Swaddling your baby
Many newborns like feeling snug, cozy and safe, just like they felt in the womb. Swaddling is when you snuggly wrap a thin blanket around your baby so that it covers most of her body below the neck. Swaddling can help keep your baby calm, soothe her when she cries or is fussy, and help her sleep better during naps and at bedtime.
Is swaddling your baby safe?
It’s safe to swaddle your baby until she can roll over onto her tummy. But once she can roll over, stop swaddling. A swaddled baby who rolls onto her tummy while sleeping may be more likely than other babies to have sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS) or suffocate (not be able to breathe).
How do you safely swaddle your baby?
Your baby’s nurses can show you how to swaddle your baby before you take him home from the hospital after birth. It’s important to swaddle your baby the right way to help keep him safe, especially while he sleeps.
Here’s how to swaddle your baby:
- Place a thin blanket, like a receiving blanket, down on a flat surface like a changing table. Spread it out so that the blanket looks like a diamond.
- Fold the top corner of the blanket diamond down a few inches. You may need to fold it down more or less depending on your baby’s size.
- Lay your baby on top of the blanket fold so that he’s on his back, facing you. His shoulders should be in line with the blanket fold and his head should rest above it.
- Hold your baby’s arms down by his sides and wrap the blanket corner from his left side across the body to his right side. The blanket should cover his chest, tummy, legs and both arms.
- Tuck that blanket corner over his right arm and under his back.
- Wrap the blanket corner from his right side across his body.
- Tuck the blanket under your baby on his left side.
- Fold the blanket’s bottom corner up and tuck it into an opening in the blanket layers, under your baby’s body.
How do you keep your swaddled baby safe when sleeping?
Once your baby’s swaddled for a nap or bedtime, make sure he’s ready for safe sleep by checking that:
- The blanket is snug around your baby, but not too tight. Your baby should breathe easily. His head and neck shouldn't be covered by the blanket. Slide two or three of your fingers between his chest and the blanket to make sure he has room to breathe.
- Your baby can move his hips and feet. Tightly wrapping a baby’s legs while they’re straight may make him more likely to have hip dysplasia. This condition happens when a baby has an abnormal hip joint where the top of a hip bone doesn't stay firmly in the hip socket.
- The blanket doesn't have any loose ends. If the blanket unwraps, it could cover your baby’s face and put him in danger of suffocation or being strangled.
- Your baby isn't overheated. Being wrapped in a blanket can make your baby too hot, especially if he’s wearing thick, heavy clothes. He may be overheated if he’s breathing fast, sweating or his skin appears red.
- You put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like a crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Check him while he sleeps to make sure he doesn't roll over on his tummy.
Learn about more ways you can keep your baby’s sleep safe.
Last reviewed March 2014
Most common questions
How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?
About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.
How should I take my baby’s temperature?
If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:
- Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
- Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
- Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
- With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.
What do I do if my baby is constipated?
Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.