Many parents find that swaddling can provide comfort to fussy babies, reduce crying, and develop more settled sleep patterns. While parents and babies may enjoy these benefits from swaddling, care must be taken to swaddle properly to ensure the baby’s health and safety. Improper swaddling can lead to instability and dislocation of the hip, a condition known as hip dysplasia. Please visit hipdysplasia.org for more information on this condition. To promote healthy hips, the baby should be wrapped so that the legs are able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural and proper development of the hip joints. Do not wrap the baby’s legs straight or pressed together. There are several methods of swaddling that can be used safely. The steps below provide one method for proper swaddling:
1. If using a square cloth, fold back one corner creating a straight edge.
2. Place the baby on the cloth so that the top of the fabric is at shoulder level. If using a rectangular cloth, the baby’s shoulders will be placed at the top of the long side.
3. Bring the left arm down. Wrap cloth over the arm and chest. Tuck under the right side of the baby.
Bring the right arm down and wrap the cloth over the baby’s arm and chest.
4. Tuck the cloth under the left side of the baby. The weight of the baby will hold the cloth firmly in place.
5. Twist or fold the bottom end of the cloth and tuck behind the baby, ensuring that both legs are bent up and out.
It is important to leave room for the legs to move.
Some parents choose to wrap their babies in garments specifically designed for swaddling instead of using a simple blanket or cloth. These swaddling garments should have a loose pouch or sack so the baby’s legs and feet will have plenty room for movement.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that soft bedding, and loose blankets or sheets should not be used because of the increased risk of suffocation. Sleep sacks that keep the baby warm and prevent covering the head are a recognized alternative that can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When put down to sleep, a swaddled baby should be placed on his or her back, face up.