How to swaddle a baby

You’ve probably seen a baby wrapped up like a burrito – that’s called “swaddling.” This cozy wrapping helps babies feel secure and warm like in the womb. It soothes them to help them sleep longer and feel calm. Swaddling is used when babies are on their back. When they start to roll or sleep on their side (at about 2-4 months), swaddling should stop.

Swaddling a baby comes with both benefits and risks. If you decide to swaddle your baby, it’s important to do it correctly. The blanket should be wrapped nice and tight so it doesn’t unravel but give baby some wiggle room in the legs so they can bend. Watch this step-by-step guide to learn how.

VIDEO: How to swaddle a baby, step-by-step

Steps:

1. Place a lightweight blanket on a safe surface with the top corner folded down.
2. Put the baby on the blanket with their shoulders just below the top of the blanket.
3. Tuck the baby’s right arm in and wrap the far corner across the baby on a diagonal.
4. Fold the bottom corner up over the baby.
5. Place the baby’s left arm on top of the tummy and wrap the left corner of the blanket across, tucking it in.

Be careful to avoid:

  • Covering the baby’s head or face with the blanket
  • Swaddling the baby so tightly their hips are compressed
  • Using heavy blankets that might overheat the baby

Benefits:

  • Provides comfort to some babies
  • Improves baby’s sleep on his/her back
  • Can help babies sleep longer in the first six months of their life

Risks:

  • Babies can’t put their hands/feet in their mouth to show you they’re hungry
  • A swaddle that’s too tight can compress a baby’s growing hips
  • A swaddle that’s too loose can unravel, allowing the baby to get tangled up

Baby being swaddled by nurse

For more information on getting ready for childbirth at McMaster Children’s Hospital, read our guide or speak to your healthcare provider.