Swaddling Step 4. Photo: Janet Bailey
You probably can’t even count on two hands the amount of swaddling blankets you were gifted before your newborn hit the scene, and it’s time to finally learn how to put them to good use.
Pediatrician Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, says the key to soothing your fussy baby is using the five Ss: swaddling, side or stomach lying, shushing, swinging and sucking. Wrapping your baby in a swaddle blanket mimics the womb and provides that continuous touch and support babies love, which helps them sleep longer and cry less.
Step 1: Arrange the blanket on a safe surface in a diamond shape, and fold the top corner down. Set your baby on top with her shoulders at the fold.
Step 2: Pull one side of the blanket diagonally across your baby's chest and tuck it under her body.
Step 3: Pull the bottom of the blanket up and over the feet and toward your baby's shoulder, without making the legs too tight.
Step 4: Fold the last corner snugly across your baby's chest and tuck it beneath her.
You may have heard about studies saying swaddling increases your baby’s risk of SIDS, but often these parents haven’t swaddled properly (make sure to follow the steps above) or didn’t follow safe sleep practices. Your baby should always be placed on her back to sleep and there should never be any other blankets, stuffed animals or soft toys in the crib. You also shouldn’t have bumpers on the crib rails.
Be careful not to tightly wrap your baby's legs so they are straight—having the hips and knees extended like this can lead to hip dysplasia. Give your baby a little bit of wiggle room in the lower body to bend their legs.
As soon as your baby starts to try to roll over, the American Association of Pediatrics advises you stop swaddling. This usually happens around the three- or four-month mark. Swaddling becomes unsafe once your baby can roll over because when they turn over to their stomach they can’t get their arms out of the swaddle to reposition themselves. You should never swaddle a baby that’s six months or older. Many parents worry about stopping swaddling because it helps their baby sleep well at night, but now is the time to try a soothing bedtime routine.