FQ Expert

The Art of Swaddling

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Alison Scott-Wright, sleep expert and author of ‘The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan’, shares her top tips for swaddling.

For dads, swaddling is a great bonding technique because it has the same effect on a baby as a cuddle, providing instant reassurance and soothing – particularly if your little one is distressed.

A baby burrito

By wrapping a baby in a swaddle, you’re actually mimicking the feeling of security they felt in the womb, which can really help to settle a new baby. However, remember that even in the womb, babies are able to move and turn – as you can sometimes feel when placing a hand on your partner’s bump – so the number one rule for swaddling is not to make it too tight or restricting as this could potentially cause joint problems further down the line.

During the last couple of months before the birth, it’s time to start preparing for the new arrival. So, if you’ve been sent to the shops by your partner with a list of essential items, make sure you pick up 100% jersey cotton for swaddling. The natural elasticity in this material will let your baby to move, flex and stretch as they would in the womb.

Swaddling a baby takes practice and then even more practice! If you’re lacking patience you can buy ready-made swaddles, most of which are made in jersey cotton fabric and are really simple to use. For those parents who want to persist, here are the basic steps:

Learning the art

Lay out the swaddle on a flat surface and place your baby on their back, with the top hem of the swaddle wrap under the back of their neck. Then fold their arms across their chest – NEVER swaddle with arms down by their sides as this is far too restricting and could be dangerous.

With your left hand, hold his/her arms in place whilst reaching across with your right hand to pull over the left side of the swaddle. As you pull it over, cover your baby’s hands with the hem of the swaddle going right up under the chin.

Keep the swaddle taught and bring it over the baby’s left side and shoulder and tuck it round to their back. Once it’s securely tucked under the back, repeat the same with the right side by pulling it over and tucking it firmly under his/her left side. Under their chin, each side of the swaddle should form a small V shape and many babies will gradually wriggle their hands free, which is fine as this isn’t designed to be a strait jacket!

Finally, flip the free material at the bottom part of the swaddle up and over the feet, tucking the loose ends around the back of the legs.

There you have it, one swaddled baby!

Please use a swaddle with caution, taking the following points into consideration:

– Ensure baby will not overheat and use appropriate clothing determined by house/room temperatures.

– Once in a swaddle, many babies will lie incredibly still and with most sleeping on their backs, this can induce plagiocephaly (a flattening at the back or the side of the head) and also cause a stiffness in the hip joints. So, ensure you use a plagiocephaly pillow and as you place baby in the crib very slightly tilt baby onto their side so they can bend their knees up. Each time you put baby to bed, alternate this slight side inclination from right to left so his head remains rounded and cushioned in the pillow.

– Never place a baby on their front, face down when in a swaddle.

– Swaddling is only advised for the first 6 to 8 weeks maximum and at around week 4 to 6 weeks, it’s a good idea to start gradually loosening the swaddle so your baby slowly gets used to being without it.

Alison will be a speaker at The Baby Show – taking place from 15-17th May at Birmingham NEC.