Mothers have been swaddling their babies for thousands of years. Whether you're a new parent or a veteran, you could probably use the extra sleep that swaddling your baby will provide.
Unfortunately, swaddling your baby might seem like somewhat of an art form. Wrap this, tuck that. It can feel confusing, especially when you're up for a 3 a. m. feeding. Learning and practicing the art of swaddling your baby will help you get more sleep. It will also help your baby feel more secure and comforted, just like he was in the womb.
You might be thinking that swaddling your baby every time they go to sleep (which is a lot) seems like a lot of work, but there are many benefits to swaddling your baby. Here are some you and your baby will experience:
Swaddling protects your baby against their natural startle reflex, which means better sleep for both of you
It may help calm a colicky baby
It helps eliminate anxiety in your baby by imitating your touch, which helps your baby learn to self-sooth
It keeps her hands off her face and helps prevent scratching
It helps your baby sleep longer and better
It helps prevent SIDS by keeping unnecessary items like pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals out of your baby's crib
It keeps your baby on his back while he sleeps
How to swaddle your baby
If you've never swaddled a baby, it might seem like a complicated process. But it doesn't have to be. Practice the following steps a few times and you'll be a pro.
Spread out your swaddling blanket on a soft, flat surface. Arrange the blanket in a diamond shape with the bottom of the diamond pointing toward you.
Fold down the top edge of the blanket. This should create a loose triangle shape. Set your baby with his feet pointing toward you. His shoulder should be just below the fold in the blanket.
Arrange you baby's right arm next to his body with his arm slightly bent. Pull that same side of the blanket up and over your baby's right arm and body, then tuck it underneath your baby. Your baby's left arm should be left free.
Fold the bottom of the swaddle blanket up over your baby's feet. If the blanket is long enough, tuck it behind his shoulder.
Complete the swaddle by pulling the remaining side of the swaddle up and over your baby's remaining arm and across his body.
Although swaddling comes with numerous benefits, you need to make sure you're doing it right to avoid danger or discomfort for your baby. Follow these safety tips:
Don't wrap too tight. Swaddling your baby tight enough that he can't move his hips or legs may limit the development of the hip. Aim for a tight enough swaddle that will hold your baby's arms firm, without completely immobilizing her entire body.
Always lay your baby down on his back after swaddling.
Stop swaddling your baby as soon as he can roll over.
Don't double up on blankets when you swaddle. The extra thickness could cause your baby to overheat. It can also dislodge easier, which adds to the risk of suffocation.
Swaddling your baby is a great way to get him to sleep better. When your baby sleeps better, so do you. Once you learn how to swaddle a baby, you'll know how to do it in your sleep (literally)!
Swaddling a baby: the benefits, risks and seven safety tips | Baby & toddler articles & support
Swaddling has been used in different forms throughout the world since 4000BC and around 1 in 5 babies in the UK are swaddled in the first few weeks of life (Day, 2015). Some parents say it helps their baby to sleep, reducing crying and stress, but there are risks to be aware of (Day, 2015). Here we talk about tips for safe swaddling.
What is swaddling?
Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping a baby up gently in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm and sleepy. They should only have their body wrapped and not their neck or head, to reduce the chance of suffocation.
The idea is that being swaddled will help your little one feel snug and secure, just like in your womb.
What are the benefits of swaddling my little one?
Some people say that swaddling seems to help their little one to settle more easily and sleep for longer, others find that it can help calm their baby. Research has shown swaddling, used alongside sound and movement, to be effective at soothing crying babies (Möller et al, 2019; Nelson, 2017). It can also encourage babies to sleep deeper and for longer (Nelson, 2017).
Another study found that babies who were born early and were swaddled were calmer and had improved neuromuscular development and better muscle tone, and it soothed pain and discomfort (Sleuwen et al, 2007; Kitase et al, 2017).
What are the risks of swaddling my baby?
It has been suggested that early swaddling could affect breastfeeding if babies are prevented from having skin to skin contact during feeding. However, research has not found long-term negative effects on breastfeeding (Nelson, 2017; Kelly et al, 2017).
Some people have questioned if encouraging a baby to sleep more deeply at night is beneficial for them as being asleep for longer periods reduces the time they are awake, interacting with and learning from their environment (St James-Roberts, 2012).
Some evidence suggests that tightly swaddling a baby's hips could increase their chance of developing hip dysplasia (a developmental problem with a baby’s hip joint) (Clarke, 2014; Nelson, 2017). Making sure your baby's legs have enough space to be able to bend up and out at the hips allows for the natural development of the hip joints (Clarke, 2014).
Is swaddling my baby safe?
