Swaddling a baby is a beneficial technique that moms have been using for centuries. It helps to keep the baby warm for the first few days of her life, and it also has a calming effect. By holding the baby's arms and legs in with a swaddling blanket, it actually simulates the constricting feeling of being in the womb; this is comforting for a newborn, since she's accustomed to being in this position. It can help to quiet a fussy baby, and can also help her fall asleep.
Here is how to swaddle a baby.
Step 1: Lay the Blanket Out
Swaddling blankets are usually knitted in an even square. Lay the blanket out in a diamond shape with the bottom point towards you. Take the top corner of the blanket and fold it down about 6 inches, creating a straight line.
Step 2: Lay the Baby Down
Lay your baby on her back with her shoulders just below the level of the fold you just made. Pull her left arm down across her chest, and then pull the left-hand side of the blanket across her. Tuck that corner of the blanket underneath her right side. Sometimes it helps to turn her to the right and lift her up a little bit.
Step 3: Repeat with the Other Arm
Now gently pull the baby's right arm down across her chest. Pull the opposite corner of the blanket across her, and tuck it underneath her back on her left side.
Step 4: Fold the Bottom End
Take the bottom corner of the blanket and fold it behind your baby's back. You can give it a little twist to help it stay in place if need be. Don't make any of the folds too tight. She should still be able to move her arms and legs a little bit. The point is to keep her warm and snug, rather than to restrict her movement.
A Word of Caution: Swaddling and Hip Dysplasia
A baby's legs should never be swaddled straight down, in order to prevent hip dysplasia. The condition can actually develop in babies if their legs are held in a straightened position, so make sure the legs are bent when swaddling. Newborn girls are more prone to developmental dysplasia. Leave enough room in the bottom of the swaddling blanket so that she can bend her legs.
- Once your baby gets a little older, swaddling should only be used for naps and bedtime. You should only swaddle your baby when she’s awake for the first few weeks of your baby's life. After that, it can actually prevent her from developing normally. She needs to get those little arms and legs moving so she can develop strong motor skills.
- Swaddling should be avoided in a room that's very warm. It's unnecessary in this case, and swaddling has also been identified as a SIDS factor in an environment that's too warm.
- Remember that not all babies like swaddling. If your baby gets extra fussy, try taking her out of the swaddling blanket and see how she does.