Generally speaking, babies and sleep and blankets do not go hand-in-hand. For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended babies be put to sleep on their backs, on a firm sleep surface free from loose bedding or soft objects. There’s one exception to this no-blanket dictate: the swaddle.
You’ve seen the perfect swaddle job—just look at that little peanut above! It creates the effect of a sweet little head on top of what appears to be a perfectly wrapped, baby-sized burrito. It looks supremely uncomfortable and yet, babies seem awfully content all bundled up that way. That’s because being wrapped in such a snuggly manner can resemble the feeling of being in their mother’s womb and, as such, is soothing.
There are lots of different types of swaddle blankets on the market, some of them with velcro tabs or zippers and their own specific instructions that can make swaddling a bit easier. But if you want to skip buying yet another item—or if they’re all at the bottom of the hamper at the moment—it’s good to be able to swaddle with whatever blanket you’ve got on hand. Follow the AAP’s recommendations here:
1. Spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
2. Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with her head above the folded corner.
3. Straighten her left arm, and wrap the left corner of the blanket over her body and tuck it between her right arm and the right side of her body.
4. Then tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over her body and under her left side.
5. Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
6. Make sure her hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight.
OK, now it’s time for a visual from the Mount Sinai Parenting Centre:
To ensure the swaddle isn’t too tight, you should be able to get two or three fingers between the blanket and the baby’s chest. After swaddling, watch for signs of overheating, including sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash and rapid breathing.
Swaddling isn’t for all babies—some just don’t like it. Or they may like to have their torsos swaddled but have their arms free. That’s fine, too! But you should always stop swaddling as soon as your baby shows any signs of trying to roll over (sometimes as early as two months old), as rolling over while swaddled can increase the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.