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How to Swaddle Your Baby

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Gentle is the keyword for newborns—from touching their little cheeks to choosing materials and detergents to safeguard their skin.With all this in mind, it may seem counterintuitive to wrap your baby’s body in a way that constricts movement, but swaddling has proven benefits to help babies sleep and calmthem from crying.

After being tightly held in a warm and secure place for months (mom’s womb), it’s not just cold and light that startles—it’s the lack of that full-body embrace.

To provide this sensation to your newbornbaby, let’s look at how to swaddle with tried-and-true methods, along with some answers to common questions about the practice.

Choose Your Swaddle

Use trial and error to determine the best swaddle technique to soothe your little one and help them doze off into a blissful and safe sleep. Swaddles vary in terms of:

  • Hand and arm placement
  • Target age
  • Number and size of blankets used
  • The complexity of the folds and tucks

Some of the most popular swaddling techniques include:1

  • Hands up swaddle
  • Houdini swaddle
  • Burrito wrap swaddle

Below, you’ll find detailed instructions for these methods so you,as a new parent, can learn how to swaddle a baby properly.

#1: The Hands Up Swaddle

The hands up, or arms up, method is how to swaddle a newborn who’s still holding their body curled in with their hands close to their face.

To create a hands up swaddle:

  1. Lay the square-shaped swaddleblanket flat in front of you, with corners at top, bottom, left, and right so that it forms a diamond.
  2. Fold the top corner down toward you, so you now have corners at the bottom, left, and right with a flat line at the top.
  3. Center your baby on the swaddleblanket horizontally with their neck aligned with the top flat border.
  4. Tuck the newbornbaby’s right arm under the loose blanket fold that you made at the top of the blanket, allowing their arm to continue to curl up toward their face.
  5. Fold the first wing of the blanket, including the tucked-in right arm, across the baby.
  6. Tuck the folded wing under the left arm and the baby’s back.
  7. Bring the bottom point of the blanket up, and tuck it into the top edge of the folded wing (below the baby’s neck). Keep plenty of space for the legs and hips to move freely.
  8. Tuck the baby’s left arm under the initial fold, mirroring the right arm.
  9. Pull the second wing of the larger blanket across the baby and down toward you, holding it lightly in place on the baby’s chest to create the first line of a vee neck.
  10. Pull the wing up and over the baby’s right shoulder to finish the vee neck configuration.
  11. Tuck the wing under the baby and snug the corner around to the front to tuck into the fold made in creating the vee neck.

The baby’s hands are each covered by one layer of the blanket to prevent any scratches to the face and keep them warm. They should also have easy movement to flex their hips and legs.

Once the swaddledbaby begins to loosen their posture (including with some of those adorable full-body stretches), it’s time to shift to a swaddle with the arms down.

Target age: Newborn to four weeks.

#2: Houdini Swaddle

If your baby is wiggling out of other configurations but still needing the comfort of a swaddle to sleep for longer periods, you may want to try the Houdini swaddle. It’s loose around the hips and legs but keeps the arms tucked down at the sides and is pretty much wiggle-proof.

To create a Houdini swaddle, you need two different types of baby blankets: a smaller receiving blanket and a larger thin muslin or light flannel.

  1. Lay the larger square-shaped blanket flat in front of you, with corners at the top, bottom, left, and right—so it forms a diamond.
  2. Fold the top corner down toward you, so you now have corners at the bottom, left, and right with a flat line at the top.
  3. Place your smaller blanket on top, folded down to a triangle with the point toward you, and the folded edge aligned with the bottom blanket’s folded edge.
  4. Center your baby on the blankets horizontally with their neck aligned with the top flat border.
  5. Urge the baby’s arms straight down by their sides before tucking them in.
  6. Bring the first wing over the right arm but then lift the baby to tuck the wing below them, so it’s under their back and secured down by the baby’s weight.
  7. Bring the second wing over the baby’s left arm and again, lift the baby to tuck it below them. (At this point, both of the baby’s arms are tucked into the top blanket, but the rest of the baby is still unswaddled.)
  8. Bring the first wing of the larger blanket across the baby, angling first toward you and then up toward the baby’s shoulder to create a vee neck and avoid the baby’s face.
  9. Tuck the first wing under the baby.
  10. Bring the bottom point of the larger blanket up toward the baby’s head and tuck the corner into the edge of the swaddle, leaving ample room for the baby’s legs and hips to move freely.
  11. Pull the second wing of the larger blanket across the baby and down toward you, holding it lightly in place on the baby’s chest to create the first line of a vee neck.
  12. Pull the wing up and over the baby’s right shoulder to finish the vee neck configuration.
  13. Tuck the wing under the baby and snug the corner around to the front to tuck into the fold made in creating the vee neck.

Target age: Six to 12 weeks.

#3: The Burrito Wrap

Having trouble with other swaddling techniques? Most parents find the burrito wrap, or baby burrito, to be the easiest option. It’s ideal for older babies that can tolerate an arms-down position, colder climates or seasons, and a larger square or rectangular blanket.

