Swaddling a baby in a cozy baby blanket is a time-honored tradition that recalls the comfort and safety of your little one’s time in the womb. Newborn babies benefit from swaddling in a number of ways, from providing a sense of physical security to keeping them warm and immobilized as they sleep.
As a new parent, knowing how to swaddle a baby correctly is an important skill to master. We’ll get you up to speed with step-by-step swaddling instructions, provide helpful information about why swaddling a baby is so important and answer some common questions about swaddling and swaddle blankets.
Easy Directions for How to Swaddle a Baby
Feeling confident about how to properly swaddle your newborn takes some practice. Unless you’ve learned the steps for correct and effective swaddling, you might think it’s as simple as wrapping a baby in a blanket.
Baby swaddling requires a specific technique, but it’s easy to learn.
All you need to get started is a flat surface like a bed, couch or changing table, a soft swaddle blanket and your little one.
1. Prepare the Swaddle Blanket
Lay the swaddle blanket out with the corners at the top, bottom and sides. From your perspective, it should look like a diamond, rather than a square. Fold the top corner down.
2. Place Your Baby on the Swaddle Blanket
Position your baby face-up with their head above the folded corner. The fold in the swaddle blanket should be at the same height as their shoulders. Make sure your baby’s arms are stretched out along the sides of their body.
3. Wrap the First Side Around Your Baby
It’s up to you which side you wrap first, but it helps to be consistent. In this case, we’ll start from the right.
Take the right corner of the swaddle blanket and fold it over your baby and snugly tuck it under baby’s left side.
Make sure your baby’s arm remains at their side while you wrap. The goal is to wrap them tight enough to protect and comfort them but not so tight that you cause discomfort.
4. Fold the Bottom Corner Up
Take the bottom corner of the swaddle blanket and fold it up toward your baby’s tummy and chest.
5. Wrap the Second Side Around Your Baby
Take the remaining corner (if you started with the right, now you’ll wrap the left corner) and wrap it around your baby toward their right side. Making sure their arm is safely at their side, tuck the blanket corner under your baby.
6. Check Your Baby Swaddle
Leave some wiggle room around your baby’s hips. If their hips seem too immobilized, just unwrap and repeat the steps above until you’re happy with the results.
Ideally, the baby swaddle blanket shouldn’t cover your baby’s head or neck and will provide them with comfort and protection.
Why You Should Swaddle Your Newborn
Now that you know how to swaddle a baby, here are a few key benefits to swaddling a newborn that every parent should understand.
The Moro Reflex
Many of us have felt that unpleasant sensation of startling awake or feeling like we’re falling as we lay in our beds. Babies experience this sensation as well. In fact, it’s one of the first reflexes a baby develops.
The Moro reflex is related to being startled. It’s triggered by your baby’s head movements or while falling asleep. When startled, babies will extend their arms and legs as if to catch themselves. Many babies will also wake and cry because they feel unsafe.
Baby swaddling protects your baby from the Moro reflex. Even if they are startled, the swaddle blanket will control their arm and leg movements so they won’t feel as frightened and can get back to sleep more easily.
Another important answer to the question “Why swaddle a baby?” is that swaddling helps maintain a consistent temperature.
Your newborn is used to a controlled environment. In the womb, their temperature rarely fluctuated, so they were always comfortable. Swaddling your baby provides a similar sensation and helps babies retain body heat as they sleep.
Pay close attention to signs of overheating in your baby. If the room temperature is too high, they may begin to sweat or suffer from flushed skin.
The womb is a cozy place. Your newborn is used to the gentle physical restriction and protection they experienced before birth. Swaddling your baby provides a transition to the world that mimics that beloved restriction and support. A swaddled baby feels secure and relaxed.
Just like your baby’s natural reflexes can frighten them, routine doctor visits and illnesses like colic can upset them as well. You can soothe your baby during stressful times with proper swaddling. Always consult your pediatrician in case of illness, but when your baby is just a bit fussy, many parents find that swaddling can help.
What to Look for in a Baby Swaddle Blanket
Swaddle blankets come in a range of materials and styles, from a simple square baby blanket to a fitted sleep sack. Selecting a baby blanket over a sleep sack lets you continue to use the same blanket as your baby grows.
