If you're a fan of sleep, you're going to want to know how to swaddle. A study in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that babies who are swaddled sleep more soundly than those who aren't, and a study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that swaddling can help calm excessive crying in babies younger than 7 weeks.
Parents everywhere have found this age-old practice can help calm their infants. "Swaddling is the only way my kids slept," says 31-year-old Catriona Harris, an Orlando, Florida, mom of two. "My youngest was so big that she didn't fit in the blankets after 2 months old -- so we swaddled her in a tablecloth!"
Baby-soothing expert Harvey Karp, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, says swaddling is the key to keeping your baby calm. When combined with other calming techniques "all babies do better with swaddling," says Karp, the doc behind the top-selling The Happiest Baby on the Block book, CD and DVD. "Once you learn how, it's as easy as tying your shoelaces," Karp says.
Still, swaddling may not work for all infants. "Some babies do not respond well to swaddling, and it is best to not do it if on repeated attempts the baby doesn't seem to like it," advises Cronan, adding that swaddling is most effective in the first few weeks of life.
The key to a good swaddle is the right blanket. A large square one works best. Flannel is a popular fabric choice, but some parents prefer something with stretch. Cotton muslin is a favorite, too, because it's breathable and can help keep baby (who can't regulate his own body temperature yet) from overheating.
If you're concerned the fit is too tight, slide your hand between the blanket and your baby's chest. It should feel as snug as it felt when you put your hand between your pregnant belly and the waistband of your pants, according to Karp. Blanket selected, you're ready to wrap your baby burrito:
Step 1. Place the blanket on the floor or on your bed in a diamond position. Fold the top corner down so the point touches the center of the blanket. Lay baby on the blanket so her neck is aligned with the top edge. Gently position baby's right arm straight against her side. Grab the left side of the blanket 3 to 4 inches from her right shoulder and pull it snugly down and across her body. Keeping the blanket taut, tuck it under her back and left buttock.
Step 2. Straighten baby's left arm against her side and bring the bottom corner of the blanket up. Tuck the corner over her left shoulder and upper arm and tighten it. Fold the top of the left side down a smidge across her breastbone, and hold it with your left hand. Grab the last free corner with your right hand and wrap it across her body tightly,tucking it firmly under her back.
Quick Tip: Just can't get the hang of it or your baby is simply a Houdini? It's OK to admit defeat. Purchase a self-fastening swaddling blanket like those by Kiddopotamus or Halo: Slip the baby inside, wrap the wings snugly around baby and secure with the fabric fastener.