Baby swaddling tips

November 3, 2015

Babies can wake themselves up in the night with their own movements. Swaddling, which restricts movement and recreates the warmth and security of the womb, is one way to help babies sleep longer.

Baby swaddling tips

Swaddling basics

Swaddling can help baby to sleep a few extra hours at night because swaddling keeps the baby calm, so the baby is less likely to startle itself awake.

Begin by spreading out a square blanket on a bed or table and turning it so it looks like a diamond. Fold down the top corner toward you. Lay the baby on the blanket with its head above the folded edge. Make sure the baby's arms are comfortably by its side. Pull the left corner of the blanket around the baby, then pull the bottom corner up and tuck it under her chin. Bring the right corner of the blanket across the torso and tuck it behind its back.

Arm movement

Some babies may feel too restricted with their arms tucked inside the blanket. You can leave your baby's arms free if the baby seems too uncomfortable with them wrapped up inside.

How long to swaddle

Babies can be safely swaddled until about four months of age. Beyond this age, they need more freedom of movement, and fighting against the restrictions of a tightly-wrapped blanket could cause an injury. If your baby is older but still likes to be wrapped, leave its arms outside the blanket so it has some ability to squirm around if so desired.

Hip development

Swaddling a baby too tightly can be harmful to the baby's hip development. Maternal hormones in the baby's system relax ligaments; swaddling too tightly can lead to hip dysplasia. This is when hips bones aren't centred in the joint socket. Since babies in the fetal position have their legs curled in front and crossed, swaddling them with their legs extended down can loosen joints and damage hip cartilage.

The best way to swaddle the baby is to allow enough room for the legs to move a little. Find the right balance between swaddling snugly enough to give baby the security he or she needs and leaving enough wiggle room so the baby's hips and joints don't get damaged.

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