How To Swaddle A Baby

Swaddling is an age-old practice that emulates the feeling of being back in the womb for the baby and helps her sleep better. All you need is a baby blanket, two loving hands and you are good to go!

By Vidya Nesarikar

How To Swaddle A Baby

Swaddling a baby is an age-old practice of wrapping babies in a thin cloth or blanket to give the baby a feeling of security. It mimics the feeling of a womb. Swaddling is a useful skill to learn as it helps babies feel calm and sleep soundly. Let's find out how to swaddle a newborn baby in the right way!

A parent's perspective on swaddling a baby

Rajiv Bharadwaja, a new father, who attended the Prepare the Nest newborn care programme in Seattle said, “One of the things that was emphasised in the class was how to make the baby relax and sleep better. The facilitators explained that a properly swaddled baby feels snug and like he is in the womb, a space without too much movement. Also, a swaddled baby is less likely to experience the 'startle reflex' and wake himself up. You may have noticed that babies sometimes make jerky movements when they sleep. Though these startles are completely natural, a swaddled baby may experience lesser startle reflexes.”

“If you plan to swaddle your baby, start at birth. While a newborn is transitioning from the womb to the outside environment, she may get over stimulated and disconcerted. Swaddling soothes the newborn and helps her adjust to world outside better. These are some of things Prepare the Nest programme guided us on. It did help our little bundle of joy sleep better,” added Rajiv.

An expert opinion on swaddling 

Dr. J Sivananda, a senior doctor at Agadi Hospital, Bangalore said, “It takes some time for a new born to regulate his temperature on his own. Wrapping a infant in cloth maintains her body temperature. So, swaddling is a must. Moreover, a swaddled baby allows for a better grip, which allows people to hold him more confidently.”

“Learn the technique right. Do not wrap the infant too tightly. Make sure her hips have some movement, else the leg and hip muscles may not gain the required strength and it can lead to future development problems. If her legs are straight and packed too tightly, it can cause a condition called hip dysplasia. Ensure that you give your infant space to move her little legs and feet, to bend her legs up and outward at the hips, added Dr. Sivananda.

Swaddling in the past 

68-year-old Savithri S, recalls post birthing rituals from her time, “I remember small babies being swaddled in muslin cloth after their oil and bath routine. After being swaddled, they would be breastfed and sent to sleep in the cradle. The only thing was that their legs were sometimes straightened and wrapped too tight. This hindered the babies’ movement. In my opinion, you should do it right, or not at all.” Further, another very serious risk of swaddling a baby is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So, be aware and take caution when you swaddle your baby.

How to swaddle your baby step by step

  1. Lay a thin cotton or muslin baby blanket on a flat surface. A typical square baby blanket dimensions of 75 sq. cm would do.
  2. Make sure there are no creases on the cloth. Place it like a diamond/rhombus with one corner at the top.
  3. Then fold the top corner to a depth of about 15 cm. Use your discretion to increase the fold in case the blanket is bigger than the typical size.
  4. Lay your baby on his back in the center of the blanket, with the neck placed outside the folded edge. The shoulders should be in line with the folded cloth.

Next comes the wrapping steps:

How To Swaddle A Baby

Wrap 1 (Image 1 and 2): Start with the right arm. Place your baby’s arm on her body/chest. Pick up right side corner of the sheet, bring it over the right shoulder and arm and firmly tuck the cloth under her. You may gently turn the baby to one side while tucking the cloth in.

Wrap 2 (Image 3): Next take the bottom corner of the cloth, lift it and tuck it into the first wrap on the chest. Make sure you leave enough room for the baby’s leg to fall into a natural frog leg position.

Wrap 3 (Image 4): Next, repeat what you did on the right side. That is, take the baby’s left arm and gently place along his body/chest. Now pick up the left corner of the cloth, wrap it across his left shoulder and chest and gently tuck the extra fabric under him.

A secure swaddle is now done! You can watch the video for better understanding the swaddling process; it illustrates a couple ways of swaddling.

Dos and Don’ts of swaddling a baby

  • Never wrap above the shoulders. Always leave the head exposed.
  • Do not use a thick blanket as the baby's temperature will rise above normal.
  • A swaddle should neither be too loose nor too tight. Keep practising.
  • Never place the baby on the stomach while swaddled, because it could get her nose compressed and subsequently the air passage may get blocked, which could lead to suffocation.
  • Do not swaddle the baby after he begins to roll on his stomach, which usually happens by the 3rd and 4th months.
  • Do not swaddle your baby if you are co-sleeping with her. It could result in your baby’s body temperature rising above normal. Swaddling works best when the baby sleeps in a crib or cradle.

Remember that while some babies seem to enjoy being swaddled, others may not seem to like it. So, take cues from your baby's body language and process accordingly. Baby's comfort matters!

Also read: 10 Reasons Why Your Newborn Stays Awake All Night

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