“Your baby has just spent nine months in the confined space of your womb, but that all changes after the birth,” says midwife Anne Richley.
“Suddenly he’s given lots of space when you lay him down, so it’s not surprising that some babies feel vulnerable and insecure and love the feeling of being swaddled. Certainly for some, it’s the next best thing to a cuddle and helps to comfort them when they’re feeling restless.
“But it’s important to remember that swaddling is about comforting your baby. It’s not about warming him up, so use a cotton sheet rather than a blanket,” explains Anne.
When can you swaddle?
Swaddling can be done from birth, but by around 3 months, your baby is likely to be very wriggly and may no longer want to be swaddled.
Or, by this stage, your baby may prefer a looser swaddle, with his arms left on the outside, rather than tucked inside, now he’s used to his new environment and perhaps enjoys the freedom to wave his arms now.
Some babies love being swaddled, and others quite simply hate it. You’ll quickly find out which camp your baby belongs in.
If yours isn’t a fan, there’s no point in trying to keep him swaddled – it’ll just make him more, rather than less, unhappy. As soon as he tries to kick it off, it’s time to stop swaddling.
Spread out a cotton sheet so it’s triangular in shape, and place your baby on the sheet with his head just resting on the fold at the top.
Gently tuck your baby’s arms down by his side and wrap one side of the sheet around him and under his other arm. “The sheet should be wrapped up over his shoulder and resting by the top of his neck near his chin,” says midwife Anne Richley.
Wrap the other side of the sheet across your baby’s body and under the other side of him, so he’s snugly wrapped up. Some babies prefer to be swaddled without their arms wrapped up, so see which he prefers when you’re doing it.
Tuck the bottom of the sheet in so it’s neat and tidy. “This is about recreating a feeling of security for your baby. Swaddling shouldn’t be so tight it restricts movement, but needs to be tight enough to give him a sense of ‘being held’, ” explains midwife Anne.
Tips for safe swaddling
It’s vital to make sure that you’re not making your baby too hot. For safe swaddling, follow these guidelines from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID):
- Use thin, lightweight materials only, never use a duvet or quilt.
- Rooms should be kept at a temperature between 16 and 20ºC – about 18ºC is just right.
- Babies need to lose excess heat from their heads, so make sure his head is not covered when he’s swaddled, and that there’s no chance he can wriggle under the swaddling wrap.