To swaddle or not to swaddle your baby?

It’s the middle of the night, and baby is crying, she’s been fed, she’s dry, but you don’t know how to help her. It might be that swaddling can help.

Now the first thing I want to make clear – I’m not a midwife, or health visitor, so please do get advice from one of these people if you’re not sure, but I’m definitely a supporter of swaddling, especially if you have a baby that just won’t settle.

Your little bundle of joy has just spent 9 months of her life curled up inside your nice warm tummy, with all her body snug and wrapped tightly in your womb. And then all of sudden she enters the big wide world and has only you to rely on to make her feel safe. How many times do you hear mums that will say ‘she’ll only sleep on me’ (and believe me I had one of those too), and of course, she’s snug in your arms, held tightly, nice and warm, where she can hear your heartbeat. But the moment you put her down, bam, she’s awake again, and you go round in sleepy circles until you’re both exhausted.

Laying baby down flat in her crib, cot or moses basket can trigger her startle reflex. It’s super strong with babies, and they’ll throw arms and legs in the air which will, in turn, wake them up! Not great if you’ve spent the last hour cuddling her to sleep. Which is where swaddling comes in.

Keeping her arms and legs snuggled against her body, snug enough so she can’t wriggle free easily, but not too tight that she’ll overheat or restrict her breathing will usually calm most babies down. The most important thing to consider when swaddling is her temperature, and of course making sure she can’t wriggle free from your swaddle and pull the fabric over her head.

Babies find it very difficult to regulate their own body temperature, so that’s up to you to keep an eye on. If you’re choosing to swaddle, then think about what she’s wearing underneath, and how warm she feels. If when wrapped she feels warm or a little bit sweaty behind her neck, try removing a layer of clothing before re-wrapping.

There is some great advice on the Lullaby Trust website, where they’ll give you guidance on good practices to follow when swaddling, and making sure you are doing it safely for baby.

The following comes from the NCT website, where you can also read more about the pro’s and cons of swaddling:

How do I swaddle my baby safely?

Follow these seven safe and hip friendly swaddling tips:

  1. Swaddle your baby using thin, breathable materials. Suitable cloth includes cotton receiving blankets, cotton muslin wraps, or specialised cotton-winged baby swaddles. Don’t over layer them
  2. Don’t swaddle your baby above their shoulders – their neck and head should never be swaddled.
  3. Wrap your baby firmly but gently (not too tightly). Tight swaddling that stops your baby’s hips and knees moving freely is not recommended. Swaddling your baby too tightly might cause hip dysplasia, which is where the hip does not form correctly.
  4. Use hip-healthy swaddling techniques to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia. Make sure your baby is able to move their hips and knees freely to kick. Your baby’s legs should be able to fall into a natural position (like frog legs).
  5. Always put your baby to sleep on their back. Never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front or side.
  6. Check your baby’s temperature regularly to make sure they don’t get too hot or overheat. Check they’re wearing suitable clothes for the weather too.
  7. If someone else looks after your baby, make sure they also know about safe sleeping advice and how to swaddle safely. Take your time to show them and explain safe swaddling and make sure they know to always put your baby to sleep on their back.

There are some great swaddling blankets and wraps on the market, that make swaddling your baby super easy, or of course, you can have a go at it yourself just using a thin breathable blanket or large muslin.

Whichever way you choose, those first few weeks are always filled with lots of questions, and there is a lot of information out there to help but also confuse. Just do what feels right for you and your baby.

Good luck!


swaddle your baby