It has come to my attention that many do not understand the fine art that is swaddling a baby. There are many blankets and many methods. Here’s how I do it…
This is for you, William, Kate, Prince George, & DDW (my fave Daddy blogger). DDW…you inspired me to take step by step pictures because I have a pretty sweet swaddle technique down.
I have no idea what the royal couple was actually doing when this picture was taken. It just looks like a poor swaddle. If they were not in fact trying to swaddle the young prince, my apologies.
The first step is to select the proper blanket-the royal couple have this one down. Size, shape, and the amount of stretch/give the fabric has are all important factors. Aden + Anais are my favorite. I have a set of the classic muslin swaddles and the organic muslin swaddles. They are both fantastic. The organic swaddles are softer and slightly bigger even though they are newer. I got the classic set when T was born & they have definitely been washed more than the organic set I got for Madelyn.
Now, here’s how you do it…
Find a large flat surface. Like a bed (it doesn’t hurt to have a beautifully made quilt from Grandma on it, either). Put the baby down off to one side where she won’t roll off while you lay the blanket out.
Lay the blanket squarely and flat next to the baby. For reference, this is a casal sized bed. Roughly equivalent to a double. Even if your baby is small, it’s important to have what may seem like a huge blanket for a good swaddle.
Put the baby in the center at the top of the blanket. Her shoulders should be just below the edge.
While holding the baby’s left hand down at her side with your left hand. Take the top corner of the blanket on the same side (baby’s left/your right) in your right hand. (Yes, she always smiles wildly when I swaddle her.)
Fold the corner down at an angle, over her left shoulder and under her right armpit. I take my left hand out of the blanket after folding it to ensure the arm is down. I then keep the fold tight by placing my left hand on her right side.
With your right hand in between your baby’s tush and the blanket, lift her slightly in order to fold the extra blanket in between her and the other side of the blanket. (I like to think she smiles like that when I swaddle her because I know what she needs and she’s excited to go to sleep)
Now repeat on the other side. Hold her right arm down with your left and cross your right arm over to grab the top left corner of the blanket.
Fold the corner down at an angle, over her right shoulder. I take my right hand out of the blanket after folding it to ensure the arm is down. I then keep the fold tight by placing my right hand on her left side. In the picture below it is not tight because I had to fumble with the camera, but the tighter and neater your swaddle, the better.
While holding your right hand on the left side of the baby, slide your left hand under her tush and the blanket. Lift her slightly in order to fold the extra blanket underneath. It should be flat so that there is no lump for your baby to sleep on. (wild smiles, every time, I’m telling you)
Now pick up both bottom corners of the blanket, one in each hand and fold them up to lie on top of the baby. The now top edge should be at about armpit level.
Next I like to fold the top edge of the blanket down a little for two reasons: 1. it looks nice. 2. it adds a little extra strength to the part of the swaddle that needs to be the strongest. The part that keeps the arms down. I usually do this all fairly quickly to limit her movement in the process, but taking pictures obviously prevents that. With my hands at what is now the top of the blanket and the sides of her body, I fold my thumbs length (two inches?) down and use my forearms along the sides of her body to keep the blanket tight.
Then sweep your right forearm under the baby while lifting her slightly with your left forearm still at her side taking the blanket on the right side to the left.
Repeat on the left: sweep your left forearm under the baby while lifting her tush slightly with your right hand taking the blanket on that side to the right.
Now you only have a little blanket left. At this point I put my left hand on the right side of the baby and grab the extra blanket in order to pull it taut. The neater and tighter the swaddle, the better, but obviously use common sense here and don’t squeeze too much. I usually give the extra blanket one twist and then tuck it in to the top horizontal layer of the blanket. The twist is not necessary, just something I’ve done out of habit.
Photographers: how do I avoid that shadow in the future? I took quite a few pictures at different angles and couldn’t figure out what to do to get rid of it.
And now you have a happily swaddled baby!
Please note: I am aware that swaddling with a blanket can be dangerous (if the child gets herself un-swaddled then there is a soft blanket in the crib posing a SIDS risk). As a breastfeeding mom I wake often-sometimes every half hour-through the night just to check on my little bundle. I do not think that this is a risk for my family. If you do, here are some products that swaddle, but don’t pose the same risk as swaddling with a blanket:
Halo Sleepsack Swaddles: I received one of these as a hand-me-down (thanks Julie!) for Madelyn. They are fantastic and really help when you’re SUPER tired and can’t do a full blanket swaddle.
Ergobaby Swaddler: I don’t have one of these, but they look pretty ideal. They are a new product from the same company that makes what I think is the best baby carrier out there. The company name says it all with ergo, as in ergonomically correct.
All of these options keep the legs loose, which I think is important for proper hip development. As far as arm positioning goes, there are different schools of thought. In the womb their arms are curled up with the hands at the heart or mouth. However, swaddling like this makes it easier for the baby to fight her way out. You decide what is right for you and your baby. This is just how I do it.