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Swaddling your baby

3-minute read

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.

Why swaddle?

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2021

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Need more information?

Wrapping or Swaddling Babies | Red Nose Australia

Read more on Red Nose website

Is it Safe to Wrap/Swaddle My Baby? | Red Nose Australia

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Wrapping your Baby

The reflexes of newborn babies often startle them easily and tend to wake them during sleep. Many parents have found that wrapping babies until they’re three to four months old (the time when these reflexes begin to disappear) helps reduce strong startle reactions and improves sleep.

Read more on Karitane website

How to wrap a baby | Raising Children Network

See how to wrap a baby in this video. Wrapping can reduce SUDI and SIDS risk by keeping babies on their backs during sleep. It can also soothe babies.

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How to wrap a baby: illustrated guide | Raising Children Network

See how to wrap a baby in our illustrated, step-by-step guide. Wrapping can soothe some babies. It also reduces SUDI and SIDS risks. View, print or download.

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Swaddling - dos and don’ts

Swaddling can help calm a baby and while it is fairly easy to do, there are a few rules to follow for your baby’s safety.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

How to wrap your baby | Sleep and Settling Technique - YouTube

Sleep and settling is the number one topic we are asked about at Karitane. Often it can be the reflexes of newborn babies that startle them to wake. As a hel...

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A crying baby needs love and attention. There are many things parents can do to settle a crying baby.

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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