Proper swaddling mimics the comforting environment of a mother’s womb. But as new parents soon discover, swaddling is an acquired skill.
Here’s how to swaddle a baby to achieve that snug, soothing sensation that will help comfort your child. Keep in mind, swaddling should only be used for sleep.
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Swaddling 101: How to Swaddle a Baby
First, fold down one corner of a square or rectangular blanket and place the baby face-up on the blanket, shoulders aligned with the fold.
- Next, use your left hand to pull the left side of the blanket around the baby’s opposite shoulder, tucking it in tightly under the body.
- Your right hand should now keep this tuck in place as your left hand pulls the bottom of the blanket up to the baby’s belly. You’ll notice this motion draws the baby’s knees in to their body.
- Complete the snug package by pulling that final, right side of the blanket across the body once again and tucking the excess material under the baby. The baby’s own weight will provide the resistance that keeps the blanket secure.
- A good swaddle prevents your baby’s jerky limbs from startling them and disturbing an otherwise deep, refreshing sleep.
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The best swaddle starts with the perfect blanket. Choose a breathable cotton swaddle blanket with a small amount of stretch. This material allows the baby to move around without accidentally escaping the warm bundle. A heavier, fluffy blanket could obstruct breathing if it comes loose.
Parents often wonder how long a baby should be swaddled. Here are some guidelines:
- Newborns — At first, new babies can enjoy between eight and 12 hours of swaddle time per day. You will learn your child’s cues and when to offer some freedom during play time.
- One month — Generally, around the one-month mark, babies start squirming out of their swaddles. This indicates that it’s time to transition.
- Three months — By now, most babies can sleep uninterrupted without being wrapped. Watch for fussiness or general discomfort when swaddled. Some parents transition slowly by swaddling a baby fewer and fewer hours each day.
Using the right blanket and monitoring your baby’s movements while they’re wrapped are good starting points for a safe swaddle.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. More than 9,000 babies are born each year at Magee. The hospital also treats men for a variety of conditions, including surgical treatment. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first center to focus research only on conditions involving women and their infants.