Swaddling is a method of wrapping a baby, especially a newborn, tightly in a blanket or swaddle. Many parents and caregivers wrap a baby to bring them comfort and help them to sleep. It is believed to mimic the familiar closeness and warmth of the womb, causing them to feel relaxed and safe, promoting sleep.
When preparing for a newborn many will find they are gifted swaddling blankets that are made with muslin. This cloth is soft, breathable, and moves easily with the baby. Other thin, soft blankets or cloths may be used if muslin is not easily available, but they should be thin and offer airflow through the cloth. This helps to maintain the right temperature and ensure the baby is not too hot or too cold. Meeting the right temperature encourages falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Bamboo is an alternative that is both environmentally friendly and safe for a baby’s soft skin. Australian bamboo swaddles are available online and locally at stores like My Little Wardrobe.
Some specific swaddle blankets are made for those who are learning how to wrap them for the first time. These may come with Velcro to close, rather than the traditional wrapping and tucking the ends in, and are shaped to pull up the front, cross over, and stay closed.
To swaddle a baby, begin by folding the blanket into a triangle bed, folding down one of the corners, and placing the baby with their shoulders just above the fold. After bringing the baby’s right arm alongside the body, gently bring the right side across the body and tuck it under the left side of the body. Next, pull up the bottom of the blanket and tuck it in at the top, near the shoulder. Bring the left arm alongside the body, pulling the left side of the blanket across and tucking it beneath the baby on the right side.
This will create a wrap that helps to secure the arms and legs without restricting them completely. Once wrapped, the baby will feel safe and protected and will be at a comfortable temperature for sleeping. If this method is not effective, it can be adapted to suit the needs of your family and your baby. They can be wrapped with the arms out to allow free movement of the arms and hands while keeping the legs swaddled. Sleep sacks are also an alternative to traditional swaddling and can be easy to use. These are available in many different sizes and materials, with versions for winter and light materials for summer.
Swaddling mimics the closeness of being in the womb and can help to calm the newborn while ensuring they are safely wrapped and unable to move themselves from that position. It can reduce the startle reflex and keep the baby comfortable both during the day and when sleeping overnight. It can reduce anxiety while offering a familiar feeling in a world that is vastly different and all new from anything they’ve experienced. It can help babies stay asleep longer and be calm and relaxed.