Swaddling presents a very low risk for babies, if you follow safe sleeping and hip friendly swaddling guidance (Nelson, 2017; McDonnell & Moon 2017). Current baby sleeping advice is to always lay your little one down to sleep on their back and avoid front or side positions for sleep, particularly if your baby is swaddled (Pease et al, 2016). In addition, you should stop swaddling your baby when they show the first signs of rolling over (Nelson, 2017).
What safety points do I need to consider?
Follow these seven safe and hip friendly swaddling tips:
Consider your baby's temperature and their environment to prevent overheating. Check their temperature regularly and make sure they are wearing suitable clothes for the weather. Do not swaddle them if they are unwell or have a fever (Lullaby Trust, 2021).
Swaddle your baby using thin materials such as a small, cotton sheet or muslin square. Do not place any additional material on top of a swaddled baby, for example a blanket which could cause them to overheat. Follow safe sleep guidance, laying your baby on a firm, flat surface clear of any other items (The Lullaby Trust, 2021).
Don't swaddle your baby above their shoulders – their neck and head should never be swaddled. Ensure any material is secure and won't come loose as your baby moves, to avoid suffocation (The Lullaby Trust, 2021).
Use hip-healthy swaddling techniques to reduce the chance of hip dysplasia. Make sure your baby is able to move their hips and knees freely to kick. Your baby’s legs should be able to fall into a natural position (like frog legs) rather than straight down.
Always put your baby to sleep on their back. Never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front or side (The Lullaby Trust, 2021; McDonnell & Moon, 2017; Pease et al, 2016; Nelson, 2017).
If you use a swaddle product or blanket check that it conforms to safety standards and is well fitted, without fault or damage. Follow the manufacturers guidance on age or weight ratings and consider using a lower tog rating to minimise overheating risks (McDonnell & Moon, 2017; The Lullaby Trust, 2021).
If someone else looks after your baby, make sure they also know about safe sleeping advice and how to swaddle safely. Take your time to show them and explain safe swaddling and make sure they know to always put your baby to sleep on their back (The Lullaby Trust, 2021).
How long can I safely swaddle my baby for?
Swaddling should only be introduced when your baby is a newborn. As soon as they show signs that they’re learning to roll over or they can already roll over, you need to transition them away from swaddling (Pease et al, 2016; The Lullaby Trust 2021; McDonnell & Moon, 2017; Nelson, 2017).
For more about how to swaddle your baby read our step-by-step guide to swaddling.
This page was last reviewed in December 2021.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0333 252 5051.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Safer sleep advice and bereavement support from the Lullaby Trust.
Clarke N. (2014) Swaddling and hip dysplasia: an orthopaedic perspective. Archives of Disease in Childhood (99)5-6. Available from: http://dx. doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2013-304143
Day L. (2015) The history, benefits and risks of swaddling babies. Journal of Health Visiting 3:4, 202-208. Available from: https://doi.org/10.12968/johv.2015.3.4.202
Eline L. Möller, Wieke de Vente, Roos Rodenburg (2019) Infant crying and the calming response: Parental versus mechanical soothing using swaddling, sound, and movement, PLoS ONE 14(4). Available at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0214548. [Accessed 12th December 2021]
Kitase Y, Sato Y, Takahashi H, Shimizu M, Ishikawa C, Yamamoto H, Hayakawa M. (2017) A new type of swaddling clothing improved development of preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units. Early Hum Dev. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov/28675824/ [Accessed 21st December 2021]
Kelly B, Irigoyen M, Pomerantz S, Mondesir M, Isaza-Brando N. (2017) Swaddling and Infant Sleeping Practices. J Community Health Feb;42(1):10-14. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27393144/ [Accessed 21st December 2021]
McDonnell E, & Moon R. (2014). Infant deaths and injuries associated with wearable blankets, swaddle wraps, and swaddling. The Journal of pediatrics, 164(5), 1152–1156. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992172/ [Accessed 12th December 2021]
Nelson A. (2017) Risks and benefits of swaddling healthy infants: an integrative review. CAN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 42(4): 216-225. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2, 2017; 8394766/[ Accessed 12th December 2021]
Pease AS, Fleming PJ, Hauck FR, Moon RY, Horne RS, L'Hoir MP, Ponsonby AL, Blair PS. (2016) Swaddling and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 137(6) available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27244847/[Accessed 12th December 2021]
The Lullaby Trust (2021) Safe swaddling. Available at: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/swaddling-slings/ [Accessed 13th September 201812th December 2021].
