Swaddling: The Baby Sleep Secret
By Monica Gullon for Baby + You
The secret to keeping your little bundle of joy feeling happy, cozy, secure and sleeping is swaddling -- a method of wrapping infants that’s both ancient and modern. This practice, used worldwide for thousands of years, is also endorsed by today’s leading baby experts.
“Tight swaddling is the cornerstone of calming, the essential first step in soothing your fussy baby and keeping him soothed,” says Harvey Karp, M.D., a renowned pediatrician and the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block.
Swaddling soothes newborns and helps babies sleep because it mimics the safe environment of the womb. Numerous studies have shown that when done properly, this technique offers babies many health benefits:
- Swaddling baby calms the nervous system and reduces crying.
- Swaddling baby allows her to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
- Swaddling baby helps her retain body heat so she stays warm and comfortable.
- Swaddling baby aids in recovery from painful stimuli, such as shots.
- Swaddling baby lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Correct swaddling is key. Done too loosely, it won’t be calming. Done too tightly around the lower body, it could interfere with hip mobility and development.
Here’s how to swaddle your baby safely and effectively:
1. Lay blanket out in a diamond shape, folding the top point down.
2. Place baby on his back in center of blanket, head above the fold.
3. Lay baby’s right arm straight alongside the body.
4. Bring right point of blanket over the body while lifting baby’s left arm.
5. Tuck blanket snugly behind baby’s left side of body.
6. Lower baby’s left arm, bring left point of blanket over the body and tuck snugly under baby’s left side.
7. Finally, tuck bottom point of blanket below legs, allowing some room for movement of the hips.
Here’s a great video showing how it’s done:
A few essential baby swaddling tips to help your baby sleep:
- Use a thin blanket to avoid overheating, known as hyperthermia.
- Keep baby in light clothing; summertime babies can wear just a diaper.
- Lay baby on his back and avoid additional blankets.
- Warm ears and a sweaty neck are signs of hyperthermia; if you see these signs, remove baby’s clothing and re-swaddle.
Get more baby sleep tips from Baby + You
Monica Gullon is a frequent contributor to Baby + You who writes about food, nutrition and health. Her work has been published in SHAPE, Women’s Health, Fitness and Fit Pregnancy magazines, among others. She was previously the food and nutrition director at VIV digital magazine.