How to Swaddle a Baby

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My first baby entered the world angry. Or so it seemed. He was 10 days late and only made his appearance after 16+ hours of labor, four hours of pushing and a vacuum extraction. Let’s just say he wasn’t too happy to be pulled from his cozy home. And he let us know that. He cried for the first hour of his life. He only stopped crying to breastfeed. And then he’d resume crying.

We quickly discovered that two things helped soothe him: touch and swaddling. Thankfully I happened upon Dr. Harvey Karp’s book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” In it, I learned all about swaddling, and the other four S’s (side, shhhh, swinging and sucking) to help calm a crying infant. While all five S’s were great, swaddling especially became a lifesaver for us.

It took a bit of practice, but soon enough we were swaddling like pros and once tightly wrapped, our little baby burrito was a much happier camper. When our second and third babies were born, we immediately began swaddling them and continued to do so for months. Swaddling helped soothe our babies and helped them sleep better. As any exhausted parent knows, sleep is a beautiful thing. So, today I want to share the whys and hows of swaddling an infant in the hopes of helping other newbie parents discover this ancient art and valuable asset.

 How to Swaddle Your Baby

Why Swaddle

First, I’d like to thank our site sponsor Lanser’s The Natural Way for making this post possible and for suggesting some great swaddle blankets, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s take a look at why babies like to be swaddled:

Swaddling soothes baby’s desire to be touched.

“Swaddling is the cornerstone of calming. It gives nurturing touch, stops flailing and focuses your baby’s attention,” Dr. Karp wrote in his book. He went on to say, “Skin is the body’s largest organ, and touch is the most calming of our senses. Swaddling envelops your baby’s body with a continuous soft caress.”

Swaddling creates a sense of security.

Before your baby was born, your uterus held her snuggly. In the outside world, her little arms and legs can flail about, sometimes upsetting her. Swaddling helps your baby feel safe and secure, just as she did in utero.

Swaddling controls her frantic movements.

“By restraining your baby’s movements, … she can tune in and focus on all the wonderful things you’re doing to soothe her. Wrapping also prevents new twitches from igniting the crying all over again.” Dr. Karp went on to say, “She looks like she wants her hands free, but the opposite is true. Newborns love being confined, and when they’re frantic and out of control they need your help to restrain their frantic arms and legs.”

Swaddling allows him to sleep longer.

“Even easy babies who don’t need wrapping to keep calm often sleep more when swaddled. Bundling keeps them from startling themselves awake. But make sure the wrapping is tight. It’s not safe to put babies in bed with loose blankets,” Dr. Karp warns.

How to Swaddle

There are swaddle blankets on the market now that take the guesswork out of how to wrap an infant. Take for example the Zen Swaddle lightly weighted blanket. It has weighted areas on either side and at the center to provide the security your baby feels when in your arms.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

There is also the Woombie that was designed to recreate the womb environment that baby felt prior to birth. It has been shown to promote a more natural and peaceful sleep environment and prevents issues, such as startling, face scratching and overheating, and keeps baby’s face from becoming covered by loose blankets.

Woombie

For a traditional swaddle, you’ll want a large square. I preferred the Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets. They are large, made of breathable fabric and hold a tight wrap. Follow these steps for a tight, basic swaddle, but note that your baby might not be as content as the sweet, happy girl who modeled for me:

Step 1

Lay the blanket out flat in a diamond position. Fold the top corner down so it touches the center of the blanket. Position the baby so her neck touches the top edge.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Step 2

Hold your baby’s right arm down straight with your right hand/arm. With your left hand, grab the left corner of the blanket and pull it taut over the baby’s arm and body. Tuck the left corner under the baby’s back.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Step 3

Grab the bottom corner and pull it up snuggly, tucking it underneath the baby’s back.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Step 4

Place your left hand on the baby’s left arm and grab the right corner with your right hand. Pull it taut and wrap it underneath the baby’s back.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

When swaddling, make sure you wrap tightly. Our first was born before Aden + Anais, Zen or Woombie hit the market, so we used rectangular blankets that didn’t fit well. To secure the swaddle into place, I used diaper pins. A tight swaddle was the only way our little guy would sleep for a few hours at a time. Thankfully once we got the large square blankets, the diaper pins were no longer necessary.

When you begin swaddling, it’s important to note that it may take your baby a bit of time to adjust to it. And, it will also take you time to get the wrap just right. But don’t give up! If you have a high-needs or colicky baby as our first little guy was, swaddling could be a valuable asset. And don’t be concerned with worrying that once you swaddle your baby, you will always have to. As she grows and develops, her little body will adjust and at some point she will outgrow the need to be swaddled.

I do have to admit that our guy who felt most secure as a baby burrito still likes to be snuggled tightly from time to time. But now we can wrap him in our arms instead of a blanket. Sometimes we still remind him of those early colicky days, which, along with the swaddle blankets, are thankfully a thing of the past.

Many thanks to our site sponsor Lanser’s The Natural Way for making this post possible. The store is staffed by experts who strive to find the best products on the market for moms and babies. Be sure to check out their online store and their swaddle blanket offerings.

{Please note, there is an affiliate link in this post and I will receive small compensation for each purchase of the book. I truly appreciate your support in helping make this website and all our efforts possible!}

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2 thoughts on “How to Swaddle a Baby

  1. What a happy little baby in the photos. Babies love closeness so when the baby is being swaddled it brings back memories of the womb. This is a fantastic article. Thank you for sharing.

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