Sleuwen B, Engelberts A, Boere-Boon M, Kuis W, Schulpen T, Lhoir M (2007) Swaddling: A Systematic Review Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5935787_Swaddling_A_Systematic_Review [Accessed 21stDecember 2021]
St James-Roberts I (2012) The Origins, Prevention and Treatment of Infant Crying and Sleeping Problems. Routeledge: New York.
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why and up to what age swaddling is needed
According to experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, postpartum swaddling calms the baby and reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
But so that the benefits do not outweigh the harm, you need to swaddle children correctly - and abandon this practice as soon as the child begins to roll over. This usually happens at 2-4 months of age.
See a doctor
Our articles are written with love for evidence-based medicine. We refer to authoritative sources and go to doctors with a good reputation for comments. But remember: the responsibility for your health lies with you and your doctor. We don't write prescriptions, we make recommendations. Relying on our point of view or not is up to you.
Why swaddling is considered beneficial
Pediatricians have two arguments in favor of infant swaddling.
Swaddled babies sleep better. Infant swaddling soothes babies, and because the baby is less anxious, he falls asleep more easily. The researchers suggest that this is because the pressure of the diaper reminds the child of the sensations that he experienced even before birth, that is, in a calm and safe mother's womb.
Why Swaddling Calms Your Baby - Harvard Medical School
Baby Sleeps Longer and Wakes Less Often in Swaddles - American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP
Swaddling reduces the risk of SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy infant.
What is SIDS - Mayo Clinic
The cause of this condition is still unknown, but scientists suspect that it may be a violation of the structure of the brain area that controls breathing during sleep. Similar problems often occur in premature babies, whose nervous system has not had time to mature to the end, and in children with congenital neurological disorders.
In addition to congenital disorders in the respiratory center, SIDS has other risk factors. Swaddling helps eliminate at least one of them - sleeping on your stomach or on your side. The respiratory muscles in infants are still very weak, so it is harder for the child to breathe in such positions. If he has other risk factors for SIDS, sleeping in a dangerous position increases the risk of respiratory arrest. A swaddled baby who is put to sleep on his back will not be able to accidentally roll over onto his back or stomach, and this reduces the likelihood that he will suffocate.
SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths - AAP guidelines
What are the risks of swaddling? Babies do not yet know how to sweat as profusely as adults, so their bodies heat up much faster.
The temperature that an adult can tolerate without damage to health can lead to a baby's heat stroke - up to and including fatal brain damage.
The dangers of overheating for babies - National Institute of Child Health
How to Avoid Baby Overheating - National Institutes of Health, NIH
To avoid overheating, it is recommended to keep baby's rooms between 16-20°C. Although it may seem too cold for an adult accustomed to central heating, for a child who does not yet know how to sweat, this temperature is optimal.
To prevent the baby from overheating in too warm underwear, it is recommended to follow one of two strategies:
Only wear one layer of clothing per child. That is, the child should sleep either in baby clothes or in a diaper, but not in both at the same time. If the baby is hot, his cheeks are red, and his forehead and hair are damp, he is too hot.
Instead of a diaper, use a blanket tucked under the mattress. This method is suitable if parents want a dressed child to sleep better. The baby will not overheat if you put him closer to the foot of the bed, cover him with a blanket no higher than chest level and tuck the ends of the blanket under the mattress. Covering a child with a loose blanket, that is, not tucked under the mattress, is life-threatening.
How to protect your baby during sleep: 9 rules for parents
How to put your baby to sleep. The child sleeps only in a diaper, without clothes and blankets. Photo: Dmitry Naumov / Shutterstock
The child sleeps in clothes, without a blanket and without a diaper. Photo: Glandwr / iStock
The child sleeps in clothes, with a blanket, but without a diaper. Photo: Instagram account teona.vit
Up to what age is it recommended to swaddle babies. You can swaddle until the baby has learned to roll over. On average, this happens at the age of two months. But some babies begin to roll over as early as a month or, conversely, do not roll over until four months. Therefore, in order not to miss the moment when you need to stop swaddling, it is important to monitor the physical development of the child.
If the baby has already learned to roll over, swaddling does not reduce, but increases the risk of SIDS. If a swaddled baby rolls over on his stomach or on his side, then in diapers it will be difficult for him to turn on his back.
Swaddling is a risk factor for SIDS for a baby older than two months - a guide for doctors Uptodate
How to swaddle your baby correctly
Can there be consequences for improper swaddling. If the baby is swaddled too loosely, the swaddle may unroll, increasing the risk of suffocation.
But you shouldn't swaddle your baby too tightly either. To reduce the risk of future hip problems, the baby should be able to move and bend their legs in the diaper.
