fabric, which means they do not have much room to move their arms or legs around. Although this can stop them from waking themselves up during sleep, it could also affect their growth and development if you do not allow enough room to move about.
This could lead to hip dysplasia if you do not swaddle correctly. This can take place when the joint does not develop properly, which is why it is crucial that you give your baby enough room to move their feet and legs about, as well as being able to move the legs out at the hip. This is why practising and understanding is vital to ensuring your baby grows properly.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
The first is to ensure that your little one is placed on their back while sleeping with a swaddle; if you co-sleep with your baby then it is much safer to avoid swaddling altogether.
Additionally, make sure the blanket or cloth you use to swaddle is wrapped firmly around the baby's chest and shoulders; whilst also giving your baby enough room to move about. The position of the swaddle is important so allowing air to circulate around the neck and head.
Finally, one of the most important things to understand with the swaddling technique is that you should only swaddle from birth; do not ever begin if your baby is two to three months old, as this is when there is the highest risk of SIDS. Overheating could also be dangerous; having your baby wrapped up in fabric will mean that they are more likely to get too hot. Ensure you check your baby’s temperature regularly and never leave them on their own for too long.
When Should You Begin To Swaddle Your Baby?
Swaddling should always begin from birth. You should make the decision on whether to swaddle while you are pregnant so that you can prepare and understand the benefits and any risk before your baby is born. Many make the decision to swaddle a baby from birth as it can help the transition from your womb to the outside environment, giving your baby a better chance at feeling comfortable and adjusting to life outside of your body. You should never begin after the first month of your baby being born.
How To Swaddle a Baby Step by Step?
Swaddling is an easy technique but must be done correctly to ensure the safety of your little one. Here is a basic step guide on how to swaddle a baby:
The first step to forming a swaddle is to place a thin, breathable blanket or muslin completely open on a flat surface. Arrange the material in the shape of a diamond, with an edge facing in each direction.
Next, take the top corner of the blanket, and fold it down towards the centre in a triangular shape. This is where your little one’s shoulders and neck will rest. Place your baby onto the blanket, ensuring their head and neck is above the material that you have just folded over.
Put your baby’s left arm and right arm gently down by the side of their body and fold the left corner of the blanket over to the right side of your baby. Tuck this left corner of the blanket under your baby’s bum. Make sure the material is firm but not too tight; you need to allow your baby room to move around.
Take the bottom of the blanket or muslin, and fold it over to the right-hand shoulder, tucking it into the fabric already there. It is important that you make sure there are no bumps underneath your baby’s back so that they are comfortable.
Finally, take the right corner of the blanket (the only corner left lying out flat on your surface) and fold it over towards the left side of your baby, tucking it in firmly. Your baby should now resemble a little burrito, with their head and neck outside of the blanket, but their body wrapped up inside the material.
The best way to learn the swaddling method is to watch a tutorial and read tips online. Practice makes perfect! So keep practising your swaddling techniques until you feel happy and are able to leave your baby swaddled in the safest possible way.
Parents sometimes ask questions about the types of blankets to use or if they should use a sleep sack. My previous blog on this topic should help: 5 Reasons you should use a Baby Sleeping Bag
Is it Okay to Swaddle a Newborn at Night?
It is perfectly safe to swaddle your newborn at night, as long as you follow the correct steps and advice. This includes ensuring your baby is placed in the correct sleeping position and will not get too hot; you can do this by either placing the room temperature at around 16 to 20 degrees Celsius or dressing babies appropriately so that they do not overheat.
Do not swaddle your baby at night if you are co-sleeping. Additionally, if you are going to swaddle your baby at night then make sure you also swaddle during daytime naps. This will help your baby can get used to the feeling of being wrapped in fabric.
What Age Should You Stop Swaddling a Baby?
You should stop swaddling as soon as your baby begins to or is showing signs of rolling on their side or stomach while sleeping. This is because it can be dangerous for babies if they are not on their back while wrapped up in a swaddle. The recommended age to stop is at around two months. By two months of age, babies should have become accustomed to the outside world and start sleeping and settling without a swaddle.
How Do I Make Sure Swaddling is Safe for My Baby?
Because your baby’s safety and happiness is the most important thing, you need to make sure you understand how to keep your baby safe when learning how to swaddle. Here are the most important tips we have mentioned, that you must remember!
- Only ever choose to swaddle from the birth of your baby. Do not choose to swaddle after a few weeks of them being born
- Use a thin, light blanket or muslin to swaddle
- Make sure the fabric is stretchy and gives your baby enough room to move their legs out
- Always place your baby to sleep on their back if they are in a swaddle
- Check on your baby and their temperature regularly
- Ensure that your baby’s head and neck are uncovered by material
- Practice until you get it right!
- Swaddle during the day and at night
The Bottom Line
It is completely your choice as to whether you will swaddle your newborn, and can be a handy transition to the outside world. As long as you are aware of the risk and know how to minimise them, your baby will be safe and comfortable. If you have any concerns about your newborn then it is best to speak to a health advisor or your GP.