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Swaddling 101

Updated on September 7, 2009

My youngest daughter’s nickname of the “Hurricane” was preceded by a moniker of “Wiggle Worm”. She earned the name early because it was used so often in her honor.

This is the newborn who could squirm her feet out of the snaps of her “sleep and play” outfits. The infant who would push herself back on her Boppy until her head was hanging off- upside-down, mind you- and drink her bottles in that position. The baby who had a hard time falling asleep because her arms could not seem to stop reaching and grasping.

And thus the reason we began swaddling little Violet, from the time she was very tiny, and for many months afterward.

Swaddling is a long practiced tradition of tightly wrapping an infant in blankets, swaddling cloths, or something similar to restrict the movement of their limbs. We know that infants are tightly confined in the womb, and so it makes sense that they would find comfort and security in a similar feeling once they are born. Swaddling has gained popularity in recent years as medical experts champion its ability to help infants sleep better and even prevents SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Many mothers know of swaddling benefits without doctors' opinions however, because they have seen the wrapping of a squalling baby result in sudden peace.

Swaddling is generally a practice most beneficial for newborns. Once a child has more control over their limbs and is learning to move independently, especially around five months when a baby may begin attempting to roll, swaddling outside of sleep time is no longer wise. Baby needs to be free to move and gain muscle strength. Swaddling can continue to be used in older babies, usually younger than one year, but should really only be used to aid in sleeping.

My daughter, Violet, has always been very active. And from her early weeks, it was easy to see that her constant movement was disturbing her own ability to sleep. It was as if she couldn’t hold still long enough to nod off. This is when we discovered the benefits of swaddling in our family. (My older daughter hadn’t needed it.) We would tightly wrap Violet in a receiving blanket in a classic swaddle wrap and then secure this with a specially designed blanket for swaddling. She was magically able to fall asleep and slept more soundly! Seeing her so tightly wrapped never failed to make us laugh as well, and resulted in fun new names like, our little “baby burrito”.

As she grew, Violet was able to work herself out of the swaddling blankets as she slept, and would normally have at least her arms completely loose when she woke up in the morning. Although she still enjoyed it, we finally stopped swaddling her when she was around eight months old because she was just getting too big for the blankets! And, truth be told, it was becoming a little ridiculous, swaddling a baby who was already cruising.

Lay a lightweight, breathable (preferably square) blanket flat.

Fold down one corner at least six inches into the center of the blanket.

Lay baby with their body on the blanket and their head above the fold, their shoulders even with the fold.

Tuck one of baby’s arms near their body, then cross the corresponding corner (about even with their elbow) across their arm and body. Tuck the corner underneath

Fold the bottom corner straight up over their feet, toward their chin. If it extends too high, simply fold it back again.

Tuck their remaining arm across their body. Take the remaining corner of the blanket and wrap it over this arm and as far around their body as it will go, tucki

How to Stop Swaddling

Eventually you will need to stop swaddling your baby, whether it is because they are growing too large for the blankets or they are simply becoming more mobile and need to learn to sleep without it.

No matter the reason, there are a few methods you can employ when you’re ready to stop swaddling your little one. First of all, you can begin wrapping them a little more loosely each night (in only one, light breathable blanket) until baby does not need to be wrapped at all anymore.

Another technique is to leave one of baby’s arms loose for a week or two, then switch to the other arm for the same amount of time. After they have adjusted to this difference, you can leave both their arms completely free and finally their legs after another few days.

The final method would be to go “cold turkey” and stop swaddling baby immediately and completely. This may result in several rough nights for you and baby though, as they learn to adjust to this new arrangement.

Be aware that whatever method you choose, as with any transition, the older a baby is, the longer they will need to adjust. An infant who is only three months old can change routines with only a few days to adapt, a six or eight month old will often need several weeks of consistency to fully adjust.

So here’s to swaddling! All of its joys and soothing abilities- may our babies rest in peace! Share your own swaddling stories below, and advice on how or why to swaddle- or stop.


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      Mohit 3 years ago

      Hi Dwaye,There's a lot of value with your videos. Great job of lynaig out the core concepts of keyword research. People that need to learn more about these concepts are sure to benefit from this high value lesson!All the best,Jim Jinright

    • Sarah Songing profile image

      Sarah Songing 8 years ago

      Thanks for reading and commenting, DKY! I can always count on you for support.

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      DKY 8 years ago

      Another informative article! Love the pictures...what a great help visually... You rock girl!

      Thank you for all your great input!