How to swaddle a baby

The first time your baby visited the hospital nursery, she probably came back wrapped in a neat little package with only her fuzzy little head poking out. That's because nurses know one of the secrets to a happy, calm baby: swaddling.

Swaddling is an ancient method for wrapping newborns in a thin blanket or cloth. It’s adorable (who doesn’t love a baby burrito!), but it also serves the all-important purpose of helping your sweet pea stay calm and sleep more soundly. Here's how:

  • A swaddle helps your baby feel safe and secure as she adjusts to life outside the womb. 
  • Swaddling helps prevent her from flailing her arms and legs, which can trigger her startle reflex and potentially cause her to wake up.
  • A swaddle keeps your baby cozy and warm until her internal thermostat kicks into gear.

In short, there are lots of good reasons to try this age-old practice. But figuring out how to do it yourself can be a little intimidating (especially when you’re feeling bleary-eyed).

Here's a step-by-step guide for how to swaddle a newborn like a pro, the keys for sticking with safe swaddling techniques and when it’s time to stop.

How to swaddle, step-by-step

Getting your swaddling skills down-pat may seem a little daunting, but wrapping up your baby only takes a few steps.

Here’s how to swaddle with a blanket, including how to swaddle a baby with arms out (if that’s what your little one prefers!), plus tips on how to manage swaddling a wiggly baby:

Step 1: Find a flat surface.

Spread your baby’s swaddle blanket out in the shape of a diamond with one corner pointing up on a flat surface (like the middle of your bed). Fold the top corner down about 6 inches.

Step 2: Place your baby face-up on the blanket.

Her head should sit above the folded edge of the blanket, and her body should extend straight down toward the bottom corner.

Step 3:  Straighten your baby’s left arm.

Then take the left side of the blanket and wrap it over her left arm and chest. Tuck the blanket underneath her right arm and her back. At this point your baby’s left arm will be covered but her right arm will be free.

Step 4: Bring up the bottom.  

Fold the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body and tuck it under the first fold, under her chin. Straighten your baby’s right arm and pull the right side of the blanket over your baby’s body and tuck it under her left side.

Step 5: Secure the blanket.

Loosely twist the bottom of the blanket and tuck it underneath your baby.

A few important things to keep in mind: The swaddle should be snug, but not too tight. You should be able to place two to three fingers between your baby’s chest and the blanket, and the blanket should be loose around her hips so she can move her legs freely.

If your baby seems to prefer having her arms free, it’s fine to leave one or both arms out of the swaddle.

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