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How To Swaddle a Baby: The Right Way

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Learn the easiest and safest ways to swaddle your baby.

Have your attempts to swaddle your baby left you bewildered? Do you need help getting your baby as snug as a bug?

We love a swaddled baby, and between us, our team of moms have swaddled babies thousands of times.

In this article, we’ll answer all your swaddling questions. And we’ll let you in on our swaddling secrets, so you can perfectly wrap your little burrito baby — in several swaddle positions — to comfort them and recreate that peaceful womb environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Swaddling helps recreate a womb-like environment, providing comfort and security for babies.
  • A safe swaddle should be tight, but not too tight to cut off circulation or restrict leg movement.
  • Traditional “arms down” swaddle involves tucking the baby’s arms inside the blanket.
  • “Arms up” swaddle allows for arm movement and can ease the transition from swaddling as the baby grows.

How to Swaddle Your Baby

Making your baby into a mini burrito can be the fast track to a happy sleeper — but only if you can do it correctly and safely!

Having loose objects near your infant increases the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — better known as SIDS. These loose objects can include blankets, pillows, and toys.

Swaddling offers an alternative to a loose blanket by creating a tight wrapping around your baby that will not slip or cover their face (1).

A safe swaddle is tight enough to hold their limbs secure and give them pleasant confinement, but not so tight that they struggle to kick their legs or have their circulation cut off.

Swaddling safety should be observed at all times. Here are a few essential rules to follow:

  • Never place a swaddled baby on an uneven or sloped surface.
  • Always lay your swaddled baby on their back.
  • Check on your swaddled baby every so often.
  • Monitor your baby’s temperature, especially when swaddling in the summer.

How to Swaddle Arms Down

The most traditional swaddle is where a baby has their arms straight against their sides and neatly tucked into the wrap. Babies love this because of the warmth and security it provides them.

How to Swaddle Baby with Swaddle Blanket

1. Prepare your blanket

Put your swaddling blanket on a flat surface such as a bed or even the floor so it looks like a diamond. Pull the top corner down — it doesn’t need to go all the way down, just enough to create a flat edge for your baby.

2. Lay your baby down

Place your baby face up with their shoulders aligned to the folded edge of the blanket, so their head and neck are outside of the swaddle. You don’t want the folds coming up and covering their mouth or nose or nuzzling their cheek.

Babies may confuse the softness of the swaddle on their face as a food source and grow irritated when no milk appears.

3. Perform the first fold

Hold down your baby’s left arm, and pull the left side of the blanket over their torso, tucking it under their right side. You’ll get the second arm when you pull the other side over.

4. Bring the bottom up

Pull the bottom of the blanket up and over your baby’s legs, and tuck it behind their right shoulder. Don’t make the little foot sack too tight.

Make sure your baby is bow-legged and able to move around a bit without disturbing the wrap’s security.

5. Perform the final fold

Hold your baby’s right arm across their body and pull the final blanket flap over your baby’s body, tucking the end behind the left-hand side. The blanket will pin both arms to their sides, and the wrap should be nice and tight around their body.

You now have a happy, swaddled baby!

How to Swaddle Arms Up

Babies love to be swaddled, but they can’t do it forever. Weaning from swaddling can be difficult, so starting the process early by letting your baby have their arms out can help ease the transition.

Letting their arms out of the swaddle gets them used to the feeling of freedom and helps them grow their muscles and learn to self-soothe.

1. Lay out your blanket

Lay your blanket on a flat surface so it makes the shape of a diamond. Fold down the top corner of your diamond to the middle of your blanket — this will be a deeper fold than if you’re swaddling with your baby’s arms in.

You’re essentially trying to make the blanket smaller since part of your baby’s body will be out of the swaddle to allow for arm movement.

2. Lay baby in the blanket

Place your baby with their upper back on the fold so their shoulders, neck, and head are above the fold. When you pull the blanket flaps around, they should go right below your baby’s armpits.

3. Tuck the left corner

Pull the left corner of the blanket over your baby’s chest, and tuck it behind their right-hand side, holding their left arm up gently.

You’ll repeat the same action you did for the arms down swaddle, but instead of straightening your baby’s arm down against their body inside the blanket, gently lift it up and away from the wrap.

4. Pull the bottom of the blanket up

Pull the bottom of the blanket up, and rest it on the middle of your baby’s tummy. Pull it securely around their legs, leaving enough room to kick a bit. This will be secured once you pull the last flap around.

5. Complete the swaddle

Wrap the right corner of the swaddle around your baby’s tummy and tightly tuck it under their left-hand side while holding their right arm up out of the tuck.

Once they are swaddled with their arms free, they’ll feel snug and secure but still have that upper movement.

Swaddling With Velcro or Zipper Blankets

Some companies have ready-made sleep sacks available. These are blankets designed for easy swaddling, with a pocket for the baby’s legs and wrap-around Velcro arms.

With sleep sacks, you can tuck your baby in with three short steps.

1. Place baby’s feet

Place your baby’s feet into the pre-existing sack. If there’s a zipper on the sack, make sure you zip it to enclose your baby in the swaddle. Alternatively, you can leave it open to let your baby kick, play, and develop those leg muscles.

2. Engage the Velcro

By looking at the Velcro pads on the swaddler, you can see which to pull over first. The flap with the Velcro on the outside should be the one you pull over your baby’s chest first and tuck it underneath them.

3. Secure the second flap

Secure the other flap with the sticky Velcro pad on the other side of the baby. Once you’ve pulled the second flap securely over the first, press the two Velcro pads together.

Be careful that you haven’t made the swaddle too tight!


Do You Put Clothes Under a Baby Swaddle?

Yes, you should dress your baby in a light onesie under a swaddle to make sure they don’t overheat.

Should Hands Be In or Out of Swaddle?

For newborns, swaddling with hands inside can mimic the womb. But as they grow and become more active, most babies prefer hands out.

Can You Let a Newborn Sleep Unswaddled?

Yes, but swaddling often helps newborns sleep more soundly by preventing the startle reflex.

Should I Unswaddle My Baby During Night Feeds?

Not necessarily, but if your baby has difficulty waking up for feeds or staying awake during them, unswaddling can help.

What Is the Difference Between a Swaddle and a Sleep Sack?

A swaddle is designed to wrap tightly around a baby, mimicking the womb. A sleep sack, on the other hand, is a wearable blanket that allows more movement.

When Should You Not Swaddle a Newborn?

Parents can stop swaddling when their baby starts to show signs of rolling over, usually around 2-4 months, to prevent suffocation risks.

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Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran licensed pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.