Swaddling, when done correctly, can help soothe babies and improve sleep. When babies are swaddled, they feel in a warmer and safer environment, just like in the womb. The Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, may cause the babies to wake themselves up during sleep. Swaddling prevents this reflex from occurring during sleep, allowing the baby to have a more uninterrupted sleep.
- Swaddling should be discontinued when any signs indicate that the baby is attempting to roll over. Babies typically start rolling over around 2 months of age, but every baby is different. If you notice that your baby is able to roll over on their own earlier than 2 months, stop swaddling before reaching the 2-month mark.
- Babies who are swaddled too tightly may develop a problem with their hips. Studies have found that straightening and tightly wrapping a baby’s legs can lead to hip dislocation or hip dysplasia. This is an abnormal formation of the hip joint where the top of the thigh bone is not held firmly in the socket of the hip. The Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, with the AAP Section on Orthopaedics, promotes “hip-healthy swaddling” that allows the baby’s legs to bend up and out.
- Swaddling also has the potential to cause babies to overheat, and overheating can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In order to prevent the baby’s body temperature from rising too much, swaddling should not be done too tightly and at least two or three fingers should be able to fit between the baby’s chest and the swaddle.
- To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, babies should be placed on their backs when swaddled.
How to swaddle correctly
- Use only a thin blanket for swaddling.
- Spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
- Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with their head above the folded corner.
- Straighten their left arm and wrap the left corner of the blanket over your baby’s body, tucking it between their right arm and the right side of their body.
- Then tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over her body and under their left side.
- Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
- Make sure their hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight and you can get at least two or three fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022). Swaddling: Is it Safe for Your Baby? https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Swaddling-Is-it-Safe.aspx
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022). Good Night, Sleep Tight: How to Swaddle Your Baby. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/good-night-sleep-tight.aspx