Swaddling is a common practice of wrapping an infant snugly to calm him and reduce his startle reflex. Some parents feel swaddling enables their baby to sleep for longer periods of time. It should only be done for newborns who are not trying to roll over yet, which can start by 2 months of age.
To avoid over-bundling and overheating your baby, be sure to choose a swaddle made of lightweight fabric and to dress your baby in a simple onesie. In warmer temperatures, just wearing a diaper underneath the swaddle may suffice.
Here's a step-by-step guide on swaddling your baby:
- Spread out a swaddling blanket or large square of muslin on a flat surface, position it like a diamond, then fold down the top corner.
- Lay your baby face-up in the middle of the blanket with his neck at the fold. Holding your baby’s arms at his sides, pull the corner from one side across and down his body, tucking the blanket under his other arm and around his body.
- Bring the bottom of the blanket up over your baby’s legs and over his exposed shoulder, tucking the blanket behind his back. (Keep your baby’s arms snug but allow his legs to have some flex space, which may help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia.)
- Pull the other side of the blanket across your baby’s body. Wrap it around him snugly one time, and tuck the corner into the fold on his chest.
Voila! Your baby’s legs should be able to flex within the swaddle “cocoon,” although his arms will be held still. His face and neck should be fully exposed.
Even though swaddling may reduce your baby’s movement during sleep, always place him on his back to sleep. Also, only place him in a crib or bassinet that is free of “breathing blockers,” such as pillows, blankets, or crib bumpers. Most importantly, stop swaddling your baby as soon as he shows signs of trying to roll over—even if he hasn’t mastered the skill yet—which may be as early as 2 months of age.
For more on the benefits and risks of swaddling, read this.