Swaddling: Knowing the Benefits and Risks

As an exhausted new parent, you might look for safe and effective ways to help your baby sleep through the night. One method many parents learn from hospital nurses is swaddling.  

Swaddling involves wrapping a newborn snuggly in a blanket to mimic the feeling of being in the womb in order to soothe your baby.  The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that swaddling can be an effective way to promote sleep and calm infants, but it must be done correctly. In order to practice swaddling effectively while avoiding some risks, follow these guidelines.

How to Swaddle Correctly

  1. Spread out blanket flatly with one corner folded down.
  2. Lay your baby face-up on the blanket, keeping the head above the folded corner.
  3. Straighten the baby’s left arm and pull the left corner of the blanket across their body, tucking it in between the right arm and right side of the body.
  4. Tuck the right arm down and pull the right side of the blanket across their body, tucking it under the left side.
  5. Loosely fold the bottom of the blanket and tuck it underneath one side of your baby.
  6. Be sure your baby’s hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight. You should be able to fit two or three fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle.

Remember that our recommendation to always place your baby on their back to sleep also applies when they are swaddled.  

When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby

  • It is recommended to stop swaddling by the time your baby has reached two months old.  At this age, babies will begin intentionally rolling themselves over.

Be Aware of the Risks

  • Swaddling a baby too tightly can lead to hip dislocation, also known as hip dysplasia.  This occurs where the top of the thigh bone is not held securely in the hip socket.  Be sure to educate yourself on hip-healthy swaddling that permits your baby’s legs to bend up and out.
  • Overheating is another risk associated with swaddling.  To avoid your baby getting too hot, look for signs such as damp hair, flushed cheeks, sweating, and rapid breathing.

Always Follow Safe Sleep

  • Your baby’s safety while sleeping should be your top priority; be sure to continue practicing the ABC’s of Safe Sleep, even when swaddling. Always put down your infant to sleep Alone, on their Back, in a Clean, Clear Crib.

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