1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Swaddling a Baby

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

By

Updated June 25, 2007

A happy, sleeping, perfectly swaddled baby.

A happy, sleeping, perfectly-swaddled baby

Photo (c) Rosemarie Gearhart
Q. "Getting my baby to sleep through the night, and quickly comforting him when he cries, was easy once I started swaddling him with a blanket. But friends have warned me that a baby can get addicted to swaddling and that I should stop soon so that he learns to comfort himself. Is that true?" --Lindsey, Utah

A. Yes, it is possible for a baby to come to rely on swaddling so much that he or she finds it hard to be comforted or fall asleep without it. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't swaddle your newborn.

Swaddling, which was popularized in the parenting book "The Happiest Baby on the Block," is actually a very old and common practice.

Benefits of Swaddling

Most parents say that swaddling helps their babies get to sleep, stay asleep, and get comforted quickly, especially when they are newborns. A properly-swaddled baby feels warm and secure, and the wrap can help prevent a baby from throwing his arms up and startling himself, or even scratching his face.

Some babies don't like being swaddled, though. If your baby doesn't, you can try swaddling him a bit looser or leaving his arms out of the blanket altogether.

Swaddling a Baby

Swaddling a baby is harder than it looks. When you are in the newborn nursery, your baby is often handed to you in a perfectly swaddled little "package." How do they do that? Lots of practice is one key, but the large, thin, cotton blankets that the typical newborn nursery uses also help. Many baby blankets that parents have are too small and thick to be good swaddling blankets.

How to Swaddle a Baby:

  1. Lay the blanket out on a flat surface in the shape of a diamond.
  2. Fold down three or four inches of the top edge of the blanket.
  3. Place your baby on the blanket so that his head is overlapping the top edge you turned down.
  4. Tuck your baby's right arm into the flap made by the folded down edge of the blanket and the right corner of the blanket. Pull that corner across his body, tucking it behind the opposite side of his back.
  5. Bring the bottom corner of the blanket up and tuck it inside the blanket near his chest.
  6. Tuck your baby's left arm into the flap made by the folded down edge of the blanket and the left corner of the blanket. Pull that corner across his body, tucking it behind the blanket on his back.
If you have problems swaddling your baby, you can actually buy a swaddling blanket with Velcro flaps to make the procedure easier.

When to Stop Swaddling

Most parents only swaddle their babies when they are newborns. Once they are one or two months-old, many babies don't need the extra warmth or security they were getting from swaddling anymore.

Studies have shown that swaddling doesn't help infants with excessive crying once they are two months-old anyway.

Still, some parents say it does seem to help older infants who are particularly fussy or who don't sleep well. Swaddling a baby does become a safety issue once your baby is able to roll over. You don't want a tightly-swaddled baby to roll over onto his stomach, since that could be a risk factor for SIDS.

Keep in mind that babies often begin to roll over some time between two to five months, so that is a good time to stop swaddling and get your baby used to falling asleep on his own. At the very least, you can begin to loosen your baby's swaddling blanket to help him get used to sleeping without being wrapped tightly.

Other reasons to stop swaddling:

  • Your baby may be getting overheated, which is also a risk factor for SIDS.
  • Swaddling is beginning to limit your infant's movements, which is why many people who continue to swaddle their baby at night stop doing so during the day once their baby is about a month old.
  • Your baby doesn't like being swaddled anymore.


Sources:

Swaddling and excessive crying. Karp H - J Pediatr - July 2007; 151(1); e2-e3

Comparison of behavior modification with and without swaddling as interventions for excessive crying. van Sleuwen BE - J Pediatr - 01-OCT-2006; 149(4): 512-7

Swaddling young infants can decrease crying time. Caiola E - J Pediatr - 01-MAR-2007; 150(3): 320-1

Sudden infant death syndrome: risk factors for infants found face down differ from other SIDS cases. Thompson JM - J Pediatr - 01-NOV-2006; 149(5): 630-633

Related Video
How to Swaddle a Baby
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Pediatrics
  4. Expert Q&A
  5. Swaddling a Baby

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.