how to swaddle a baby

Swaddling a Baby: Everything You Need to Know

Welcoming a new life into the world is an incredible experience, but as a new parent, you might feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities that come with it. One of the most important things you can do for your baby is to make them feel secure and comfortable, especially during their first few months of life. As a first time parent I found the prospect of swaddling daunting but once I got the hang of it, it was a game changer. I only wish I’d tried it sooner!

Swaddling is a time-honoured tradition that has been practised for centuries and is known to soothe and calm babies. With so much information available on the topic, it’s easy to feel confused and unsure about how to swaddle a newborn.

In this article, I’ll dive into everything you need to know about swaddling your baby, including the physiological benefits, potential risks, and best practices to ensure your baby is safe and comfortable. 

Table of Contents

How to Swaddle a Baby

Swaddling can be a huge benefit for parents, but it’s important to learn how to do it correctly. Improper swaddling can lead to discomfort or even injury for your baby. Here’s what you need to know about how to swaddle a baby.

Video by Snuggle Honey Australia

Choosing the right swaddle cloth: 

The first step in swaddling your baby is choosing the right cloth. A lightweight, breathable fabric such as muslin cotton is essential to prevent overheating. You may also want to consider a swaddle cloth with a bit of stretch, as it can help ensure a snug fit. Try and look for certified organic material as this can be much better for your new baby’s sensitive skin.

Step-by-step guide to swaddling: 

Swaddling can seem daunting at first, but it’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. First, lay the swaddle cloth on a flat surface and fold down the top corner. Place your baby on top of the cloth with their head just above the fold. Then, bring the left corner over your baby’s body and tuck it under their right arm. Next, bring the bottom corner up and tuck it under your baby’s chin. Finally, bring the right corner over and tuck it under your baby’s back.

Swaddling dos and don’ts: 

While swaddling can be a lifesaver, it’s important to follow a few dos and don’ts to keep your baby safe. Do make sure your baby’s hips are free to move and that the swaddle isn’t too tight. Don’t swaddle your baby too tightly, as this can lead to discomfort or even injury. And always make sure your baby is placed on their back to sleep. Try and swaddle your baby while they are calm as swaddling a baby while they are distressed can be difficult for both baby and adult.

The Benefits of Swaddling

Swaddling is a traditional practice that involves wrapping a baby in a thin cloth or blanket to create a snug and secure environment, and it has been shown to have various benefits for infants, including improved sleep quality, reduced crying, and enhanced soothing and comfort.

how to swaddle a baby

Helps regulate the baby’s body temperature:

Newborns are not yet able to regulate their body temperature as effectively as adults, which means they can quickly become too cold or too hot. Swaddling helps maintain a baby’s body temperature and keeps them warm and cosy.

Promotes better sleep:

Swaddling can promote better sleep for your baby by preventing sudden movements and startle reflexes that can wake them up. It can also help reduce colic, which is often associated with disrupted sleep patterns. Quick Tip! Combining swaddling with gentle rocking and shh sounds or low-volume, soothing white noise sounds can be a very effective combination when swaddling your baby to sleep.

Mimics the feeling of being in the womb: 

The womb was your baby’s first home, and swaddling can help recreate that feeling of warmth, safety, and security. Being wrapped up tightly in a swaddle can provide your baby with a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):

SIDS is a heart-breaking and devastating tragedy that affects far too many families. Swaddling has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, as it keeps babies on their backs, which is the safest sleep position.

Prevents the startle reflex:

The startle reflex can cause your baby to wake up suddenly, which can be distressing for both you and your baby. Swaddling helps prevent this reflex by limiting the movement of your baby’s arms.

Helps soothe colicky babies:

Colic is a common condition that affects many babies, causing excessive crying and discomfort. Swaddling has been shown to help soothe colicky babies by providing them with a sense of security and comfort.

Many pre and postnatal classes may offer swaddling lessons as part of their course.

Alternatives to Swaddling

While swaddling can be a lifesaver for many parents, it’s not the only option for ensuring a good night’s sleep for your baby. In fact, there are several alternatives to traditional swaddling that can provide the same benefits without the hassle. Here are some options to consider:

Sleep sacks: 

Sleep sacks are a great alternative to swaddling for babies who like to move around more in their sleep. They provide the same cosy feeling as a swaddle, but without restricting movement.

