How to Swaddle a Baby

My easy-to-remember DUDU swaddle method makes the seemingly difficult task of how to swaddle a baby...simple to master!

Why Swaddle a Baby?

Touch is our most ancient, calming sense. The first S of the 5 S's—Swaddling—reminds babies of the womb's embrace and it's a similar experience to being cuddled skin-to-skin, but its big advantage is that it envelops a baby's body with a soft caress that can soothe her for hours when she's sleeping...and can't be in your arms.

New babies have very little control over their arms. Swaddling prevents your little one from whacking herself in the face and getting even more upset. It also prevents her from startling herself and disrupting sleep. Once wrapped, a baby can pay attention and be soothed by the other S's (Side-Stomach, Shushing, Swinging or Sucking)

Things to Know Before You Swaddle a Newborn

When you’re just learning to swaddle a baby, it’s best to practice it when your baby is calm or already asleep.

The first step to calming any fussy baby is to give her a cozy hug. That’s exactly what swaddling does...embrace your baby...and it's the best way to begin before you even touch a swaddling blanket!

DUDU Method: The Best Swaddle for Newborns

The best swaddling method I've ever learned is an easy, four-step approach a wonderful midwife once showed me. I call it the DUDU baby wrap, to help parents remember the steps: Down-Up-Down-Up.

DUDU-swaddle-method-harvey-karp

How to Swaddle a Baby 

Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide for swaddling a baby.

  1. The First D - DOWN

Place a light cotton blanket on your bed (use a 44-inch by 44-inch square ) and orient it like a diamond, with a point at the top Fold the top corner down. The top point should end up near the center of the blanket. Place your baby on the blanket, her neck right above the edge of top fold.

Holding the right arm against her side, grab the blanket about four inches from her right shoulder. Then, pull it snugly down and across her body. Tuck it under her left buttock. (It will look like half of a V-neck sweater.) Next, grab the free blanket, beside her left shoulder. Tug it firmly—away from her body—to remove any slack.

Her right arm should now be straight and snug against her side. (Just as swaddling is the key to calming, this first DOWN is the key to swaddling. Do it snugly...or the whole wrap will unravel.)

Note: Don’t be surprised if your baby’s cries escalate when you start this or any  swaddle technique! You’re not hurting her. She just doesn’t realize yet that she’s only seconds away from happiness.

  1. The First U - UP

Now, holding her left arm against her side, bring the point at the bottom of the blanket straight up and place it on her left shoulder. Tuck the blanket edge snugly around the left arm. Again, grab the blanket next to her shoulder and pull it straight out—away from her body—to remove any slack.

Note: The blanket should be loose around her legs, but her arms should be very snug and straight. Bent arms let babies wiggle out...and that makes them cry even more.

  1. The Second D - DOWN

Grab the blanket just a few inches from the left shoulder and pull it down—just a smidge. The small flap should come down to her upper chest to form the other half of the V-neck. Lightly press that smidge against her breastbone, like you're holding down a ribbon while making a bow.

Note: Don’t bring this fold all the way down to your baby’s feet! It’s just brought down to the chest.

  1. The Second U - UP

Holding the smidge on the chest, grab the last free blanket corner and pull it straight out (away from her body) to remove any slack. Then, in one smooth motion, lift that corner up and straight across her forearms...like a belt. The blanket should be big enough so that this part goes all the way around the body. Then, snug it and tuck it into the front of the “belt.”

Note: This last step is not straight up...it is really up and across. The arms will be held snug and straight, but the legs should be loose enough to bend at the knee and open at the hips.

Practice Swaddling Your Newborn

Even though millions of swaddle blankets are sold each year, many parents never learn to swaddle a newborn correctly. That worries me because incorrect swaddling may accidentally worsen crying or pose a health hazard. Fortunately, safe swaddling is not rocket science. It may be tricky at first, especially if your baby is upset and struggling. (Gulp!) But, after 5 or 10 tries, it will become as easy as changing a diaper.

If you’re confused at all, watch the swaddling demonstrations on The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. It's a fail-safe way to learn how to swaddle your baby correctly, and safely!

Is Swaddling Good for Babies

Yes, swaddling is good for babies. Swaddling your baby reminds them of being in the womb and of skin-to-skin contact. Swaddling a newborn is an effective way to calm infants and promote sleep.

Should You Swaddle a Baby with Arms Up or Down?

It’s recommended that you swaddle your newborn with their arms down and to the sides rather than across their chests. Swaddling with the arms down reduces the likelihood that your baby will wiggle out of the swaddle or bunch it up to their face.

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Happiest Baby's SNOO Sack (a.k.a. the 5 - second swaddle) takes all the guesswork out of swaddling your baby. They are ventilated to prevent overheating, hip-safe and easy-to-use! Learn more.

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