When your baby is too old for swaddling, your swaddle blanket is still useful for snuggle time, while they're in the car seat or for other activities.
Popular Baby Swaddle Blanket Materials
Breathable materials are ideal for swaddling your baby. While swaddling helps retain body heat, you don’t want your baby to become overheated with a material that doesn’t let air circulate.
Muslin cotton is an excellent material for a swaddle blanket. It’s soft against your baby’s skin, breathable, and it can gently stretch for your baby’s comfort.
As you shop for a swaddle blanket, look for eco-friendly and Oeko-Tex-certified materials to ensure your baby never comes in contact with harsh chemicals.
Learn more about the importance of Oeko-Tex certification with our guides:
Other Baby Essentials to Consider
Selecting the right products for your nursery and diaper bag keeps you ready with the right accessories for the job. Baby essentials like cushioned, machine washable changing pads, fluffy, absorbent burp cloths and cashmere baby blankets for outdoor excursions simplify those early days of parenthood. Being well stocked with baby essentials frees you up to relax and enjoy all the new milestones.
If you’re wondering what other important items belong in your baby’s nursery, see helpful tips in our guide to Newborn Essentials 2022: Nursery, Bath & Other Essentials for Your Baby.
FAQs New Parents Often Have About Swaddling
As you get the hang of your baby-swaddle techniques, you may encounter some common questions. Here are some of the frequent questions new parents have about swaddling their newborns.
Can You Swaddle a Baby at Night?
Most parents find that it helps to swaddle a baby with a blanket at night. Though babies are prone to wake up multiple times in the night for feedings, changings and general fussiness, they’re more likely to sleep longer if they’re swaddled effectively.
By swaddling your baby for bedtime you not only help them avoid startling themselves awake but you also give yourself a chance to get some rest while they sleep.
Some babies may be resistant to swaddling at first, but it’s wise to keep trying. Eventually they’ll get used to sleeping for naps and bedtimes while swaddled. They’ll benefit through more consistent, restful sleep.
Explore other helpful topics about bedtime for your little one with Newborn Sleeping Habits: Sleepytime Tips for Your Baby.
How Long Can You Swaddle a Baby?
As long as your baby’s swaddle isn’t too tight on their hips, you can swaddle your baby for a few hours at a time. Keep them swaddled for sleep and give them a break from the swaddle during awake times. This will give them a chance to discover their hands and feet and practice maneuvering their limbs.
When Should You Stop Swaddling Your Baby?
Babies begin to roll over on their own around the age of two months. This is the ideal time to stop swaddling your baby because they’re now more capable of controlling their bodies. Once they can roll over, swaddling is no longer as safe because they may roll onto their tummy and get stuck in that position.
If you’re not sure about the right time to stop swaddling, ask your baby’s pediatrician for advice.
Should You Swaddle Before or After Nursing?
For the most productive feedings, remove your baby’s swaddle.
When your baby is awake, they want to focus on exploring the world, looking around and moving their arms and legs, so a swaddle may frustrate them. Babies also have an instinct for using their hands to get a good latch, so it’s best to keep their hands free.
After they’re done feeding, keep them out of the swaddle for burping to allow for freer body movements and help facilitate gas relief. During and after feedings, consider swapping your swaddle blanket for a soft, absorbent feeding bib.
Once they’re full and sleepy, you can put your baby back in the swaddling blanket for a nap.
Learn more about bibs and burp cloths in our helpful guide: Baby Bibs & Burp Cloths: Everything to Know.
Surround Your Newborn With Safe, Quality Essentials
Those first few weeks with your baby are wonderful and joyful but also present plenty of challenges. Swaddling your newborn provides comfort, safety and better quality sleep for both your little one and you!
By selecting high-quality baby essentials, you’ll reward yourself with peace of mind. You’ll know you’ve chosen the safest, softest and most ethically manufactured fabrics for your baby and home.
Learn the easiest and safest ways to keep your little one clean with our Baby Bath Guide: How to Bathe Your Newborn Baby.
Prolong the life and quality of baby bedding and towels with our guide to The Best Way to Wash, Dry, and Care for Baby Bedding & Baby Towels.