To create a burrito swaddle:

  1. Lay your blanket out in front of you in a square position rather than diamond.
  2. Center your baby on the blanket horizontally with their neck aligned with the top edge of the square.
  3. Pull the top left corner slightly toward you and angle across the baby, covering the right arm and shoulder.
  4. Tuck it under the left arm and the back.
  5. Pull the second top corner across the baby, over the left shoulder and arm.
  6. Tuck it under the back.
  7. Flip the bottom edge of the blanket up over the baby’s feet and legs, keeping the bottom corners loose and out to the sides.
  8. Pull one corner under the back and around to tuck into the top fold under the neck.
  9. Pull the remaining corner under the back and around the other side to tuck into the top fold under the neck.

Target age: Two to four months.

baby blanket with printed hot air baloons

Commonly Asked Swaddling Questions

As a new parent, you’re likely doing a fair bit of Googling to get the answers to all your baby questions. Fortunately, when it comes to swaddling, we can save you some time. Take a look at our answers to a few commonly asked swaddling questions:

What Do I Swaddle With?

A swaddling blanket needs to be sized right and of material designed for this practice—this is not a job for a baby quilt or a hand-knit throw. To ensure comfort and safety, choose a blanket that’s:

  • Soft cotton knit, muslin, bamboo, or thin flannel with a bit of stretch
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Sized at about 32” square for a newborn
  • Sized at about 47” square for a growing baby

If you’re ending up with way too much floppy fabric after you’ve wrapped your baby into a swaddle, your blanket may be too large.

Is It Okay to Swaddle a Newborn at Night?

Because swaddling can help to calm a fussy baby and promote better sleep, it’s safe and helpful to swaddle your newborn at night. Just remember to always lie your baby on their back to sleep, and stop swaddling once your little one learns to roll over (as rolling over while swaddled can be dangerous for your baby).

How Many Hours Should a Newborn Be Swaddled?

While you’ll need to unswaddle your little baby burrito for feeding and bathing, it’s recommended that parents swaddle newborns for between 12 and 20 hours a day to help them stay calm and relaxed as they adjust to their new environment.2

The Nope List

It can be tricky finding the balance between a binding that’s just what your baby needs to feel secure and a binding that’s too tight or becomes a safety hazard. That’s why we’ve included a handy checklist below of what to avoid in swaddling:

  • Blocked face – Never cover the face or throat or create a breathing impediment; stop the snug blanket placement with the shoulders.3 Swaddled babies should also be laid down only on their backs, never on their stomachs or sides.
  • Tightness – While the swaddle is meant to restrict some movement, you don’t want to impede your baby’s breathing or cause discomfort. To ensure your swaddle isn’t too tight, slip two fingers between the blanket and your baby; if you can easily do that, you’ve got a good fit.
  • Mealtime – Swaddling isn’t recommended during feeding because it can make your baby too sleepy, and you want alertness to help them get their fill of milk or formula.
  • Continued fussiness – Remember, the goal of swaddling is to calm fussiness and help babies relax and sleep. If they’re unhappy in a swaddle after some walking, rocking, and soothing sounds, then re-check their needs (hunger, diaper change), try another swaddling method, or switch to a different blanket or material. If they consistently remain unhappy, they may be among the minority of little ones who don’t respond well to a swaddle.4
  • Rolling over – Deciding how long to swaddle a baby is based on when your baby learns to roll over, as swaddling should not be used with babies who can roll over. If your baby rolls over onto their stomach while swaddled, they’ll block their breathing and, without the use of their arms, won’t be able to roll back over.
  • Sudden stop – Instead of a total change from full swaddling to none, consider how to transition out of swaddle practice slowly by allowing one arm free at a time or swaddling for shorter periods. You can also make wearable blankets, like the Monica + Andy Arms-Out Sleep Bag, part of the transition. This snuggly outfit provides the cocoon-like warmth of a swaddle, while leaving the baby's arms free.

Ready to Find the Perfect Swaddling Blanket? Find Yours at Monica + Andy

Effective swaddling helps babies fall and stay asleep in a safe position, reducing instances of startling and promoting a sense of calm. It only takes two ingredients—and if you’ve got the baby, we’ve got the baby blankets.

Monica + Andy is committed to providing 100% GOTS certified organic cotton clothing and accessories designed for the ultimate in comfort for babies, infants, and parents.

Our Coming Home Blanket is the perfect size to snugly wrap your newborn, made with soft organic cotton and a touch of stretch. Combine this with the larger Always Blanket in cotton muslin, and you’re ready-set-go when it comes to swaddling your little one.

Sources:

  1. "Full Swaddling Video." 7 Swaddles. http://www.7swaddles.com/full-swaddling-video/
  2. "The Right Way To Wrap." St. Louis Children’s Hospital. https://www.stlouischildrens.org/health-resources/pulse/right-way-wrap#:~:text=The%20American%20Academy%20of%20Pediatrics,infant%20death%20syndrome%2C%20or%20SIDS
  3. Horsager-Boehrer, Robyn ."Safe swaddling and sleeping practices for babies." The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 24 May 2016, https://utswmed.org/medblog/practice-safe-swaddling-sleeping/
  4. Taylor, Marygrace. " How to Swaddle a Baby." What To Expect. 29 June 2020, https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/baby-care/baby-care-101/secrets-to-swaddling.aspx
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