Zip-up swaddles: 

Zip-up swaddles are another great option for parents looking for an easier way to swaddle their baby. These swaddles are designed with a zipper to make it easier to get your baby in and out, while still providing the same snug feeling as a traditional swaddle.

Swaddle blankets with Velcro: 

If you’re looking for a swaddle alternative that still provides the same level of security, swaddle blankets with Velcro are a great option. They’re easy to use and provide a snug fit, without the need for any complicated folding.

Potential Risks and Concerns

While swaddling can be an incredibly helpful tool for parents and their newborns, there are some potential risks and concerns to keep in mind. Here are some of the most important risks to be aware of when it comes to swaddling:

Hip dysplasia: 

Swaddling too tightly or with the legs straight and together can put pressure on a baby’s hips and cause hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the ball and socket joint of the hip are not aligned correctly, leading to pain and possible joint damage. To avoid this risk, make sure to swaddle your baby with their legs slightly bent and loose enough to allow for natural movement.


Swaddling can be a great way to regulate your baby’s temperature, but it’s important to be aware of the risk of overheating. Overheating can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To avoid this risk, make sure to swaddle with lightweight, breathable fabrics and avoid using too many layers.

Developmental delays: 

Swaddling can be a helpful tool for calming babies and helping them sleep, but over-reliance on swaddling can lead to developmental delays. Babies need plenty of time to move and explore their environment, and swaddling can limit their opportunities for movement and play. To avoid this risk, make sure to provide plenty of tummy time and opportunities for movement outside of swaddling.

Swaddling and Breastfeeding

For breastfeeding mothers, swaddling can be a double-edged sword. While swaddling can be a great way to soothe a fussy baby and promote better sleep, it can also make breastfeeding more difficult. Here are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to swaddling and breastfeeding:

swaddling while breastfeeding

How swaddling affects breastfeeding: 

Swaddling can make it more difficult for a baby to latch onto the breast and can also limit their ability to move freely and adjust their position. In addition, swaddling can make it harder for a mother to read her baby’s hunger cues and respond to their needs.

Tips for breastfeeding while swaddling: 

If you want to breastfeed your baby while they’re swaddled, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. First, make sure that your baby’s arms are free so that they can adjust their position and reach for the breast. Second, try using a nursing pillow to help support your baby and keep them in the right position. Finally, be patient and don’t give up if breastfeeding while swaddled doesn’t work right away.

In conclusion, swaddling can be a valuable practice for soothing and comforting newborns. It offers benefits such as improved sleep, reduced crying, and a sense of security. However, it’s important to swaddle correctly, choose appropriate fabrics, and be aware of potential risks like hip dysplasia and overheating. It’s crucial to stay informed and consult up-to-date public health advice regarding swaddling to ensure the safety and well-being of your baby. Whether you choose to swaddle or explore alternative sleep options, finding what works best for your little one is key to creating a secure and peaceful environment.

Below is a list of other resources you can check regarding sleep advice for your baby:

HSE Newborn’s Sleep Needs (IRE)

Swaddling Benefits & Risks – New Parent Support ORG (UK)


Frequently Asked Questions

Swaddling can be safe for most babies when done correctly. However, there are some cases where swaddling may not be recommended, such as if your baby has hip dysplasia or if they’re already able to roll over onto their stomach. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before swaddling your baby.

A swaddle should be snug but not too tight. You want to make sure that your baby can breathe comfortably and that their hips and legs have room to move. A good way to check the tightness is to make sure that you can fit a few fingers between the swaddle and your baby’s chest.

Most babies can be swaddled for the first few months of life, but you may want to start transitioning out of swaddling around 3-4 months. By this point, your baby may be more active and may start rolling over, which can make swaddling unsafe.

If done incorrectly, swaddling can potentially cause hip dysplasia. This is why it’s important to use a swaddle that allows your baby’s hips and legs to move freely and to make sure that the swaddle isn’t too tight.

Most babies will let you know if they like being swaddled or not. If your baby seems calm and content while swaddled, it’s a good sign that they’re enjoying the sensation. If they seem uncomfortable or fussy, it may be time to try a different swaddle or to transition out of swaddling altogether.

As your baby starts to get more active, you may want to consider swaddling them with their arms out. This can help them start to develop their motor skills and can also help prevent them from rolling over onto their stomach. Some swaddles are specifically designed for this purpose, with a swaddle that only covers the baby’s torso and leaves their arms free.

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