Swaddling provides a comfortable, secure feeling that mimics the womb for your newborn. It can calm your baby and help them to get the sleep they need. If you’re wondering how to swaddle your newborn, I’d love to share with you all of my tips for keeping your baby safe, snug, and secure in the swaddle.
How do you swaddle a baby step-by-step?
Here’s my step-by-step guide for swaddling a newborn baby:
1. Use swaddles that velcro or zip.
When you search for a swaddle for your baby, you may see large square blankets labeled "swaddle blankets." Rather than using these, I highly recommend choosing swaddles that velcro or zip, as they typically make swaddling easier and safer.
2. Assess your baby’s dress.
Be sure that your baby is dressed appropriately to remain comfortable and avoid overheating. If you see your baby is sweating or has flushed cheeks, consider removing a layer. This may mean they're wearing a light onesie or even just a diaper underneath the swaddle. On the other hand, if your baby's chest or back feels cool or clammy, you may need to add an extra layer. This may look like a onesie, socks, and footed pajamas underneath the swaddle.
3. Position your baby on top of the swaddle.
To swaddle your baby, lay them on their back on top of the swaddle. Next, place their arms on their tummy or at their sides. Swaddling your baby with their arms down increases the calming benefits of the swaddle while decreasing the likelihood of breaking out of the swaddle.
4. Wrap the swaddle around your baby.
If you’re using a swaddle that has velcro or a zipper, the way you wrap the swaddle will vary according to the specific brand you’re using. Refer to the instructions included with your swaddle to ensure arms and body are safely secured.
5. Check the snugness of the swaddle.
You want the swaddle to be snug but not tight. You know a swaddle is appropriately snug if it’s pulled firmly and securely around your baby, and they can still take deep breaths and have the space to move their hips.
Expert Tip: To ensure your baby can take deep breaths, do a quick check: You should be able to slide your fingers in between the swaddle and your baby’s chest.
6. Have a plan for what comes next.
Your baby may not immediately calm when you finish swaddling them. In fact, some babies may begin to cry when they're swaddled. Why? Often it's the techniques you use after swaddling that help calm your baby and work towards longer stretches of sleep. In my newborn class, I’ll give you the tools for calming a fussy baby, even if your baby seems to hate the swaddle.
Watch me put these steps into action using some of my most recommended swaddles:
How can I be sure my baby is swaddled safely?
I have a whole blog devoted to swaddle research and safety. (Spoiler alert: Swaddling is safe when done correctly.)
Babies who are safely and correctly swaddled:
are not at risk for having their mouth or noses covered by the swaddle.
have space for proper hip movement.
are securely swaddled, with the swaddle snug around the chest, but still allowing for your baby to easily take deep breaths.
are not sweating, flushed, or showing signs of overheating.
are not showing signs of rolling.
Do you have to swaddle a newborn?
No. You do not have to swaddle a newborn. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says "When done correctly, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep."
Here are some of the other benefits of swaddling a newborn:
Swaddling gives your newborn a feeling of comfort and security similar to the snugness inside the womb.
Swaddling also helps calm the Moro reflex, or “startle reflex,” allowing for more restful sleep.
Swaddling calms babies, soothes pain, and actually supports their development (as found in this study from the American Academy of Pediatrics).
However, if swaddling doesn’t serve you or your baby well for whatever reason, I would never encourage you to swaddle outside of your comfort.
My newborn class gives you tools to help your newborn with or without a swaddle. You’ll learn how to read your baby’s cues, calm your fussy baby, get longer stretches of sleep, and so much more.
Should I swaddle my newborn during the day or just at night?
I recommend swaddling your newborn for both naps and nighttime sleep. Research shows that swaddling provides a comforting feeling for your newborn and promotes less disrupted sleep.
Safety Note: It is not safe to swaddle your baby if they’re napping on the go (think: carseat, stroller, carrier/babywearing).
Can I use a swaddle blanket to swaddle my baby?
I highly recommend using swaddles that have velcro closures or zip instead of a swaddle blanket for swaddling your baby. Here’s why: it can be trickier to make sure that a blanket is secured safely. A swaddle blanket can come loose and may move upwards toward your baby’s face. Using a swaddle that velcros or zips helps keep the swaddle in place and avoids loose bedding.
How many swaddles do I need?
