Wiggle-proof swaddling techniques

Babies spend the first months of their lives in a tight, confined space. When they're born, suddenly they're in the big world and there is a lot to take in: new sounds, new sights, new sensations ... and all that space! It can be a little overwhelming to them. That's why some babies love to be swaddled.


First, the question is: why make your baby look like a little burrito? One reason is that swaddled babies tend to sleep longer. The thinking goes that they are less likely to startle themselves with their flailing arms. A lot of babies' arm motions are erratic and involuntary when they're newborns and swaddling keeps them from making the kinds of motions that wake them. Swaddled babies also tend to cry less.  

So, now that you know why to swaddle, the big question is how. The main complaint of new parents is that even the youngest babies can wiggle out of a swaddle. A wiggle-proof swaddling technique takes some practice--and some commitment from the swaddler! Babies often complain while being swaddled but like it once they're snug and safe in the swaddle.

First, start with the right blanket. You can buy swaddling blankets anywhere you buy baby supplies. A good one is soft and pleasant on baby's skin. You can also buy some blankets that are specifically made for swaddling, with Velcro to help you keep it fastened. Whatever blanket you choose, remember that it's going to be close to baby's skin, so wash it first with a good detergent made especially to be gentle for baby. My favorite is Dreft.

Once you have the blanket, set it on a firm surface in a diamond position. Put the baby's head need the top of the diamond. First fold the right side over the baby and tuck it firmly under the baby's right side (on your left as you look at the baby). Next lift the bottom of the blanket and tuck it into the same are as the first spot. Lastly, finish the "burrito" by folding the left side and tucking it tightly into the top of the blanket. Be extra careful to not have any loose blanket near baby's face.

Some tips for escape-artist babies: leave baby's legs free. The main benefit in swaddling is to keep startling motions away from baby's field of vision, so swaddling legs is less important. You can still keep baby warm with clothing or blankets over him, but if he keeps kicking free of the swaddle, skip the legs. Wiggle-prone babies also do better with swaddling if you keep arms to their sides. Bent elbows or hands on their chest make it easier for them to break free.

And that's it! The best way to learn to swaddle is to do it. Don't get discouraged if baby breaks free. Keep trying. Eventually your baby will have enough muscle control that he won't need swaddling.

Image via Thinkstock

Topics: advice