How your baby can benefit from swaddling

Swaddling your baby with a blanket wrapped snuggly around their body can help soothe your newborn and improve their quality of sleep.

 Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping a baby up gently in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm and sleep.

Swaddling can help your newborn baby feel safe and secure, and be used as a method to help them sleep.

We chat with Sister Ann Richardson, a registered nurse and midwife, on how to swaddle your baby safely.

The art of swaddling

Swaddling is an ancient method of wrapping your baby in a soft and stretchy blanket – leaving their head completely uncovered – to help contain an infant’s early reflexes and startles. It has a soothing effect on your baby as it recreates the wonderfully calming environment of the womb.

Why swaddling is good for your baby

For the first three months of life, your baby’s sensory system is immature and unable to filter out any input from the environment. Newborns especially are easily overstimulated by being handled too much and exposed to external stimuli such as loud noises, bright light, and strong smells.

Babies thrive on gentle but firm touch, and swaddling provides this. It also enables them to keep their hands close to their mouth so they can suck on them to self-soothe. But, even more importantly, her hands will be in the midline and will limit her startle reflex to encourage better sleep.

Expert tips for swaddling your baby

  • Place your baby on a soft, stretchy blanket or muslin (preferably 100% cotton).
  • Ensure the top of the blanket is in line with her ears.
  • Place her hands close together in the midline and close to her mouth.
  • Bring one corner of the blanket diagonally across her shoulder and arm and tuck it around her body.
  • Bring the other corner of the blanket diagonally across her other shoulder and arm, and tuck it in around her body.
  • Fold the bottom of the blanket loosely against her feet, letting her wriggle and squirm until she’s comfortable. Ensure her legs and hips are in the ‘frog’ position.

How to swaddle your baby safely

  • Be sure you know how to swaddle correctly. Improper swaddling can loosen your baby’s joints and damage the soft cartilage of the hip sockets. To prevent this, make sure there’s enough room at the bottom of the blanket for your baby to bend her legs up and out from her body.
  • Twist or fold the bottom of the blanket and tuck it loosely behind your baby, making sure that both legs are bent up and out from her body and that her hips can move and legs spread apart naturally.
  • Avoid using polyester or polar fleece swaddles to minimise the risk of overheating.
  • Be careful not to straitjacket your baby by swaddling with her arms pinned at her sides. This will cause her to resist swaddling and increase the likelihood of fussing.
  • In hot weather, swaddle your baby in muslin or a cotton cloth to keep her cool and content. The general guideline is to keep your baby swaddled most of the time during the first three months.
  • Thereafter swaddle at sleep times only or when your baby needs to be comforted.