Many parents say that the first time they tried swaddling was a disaster. The baby struggled; they sweated; the hospital nurse frowned. Swaddling a frantic baby feels pretty wrong… like you are forcing your poor baby to do something she hates. But I strongly encourage you not to give up. Swaddling a baby with snug wrapping is the key to peaceful days and restful nights.

Note on how to master swaddling a baby: The first 10 times you practice swaddling, do it when your baby is calm or asleep, not when she is fussy and thrashing.

Why does wrapping work so well? Here are three reasons why swaddling a baby  reduces fussing:

Why do babies like swaddling?

1. Swaddling offers a sweet touch.

Skin is the largest organ of the body, and touch is our most ancient, calming sense. We all know how delicious the touch of our baby’s skin feels, but for babies, touch is more than a nice sensation—it’s as lifesaving as milk! In fact, many babies who are given milk but never held or touched may wither and die.

Swaddling is good for babies because it is a similar experience to being carried in a sling or cuddled skin to skin, but its big advantage is that it envelops her body with a soft caress that can soother her for hours when she can’t be in your arms.

2. Swaddling prevents spiraling out of control.

Wrapping keeps your baby from accidentally whacking herself and getting even more upset. Before birth, your uterus kept her arms from spinning like a windmill. Without those soft walls stopping your baby’s flailing arms when she's trying to sleep, small upsets can quickly escalate. (Have you noticed how much calmer your little one is when she is “wrapped” in your arms?)

3. Swaddling helps babies pay attention to soothing.

Crying makes babies feel like their heads are filled with loud warning sounds. Each jerk and startle sets off another alarm. All those rapid-fire jolts cause such chaos that your infant may not even notice your attempts at comforting.

Swaddling reduces those distractions and offers a reassuring embrace that says “It’s okay. Mama is taking over now.”

How important is it to swaddle a baby?

While swaddling may go against your gut, swaddling can be important to help your baby sleep. Swaddling keeps your baby’s arms from flailing and stirring up the startle reflex, which can wake them up. As the first of the  5 S’s, swaddling is the cornerstone of calming a fussy baby. Learn more about the 5 S’s for Soothing Babies.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.