How to swaddle a baby safely

If you’d like to try swaddling, you’ve come to the right place. We explain what hip-friendly swaddling is and how to fold the blanket around your baby.

Safety comes first

You’ve read all about the pros and cons of swaddling and you’ve decided to give it a go. But before you start, you’ll want to make sure you know about safe sleeping and hip-healthy swaddling guidelines. Here’s why.

Hip friendly swaddling is important because there might be a link between swaddling a baby’s legs too tightly and an increased risk of hip dysplasia (van Sleuwen et al, 2007; NHS, 2013; International Hip Dysplasia institute, 2018). On the other hand, be careful not to swaddle your baby too loosely either because they could get tangled up in the loose cloth, which could overheat or suffocate them (Greviskes, 2012).

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is another important safety consideration. As you probably know, you should always put your baby to sleep on their back to lower the risk of SIDS (NHS, 2018). This might be particularly important for swaddled babies. Swaddled babies sleeping on their stomach or sides appear to be at increased risk of SIDS (Pease et al, 2016). Babies swaddled too loosely are also at increased risk of SIDS because they’re more likely to roll over onto their stomach (Greviskes, 2012).

Timing is key too. Start swaddling when your little one is a newborn or soon after. Then as soon as your baby starts to learn to roll, you’ll need to transition them away from swaddling (Irving, 2014).

See our seven safe and hip friendly swaddling tips for more details about safety.

Swaddling blankets

You don’t need a lot of equipment for swaddling – you might already have something suitable. You can use:

  • blankets made from breathable lightweight materials
  • receiving blankets
  • muslin cloths
  • modern, specially-designed swaddling blankets that are made to be hip-friendly and have fastenings to make swaddling easier.

(The Lullaby Trust, 2018).

Step-by-step mini guide: how to swaddle your baby safely

  1. Lay down your chosen swaddling blanket on a flat, safe surface like the floor.
  1. Arrange the blanket in a flat diamond shape. Turn the top point of the diamond down and smooth it out.
  1. Put your baby down gently on their back on top of the lightweight blanket. The baby blanket origami begins here.
  1. Put your baby’s right arm down gently by their side and wrap that side of the blanket up over their right arm and across their front over to the left. Tuck the blanket snugly underneath their left side.
  1. Think hip-healthy. The idea is to wrap your baby gently but firmly so they feel snug and secure without restricting their legs from falling into a natural frog-like position. Always make sure their neck and face are uncovered.
  1. Bring the bottom corner of the blanket straight up and fold it upwards towards your baby’s shoulders, making sure it does not cover your baby’s neck or face in any way.
  1. Place your baby’s left arm down by their side and wrap the blanket up over their left arm across their front and across to the opposite side of their body. Tuck it behind their right side. Hey presto, you have your very own baby burrito.

(International Hip Dysplasia Institute, 2018)

If you’d like to find out more read our article about the potential benefits and risks of swaddling a baby.

This page was last reviewed in September 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Safer sleep advice and bereavement support from the Lullaby Trust.

Greviskes A. (2012) The benefits and risks of swaddling your baby. Available at: https://www.nymetroparents.com/article/How-to-Avoid-Hip-Dysplasia-When-Swaddling-a-Baby [Accessed 13th September 2018].

International Hip Dysplasia Institute. (2018) Hip-healthy swaddling. Available at: https://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/hip-healthy-swaddling/ [Accessed 13th September 2018].

Irving J. (2014) Swaddling: benefits, risks and current advice. Nursing in Practice. Available at: https://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/swaddling-benefits-risks-and-current-advice [Accessed 13th September 2018].

NHS (2013) Swaddling may damage babies' hips, expert warns. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/swaddling-may-damage-babies-hips-expert-warns/ [Accessed 13th September 2018].

NHS (2018) Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Available at:  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids/ [Accessed 13th September 2018].

Pease AS, Fleming PJ, Hauck FR, Moon RY, Horne RS, L'Hoir MP, Ponsonby AL, Blair PS. (2016) Swaddling and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 137(6). pii: e20153275. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/05/05/peds.2015-3275 [Accessed 13th September 2018].

The Lullaby Trust (2018) Safe swaddling. Available at:  https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/swaddling-slings/   [Accessed 13th September 2018].

van Sleuwen BE, Engelberts AC, Boere-Boonekamp MM, Kuis W, Schulpen TW, L'Hoir MP. (2007) Swaddling: a systematic review. Pediatrics. O;120(4):e1097-106. Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6499 [Accessed 13th September 2018].

Further reading

The Lullaby Trust (2016) Rates of sudden infant death syndrome go down to lowest on record but baby charity says more lives could be saved. Available at: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/rates-of-sudden-infant-death-syndrome-go-down-to-lowest-on-record-but-baby-charity-says-more-lives-could-be-saved/ [Accessed 13th September 2018].

Nelson AM. (2017) Risks and benefits of swaddling healthy infants: An integrative review. CAN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 42(4):216-225.

Ockwell-Smith S. (2012) The fourth trimester – AKA why your newborn is only happy in your arms. Available at: https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2012/11/04/the-fourth-trimester-aka-why-your-newborn-baby-is-only-happy-in-your-arms/ [Accessed 13th September 2018].

RCM. (2013) A binding issue. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/news-views-and-analysis/analysis/a-binding-issue [Accessed 13th September 2018].

RCM. (2016) Sleep position and swaddling affects SIDS risk. Available at:  https://www.rcm.org.uk/news-views-and-analysis/news/sleep-position-and-swaddling-affects-sids-risk [Accessed 13th September 2018].

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