How To Swaddle A Baby: The Complete Guide For Parents

sleeping newborn baby in a swaddle

With a brand new baby at home, you’re learning how to keep your tiny human clean, diapered, fed, and well-rested. One challenge you might face is figuring out how to wrap your baby in a swaddle.

At Newton Baby, we care about safe sleep for babies! That’s why we’re here to help you understand swaddling so your tiniest one can rest well and you can have some peace of mind.

We’ll discuss the benefits of swaddling, how to do it, and how to help your baby transition out of a swaddle when it’s time.

The Benefits Of Swaddling Your Baby

Most newborns find security in being wrapped tightly in a blanket. Why? Consider the fact that your infant is fresh out of the womb, where they were snug as a bug in a rug.

Now, they’re out in the big, wide world. It makes sense that being wrapped up tightly in a swaddle feels cozy and familiar to them.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of using a swaddle for your little one.

Calms Their Startle Reflex

baby on a white furry blanket making a silly face

If you’ve been adoringly watching your baby’s every move, you’ve noticed that they occasionally jerk while snoozing. That’s the startle reflex, also known as the Moro reflex. And it’s perfectly normal and healthy.

The problem is that your baby’s startle reflex might disturb their sleep. This is where the swaddle comes in. Swaddling your little one keeps their arms tucked in close to their body, which calms their startle reflex.

Helps Them Sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that when your little one is swaddled safely, it can help calm them and promote better sleep.

As we mentioned, being swaddled makes your baby feel secure, so you may notice that swaddling cuts down on crying, soothes your little one, and helps them sleep for longer stretches of time.

Regulates Their Body Temperature

Newborns aren’t yet capable of regulating their own body temperature, which brings us to another benefit of swaddling: it helps to keep your baby warm at night.

While sleeping with a loose blanket in the crib isn’t considered safe for babies, a correctly wrapped swaddle keeps your little one warm and cozy while they sleep so there’s no need for a blanket.

Prevents Them From Scratching

Leaving mittens on your baby’s hands while they sleep is one way to keep them from scratching themselves. But those mittens can be frustrating. They get lost easily, and your little one may pull them off.

Swaddling your baby is another (possibly better) option for preventing scratching. It keeps their hands tucked under the blanket, meaning they can’t reach their face.

How To Swaddle A Baby

baby bundled up in a gray swaddle

Learning the fold, wrap, and tuck method required for swaddling a wriggling newborn can be overwhelming for first-timers. But don’t be intimidated — after a few tries, you’ll be a swaddling pro!

Before we get to the step-by-step instructions of how to swaddle, let’s go over a few general dos and don’ts of swaddling.

Do Start Swaddling Right Away

If you’re going to swaddle your baby, do so from the beginning. Don’t wait until they’re a couple of months old, which is when the risk of SIDS is highest. In fact, that’s when you may want to think about transitioning out of the swaddle.

You’ll also want to consistently wrap your little one in their swaddle for naps as well as bed time so they can get used to being swaddled every time they sleep.

Don’t Swaddle Too Tightly

While the point of swaddling is to wrap your newborn up snugly, be careful not to swaddle too tightly. Leave room at the top to fit a couple of fingers between the blanket and your baby’s chest, and don’t swaddle above their shoulders.

At the bottom, allow room for your little one to bend their legs at the hips and move their legs and feet. Swaddling their legs too tightly together and straight down can cause hip problems, such as hip dysplasia.

Do Put Your Baby To Sleep On Their Back

Swaddling can help your infant sleep more soundly, but you’ll still need to be vigilant about safe sleep.

Safe sleep includes always putting your baby to sleep on their back, which is especially important when your little one is swaddled. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that SIDS is less common in infants who sleep on their backs instead of their sides or stomachs.

In addition to putting them to sleep on their back, another way to reduce the risk of suffocation and give yourself peace of mind is by putting your baby to sleep on a breathable mattress.

The Newton Baby Crib Mattress is fully breathable and comes in standard and mini sizes, so your little one can sleep safely no matter the size of the crib.

Newton Baby breathable crib mattress

Plus, our crib mattress isn’t the only thing that’s breathable. Our waterproof mattress pads are too, so you can add a layer of breathability to any mattress (be it your baby’s crib or your child’s twin bed)!

Don’t Let Your Baby Get Too Hot

Swaddling is a great way to keep your little one warm at night, but you also need to make sure they don’t get too hot. Use a light, thin swaddle, not a thick blanket.

Using a breathable mattress is one more way to help regulate your baby’s body temperature. The Wovenaire core of the Newton Baby Crib Mattress is 90% air, which allows for more air circulation under your baby’s back.

smiling baby stretched out in a crib

Keeping these guidelines in mind, let’s get straight to the nuts and bolts of swaddling. Here are the steps to follow.

6 Steps For Swaddling Your Baby

  1. Lay the swaddle down flat.
  2. Fold the top corner down about 6 inches.
  3. Lay your baby on his or her back with their shoulders just below the fold, so that their neck is on the fold and their head is above the fold.
  4. Hold one of your baby’s arms naturally against their side or tummy. Fold that side of the blanket over the arm and tuck the corner under the other side of their body, leaving the other arm free.
  5. Next, fold the bottom corner up and tuck it into the top of the swaddle, which is now lying on their chest.
  6. Hold their other arm to their body and fold that side of the blanket snugly over their arm to the other side of their body. Tuck that corner underneath their body.

How Long To Swaddle Your Baby

baby lying on their tummy

If swaddling is hard to get the hang of at first, the good news is that you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice! Then, before you know it, it’ll be time to stop swaddling.

Your baby is growing and developing right in front of your eyes! One of the earliest developmental milestones is learning to roll over, and you want your baby to be out of a swaddle before they hit that big step.

Before that happens, your baby might start to resist being swaddled or might be strong enough to come out of their wrap at night. Those will be your first hints that it’s time to transition out of a swaddle.

Even if your little one doesn’t give you those hints, it’s recommended that you stop swaddling around two months or, at the latest, by the time your baby begins trying to roll over.

How can you make the transition out of the cozy swaddle as smooth as possible? There are a few options.

How To Transition Out Of A Swaddle

There’s nothing wrong with going cold turkey and getting rid of the swaddle without a second thought. But if your baby is a fan of the swaddle and you think they’ll balk at that idea, consider transitioning slowly.

One option for making the transition is to swaddle your infant normally but leave one arm out. Let them sleep this way for a few days and if all is well, swaddle them with both arms out before getting rid of the swaddle altogether.

A second option is to put your little one to bed without being swaddled (or with one arm out) but swaddle them as usual when they wake up in the middle of the night. Only try this partial-night tactic if your baby has not learned to roll over yet.

Remember that if your baby can already roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling!

Lastly, try using a swaddle transition suit. These are similar to sleep sacks but provide your baby with a bit more security than a regular sleep sack.

Swaddle For Safe And Sound Sleep

mom and dad with a happy baby

In the end, your baby is not only as cute as a button when they’re swaddled — but they also feel secure and will snooze more soundly.

To give your baby the best sleep possible, follow our guidelines for swaddling, and then lay your precious one down on a comfortable, breathable Newton Baby Crib Mattress.

These steps will help both you and your little one rest well during the first couple of months of your baby’s life. Happy swaddling!

Browse all nurseries