Why You Shouldn't Swaddle Your Baby's Legs Too Tight - American Academy of Family Physicians
Mayo Clinic Pediatricians Suggest Swaddling Your Baby Like This:
Swaddling: How You Keep Your Baby Sleeping | kidsroom.
A child wrapped up and sleeping quietly. Only one head peeks out. As if the stork had just brought it. When visiting new parents, one can often see such a scene. When interviewing young parents, we learn that small children are swaddled. The tight wrap is designed to help babies during the first few weeks while sleeping, it has a soothing effect. Swaddling has become a real trend. But still, how does it work and where does this trend come from, and what exactly does "swaddling" mean?
What is swaddling?
Swaddling is a technique in which your baby is wrapped in a swaddle and has a calming effect on him. The main objective of the technique is to create a narrow and comforting space that is familiar to the child from the womb. In addition, swaddling should have a positive effect on reducing the Moro reflex. This reflex is innate in every child and manifests itself in children from a sudden noise or vibration, the baby jerks his arms and legs and spreads his fingers. From a sudden noise or vibration, the baby jerks and stretches his arms and legs and spreads his fingers. This process occurs during the falling asleep phase, and thus wakes up the child. Modern swaddling is not a new invention at all, it is a modification of various and sometimes very old methods of swaddling. In Germany, these methods were widely used until the 19th century.
Modern swaddling is not a new invention at all, it is a modification of various and sometimes very old methods of swaddling.
One of the main differences from traditional methods is that swaddling is now mainly used to calm the baby and provide him with a more pleasant sleep. Previously, it was believed that the soft body of the child should be supported and given shape, in connection with this there was a tight "lacing". As criticism of tight swaddling grew louder, it began to disappear from Western culture from the 18th century.
The basic idea of the old method of swaddling, which is widely used today among many primitive peoples, has been revived. A 2011 scientific study by L. E. Meyer and T. Erler (“Swaddling: a traditional care method rediscovered”) claims that swaddled children have longer and more restful sleep. In addition, with the help of swaddling, the likelihood of spontaneous awakening is reduced.
More restful and longer sleep
Many babies calm down faster in a diaper
The risk of SIDS is reduced because the child cannot turn on his stomach
Doctors warn of swaddling babies too tight as nerves can be pinched
Risk of hip dysplasia (deformity of the hip joint) is increased
Too tight swaddling increases the risk of overheating
How to properly swaddle your baby
Swaddling promotes restful sleep and helps your baby calm down. Swaddling for too long poses risks for poor posture and can lead to overheating, one of the main causes of sudden infant death syndrome. Use swaddling only for falling asleep. You can choose a special changing bag or a thin blanket or diaper. Whichever option you choose, technique matters! Your obstetrician will help you with questions.
Swaddling made easy
Step 1: Place the blanket in a diamond shape in front of you. Place the top corner over the bottom corner to form a triangle. Put the baby in the middle. The head should protrude above the blanket, and the shoulders should be below the fold of the matter.
Step 2: Place your baby's right hand flat against your body. Now lift the right side of the blanket and put it on the baby. Make sure your hand is properly positioned under the cloth. Tuck the edge of the blanket under the body. .
Step 3: Fold the bottom of the blanket up over your baby's legs.
Step 4: In the final step, hold the child's left arm against the body and wrap the child. The remaining material is then pushed under your treasure. Ready!
Make sure you don't wrap the blanket too tightly around your body at all stages.
When to stop swaddling
However, there are situations when you need to stop swaddling. At elevated body temperature of the child, in no case should you swaddle, this threatens to overheat due to the fact that the heat cannot escape. Swaddling with congenital hip dysplasia should also be avoided so as not to aggravate the situation.
Pay attention to your baby's reactions. As is often the case, even this method is not recommended for all children equally. Whether your child is already having a restful sleep, there is no need to swaddle. For some babies, swaddling has the opposite effect. They don't like to be wrapped, it only annoys them. If you notice that swaddling does not bring comfort to your child, then you should not insist.
When to stop swaddling
Swaddling is used mainly for calming and counteracting the "Moro reflex". It is recommended to swaddle a baby only in the first few weeks of life, as the Moro reflex decreases after the second or third month of life. The desire of the child to move increases with age. Your baby wants freedom of movement to develop motor skills. Swaddling in this case will restrict freedom and thus affect the development of motor skills. The increased joy of movement creates additional risk during swaddling. Your child may roll over on their stomach and will no longer be able to return to the supine position on their own. The prone position increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Especially if the child is not observed for a long time during sleep, swaddling should be abandoned.
A good alternative to swaddling, recommended for babies after the third month, are baby sleeping bags. They still give a sense of security, but do not restrict freedom of movement.