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Parenting

How to Swaddle a Baby Like a Pro

Last Updated March 4, 2021

By  Janice Warren

While a swaddle could make your newborn look like a baby burrito from the hospital nursery, this practice could provide many benefits to them. Nevertheless, it could be challenging to find the appropriate way to do so.

So, this post discusses the step-by-step process of how to swaddle a baby in a wrap blanket. We'll also look at the benefits and risks associated with snuggling to help you make the best decision for your baby.

How to Swaddle Your Baby- A Step by Step Guide

The swaddling technique we'll discuss in this post involves a "Down-Up-Down-Up" sequence that is easy to remember. Let's get right to it!

Step 1: Down

Find a flat surface and place a swaddling blanket on and position it in a diamond shape. Then, take the top corner and fold it down until it reaches the center of the blanket or at least close-by.

Now, place your baby on the blanket and ensure the neck is above the edge of the top fold. Hold the right arm against the baby's side, pull about four inches from the right shoulder, and snuggle it across the body and tuck it under her left underside. It should now look like a V-neck sweater.

Then, take the free side on the left side and tug it away from the body to remove slack. This should leave the right arm snugly held against the side.

Step 2: Up

As you hold the left arm against the side, bring the bottom of the blanket up and position it on the left shoulder. Tuck the edge around the left arm and pull the blanket side near the shoulder away from the body to remove slackness. While you keep the blanket tighter around the upper side to keep the arms straight, it should be loose around the legs after swaddling .

Step 3: Down

Take the blanket a few inches from the shoulder and slightly pull it down. This flap should come to the baby's chest to complete the other part of the V-neck shape. Press the smidge against the breastbone like the way you hold down a ribbon to tie a bow.

Step 4: Up

By now, you've secured three corners of the blanket and are almost done learning how to swaddle your baby. The next action is to hold the smidge over the chest and take the last blanket corner and remove the slack by pulling it away from the body. Then, lift the corner and bring it straight against the forearms in one smooth motion.

You should have a blanket that is large enough to fold around the body without coming short. This should allow the arms to remain straight and cozy while the legs should be loose enough to open at the hips and bend at the knees.

Benefits of Swaddling Your Newborn

There are several advantages to learning the correct way to swaddle a newborn. They include

  1. Keeping the baby warm as they sleep
  2. Reducing the startling reflexes that wake babies from sleep by preventing the arms and legs from flailing since the blankets securely hold the baby in place.
  3. Promoting a sense of safety since the swaddle mimics the close-fitting warmth and comfort of the womb.
  4. Helping to calm your baby during distress or conditions like colic.
  5. Comforting the baby when the baby has had a painful experience like a vaccination.

The Risks Involved in Swaddling Babies

1. SIDS

The first risk is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) which occurs when the baby accidentally suffocates after being placed on their stomach after being swaddled or rolling over to their stomach.

Certain child care professionals such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that you only place your baby face-up on their back after swaddling and constantly monitor them as they sleep to ensure they don't rollover.

2. Hip Dysplasia

It is also important to properly learn how to swaddle a baby to prevent hip dislocation or dysplasia. According to studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics, swaddling a baby too tightly could displace the hip from the socket and lead to injury.

So, you should ensure that the lower section of the swaddle is loose enough to let your baby bend the knees and move the legs out.

3. Overheating

The easiest way for swaddling could go wrong is when the warmth builds up too much and the baby experiences overheating. You could identify this if you notice the baby sweating, with damp hair, flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, or heat rash.

Things to Consider as You Learn How to Swaddle Your Baby

1. Wearable Blankets/ Sleep Sacks

If it's challenging to swaddle your baby, you could prefer a covering like a sleep sack. Wearable blankets are one of the ways of swaddling your baby without using a typical blanket. You could also use a swaddle wrap with a zipper or Velcro fasteners to remove the need for tucking or folding.

The main advantage they provide is that they eliminate all the steps making it easy to swaddle your baby with little effort. However, you should stop using them once the baby begins to roll over by themselves.

2. Fabric

The swaddle blanket you use should be made of soft and comfortable material like cotton, linen, or muslin. The idea is to use materials that are breathable, absorbent, and have cooling properties. The reason the swaddle should be breathable is to allow air circulation and control the removal of heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you really need to swaddle a newborn?

Mostly, newborns will respond positively to swaddle since it relaxes them and helps them sleep. However, if your little one is not a fan, you don't have to swaddle them. You might want to try out different swaddle techniques before taking this option off the table altogether.

2. When do you stop swaddling your baby?

Swaddling is the best option for babies under the ages of 3-4 months. This is because your child starts to roll over during this age, and swaddling could prevent them from practicing this appropriate step in their development. So, you should stop swaddling your baby immediately they start to roll over.

3. Should You Swaddle a Baby with the Arms Up or Down?

Professionals advise that you swaddle your baby with the arms down instead of with the hands across their chests. This reduces the chances of your baby wiggling out of the swaddle. 

Janice Warren


Janice is a full-time writer at Infantcore, writing about her experiences as mother of 4.

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