Swaddling can soothe your baby. Discover the benefits of this technique and the precautions you need to take.
The benefits of swaddling
Swaddling involves wrapping a baby in a blanket to restrict their movement. Being snugly wrapped mimics how they feel in their mother’s womb. Swaddling can help your baby feel calm and secure, reducing crying.
Swaddling is often used for sick or premature babies because it’s calming and reassuring. But healthy babies can also benefit from the comforting feeling of being wrapped up.
Swaddling may also help your baby fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. This may be because swaddling prevents babies from startling themselves awake with sudden arm movements, which occur frequently during sleep.
When should you swaddle your baby?
When swaddling your baby, you can leave their arms either up or down. The important thing is to choose a position they like and that they find calming.
Swaddling is usually used when a baby needs to be soothed because they are upset, irritated, or very agitated. Before swaddling your baby, however, make sure that their distress is not due to hunger, a wet diaper, physical pain (e.g., diaper rash, link in French), or an infection (e.g., fever, link in French). If not, go ahead and comfort your baby with a little swaddling.
You can also swaddle your baby for naps or when you put them down for the night. They can remain swaddled for the entire time they’re asleep.
You can swaddle your baby several times a day if necessary. There’s really no rule about how many times a baby can be swaddled in a day, as long as they seem comfortable.
Not all babies like to be swaddled
Most babies like to be swaddled, but if yours doesn’t appear to enjoy it, don’t force it. Many babies have never been swaddled. Their parents use other techniques to calm them down, such as rocking them while singing a lullaby or playing soft music.
Practice safe swaddling
Never put your baby to sleep on their stomach, especially if they are swaddled. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome is 12 times greater when babies are put down to sleep on their stomachs.
- Don’t wrap your baby up too tightly. This could put too much pressure on their lungs and increase their risk of respiratory infections (link in French). You should be able to fit your hand between the blanket and your baby’s chest. Next, make sure that they can move their legs freely in the blanket. Swaddling their legs too tightly may cause hip problems.
- Make sure your baby won’t overheat while they’re swaddled. Swaddling can raise body temperature, one of the factors associated with sudden infant death syndrome. For safety, use a lightweight wrap, such as a thin blanket, for swaddling.
- Stop swaddling your baby as soon as they are able to roll over onto their stomach. To soothe your baby without swaddling, you can place a stuffed animal that plays soft music or the sound of waves next to the crib.
Things to keep in mind
Swaddling mimics the feeling of being in the womb and calms your baby. It can help them fall asleep and reduce crying.
Don’t swaddle your baby too tightly in the blanket.
Swaddling is not recommended once your baby is able to turn over on their own.
Scientific review: Dr. Anne-Claude Bernard-Bonnin, pediatrician
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: June 2022
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Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Québec. www.inspq.qc.ca
Mayo Clinic. “How to swaddle a baby.” 2020. www.mayoclinic.org
Meyer, Lars Eckehard, and Thomas Erler. “Swaddling: A traditional care method rediscovered,” World Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 7, no. 2, May 2011, pp. 155–160. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Swaddling.” 2018. caringforkids.cps.ca
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