Swaddling or wrapping your newborn baby can help settle them to sleep and reduce awakenings. While swaddling is fairly easy to do, there are a few rules to follow for your baby's safety.
Swaddling can help calm a baby — it is thought that swaddling helps recreate the restricted space in the womb.
Some studies have shown that swaddled babies wake less frequently and sleep longer than non-swaddled babies.
Swaddling may also help reduce the risk of sudden infant death by keeping babies on their back during sleep.
When to swaddle?
Swaddling is for very young babies — from birth to when they begin to show signs they can roll over (usually 4 to 6 months old but sometimes younger).
When not to swaddle?
Stop swaddling once your baby can roll onto their tummy or if your baby does not seem to like it. An alternative to swaddling is to use a safe infant sleeping bag.
Do not swaddle your baby if they share a sleep surface with another person. Babies should not be wrapped while sleeping in a baby sleeping bag.
How to swaddle?
- Use a lightweight cotton or muslin wrap to swaddle your baby. Rugs and blankets are not safe for swaddling as they may cause overheating.
- Prevent overheating by making sure your baby is not over-dressed under the wrap. If the weather is warm, your baby may only need a singlet and nappy. In cooler weather, your baby may need a lightweight jumpsuit.
- Newborn babies are usually swaddled with their arms folded across their chest. Once their startle reflex is gone (usually around 3 months), leave your baby’s arms free so they can self soothe.
- Ensure that your baby is on their back with their feet at the bottom of the cot. Do not cover your baby’s head and face. This is to prevent your baby from overheating and from the wrap blocking their breathing.
- For effective swaddling, the wrap must be firm but not too tight. It should allow your baby’s chest to rise normally during breathing.
- The wrap should not be too tight around your baby’s hips and legs. Studies have shown that tight wrapping with the legs held straight can lead to hip problems such as hip dysplasia or dislocation. If swaddled correctly, your baby’s legs should be able to bend at the hips with the knees apart.
Swaddling (wrapping) a newborn - video
Video provided by Raising Children Network.
Always put your baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death.
Read more about safe sleep for babies and for support or advice, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
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Last reviewed: January 2021