Many families like to have between 2 and 4 swaddles. This makes laundry a bit easier while you have a newborn in the house.
You may also find you need more swaddles initially as you figure out which design, size, and other swaddle features work best for you and your baby.
What is the best baby swaddle?
There are so many options out there, and it can get a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips for picking out a swaddle:
Start with a product specifically designed for swaddling.
Look for one that has a Velcro or zipper closure.
Make sure you select the correct size by using the manufacturer’s guidelines based on your baby’s current weight and height.
Choose a swaddle with a fabric that is appropriate for the temperature of your home.
Pick out a swaddle that is easy for you to put on and use during diaper changes.
My all-time favorite swaddle...
Here's what I love: The Ollie is simple to use with a Velcro closure that allows for a snug fit. It also easily adjusts for size, so it will grow with your baby. The Ollie allows for quick diaper changes and is made of moisture-wicking fabric which helps prevent overheating. (Use code takingcarababies for 10% off.)
Check out the questions below for some of my other top recommendations based on your baby's unique needs.
What is the best swaddle for a tight budget?
When you're looking for more budget-friendly options, please know there are great choices that will still provide all of the incredible benefits of swaddling. My top recommendations when you're on a budget are:
Summer SwaddleMe: The Summer swaddle is most commonly found in multi-packs, and you can typically get a 3-pack for $25-40. It has a simple velcro design that comes in different sizes (even a preemie size perfect for babies under 7 lbs). Some versions even have a zipper closure for easy diaper changes.
Halo Sleepsack Swaddle: The Halo swaddle is a great option for many families, and it can be purchased for about $25. It's easy to use, allows for arms in or out (great for the swaddle transition when you're ready) and comes in a variety of fabrics (heavier for winter and lighter for summer).
What is the best swaddle for when a baby’s arms get out?
For babies who break out of the swaddle, I have a few options.
Norani Snugababe (Use code TakingCaraBabies). The Norani is a great swaddle for any baby, but for those who seem to wriggle those little arms out of every other swaddle, the Norani is a fantastic choice. It has unique arm inserts and Velcro fasteners that keep the arms securely inside the swaddle.
Embe (TCB10 saves you 10%): The Embe has a no-breakout design that zips, snaps, and velcroes. This keeps your little swaddle Houdini safely swaddled through the night.
The Ollie Swaddle (Use code takingcarababies for 10% off.) + Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap: For those families who love the Ollie swaddle but are struggling to keep baby's arms in, consider adding the Anna & Eve swaddle strap underneath. The swaddle strap provides additional security in keeping those arms inside the swaddle.
What is the best swaddle for summer or warmer climates?
No matter the time of year, temperatures inside different homes vary. This is why it's so important to know how to dress your baby appropriately for the temperature in your home. Please know, if it's warm in your home, safe swaddling can still be possible.
Here are a few swaddles I recommend that are ideal for the summer or warmer climates:
Embe (TCB10 saves you 10%): This one is designed with a fabric that dissipates heat and allows for your baby’s legs to be both in or out of the swaddle.
Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap: This swaddle is a strap that goes around your baby’s upper body and keeps their hands and legs free to help keep them cool.
The Ollie Swaddle: The Ollie is a lightweight swaddle made of moisture-wicking fabric that helps prevent overheating. (Use code takingcarababies for 10% off.)
What is the best swaddle for babies with hip dysplasia or babies in a Pavlik harness?
Babies with hip dysplasia or wearing a Pavlik harness can still be swaddled if you have a swaddle that accommodates the harness. I've seen the Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap or the Embe Swaddle work beautifully for these babies.
When should I stop swaddling my baby?
You’ll want to stop swaddling when your baby is showing signs of rolling. For many babies this happens between 3-5 months of age. Once your baby can get onto their tummy, their hands need to be free to push up from the mattress.
Some babies will make the transition quickly, while others will need a little more time. With that in mind, if your baby is not showing signs of rolling over, there is no reason to rush out of the swaddle just yet. When you’re ready to transition out of the swaddle, I can help!
Need more swaddle or sleep help?
Remember, a swaddle is a sleeping tool. When used correctly, it can be a great tool to help provide you and your baby with better sleep.
If you’re struggling with sleep problems and are (or aren’t) using a swaddle, check out my newborn class. We talk about wake windows, sleeping environment, daytime routines, understanding naps, how to get longer sleeping stretches at night, and more!