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Wrapping babies

baby; sleep; wrap; wrapping; babies; swaddle; swaddling;

Some parents choose to wrap their babies when they put them down for sleep. Wrapping can help babies to develop a more settled sleep pattern. Other parents find that wrapping is not helpful. Whether you choose to wrap or not is your choice. Stop wrapping your baby when he can roll over (usually about 4 to 6 months old).

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You may need to seek advice from your Child and Family Health nurse.

Some benefits of wrapping

  • Wrapping can help babies develop a more settled sleep pattern.
  • Wrapping helps to prevent random arm movements which can disturb a baby’s sleep.
  • Babies whose sleep is disturbed by colic or reflux may be more settled when wrapped.
  • Babies with stiff or floppy limbs may benefit from being wrapped. Talk with your physiotherapist or child health nurse.

Safe wrapping

  • Wrapping needs to allow babies to breathe easily (adequate chest expansion) and allow their legs to bend at the hips. For normal hip joint development legs need to be bent at the hips with knees apart. Don’t wrap legs straight. Wrapping should allow for free movement of the legs.
  • The recommended fabrics are muslin or a light cotton wrap.
  • Bunny rugs and blankets are not as safe because they may cause overheating.
  • Babies must not be overdressed under the wrap. Dress them in a singlet and nappy in warm weather, or a light grow suit in cool weather.

How to wrap

This is one method for safe wrapping.

In most cases the key to successful wrapping and settling lies with holding your baby's arms firmly. This will give your baby the cue to settle. Some babies settle best when their arms are held with their hands near their face so that they can suck on them to comfort themselves. Do not wrap your baby’s arms so they are straight down by their side. Fold them across the chest.

Spread the wrap so that you can place the baby's head at the top of the long side of the wrap, or if the wrap is square, fold one corner of the wrap towards the centre.

  1. Place baby on the wrap at shoulder level. Ensure the wrap does not cover the baby's face.
    position 1
  2. Brings arms together on upper chest. Make sure baby has enough room to breathe easily.
    position 2
  3. Bring one side over both arms and tuck under your baby.
    position 3
  4. Bring the other side over arms and then tuck under body.
    position 4
  5. Fold the end of the wrap and place it to the side so that both legs remain bent up.
    position 5
  6. Place baby with feet at the end of the cot.

When to wrap

Whether to wrap depends on whether it helps your baby, not how old the baby is. Some babies find it stressful while others find it comforting to be held by a wrap for many months. Some babies do better if they have their arms out, others like their arms wrapped in. Do what helps your baby to feel safe and relaxed and comforted. Once your baby is rolling stop wrapping and change to a safe sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags

Sleeping bags can reduce the risk of SIDS. A safe sleeping bag is made in such a way that the baby cannot slip inside the bag and become completely covered. Sleeping bags can prevent legs from dangling out of the cot rails.  Babies in sleeping bags can be positioned anywhere in the cot if no extra bedding is used

  • The sleeping bag should be the correct size, with a fitted neck and arm holes and no hood.
  • Dress your baby according to the room temperature and do not use with doonas or quilts. 
  • Refer to the label on the sleeping bag as there are summer weight and winter weight bags
  • If additional warmth is needed a light sheet or blanket is usually all that is required, but take care to tuck the blanket in firmly so it cannot ride up and cover baby’s head during sleep. 
  • If babies are too hot they may be restless and flushed in the face and sweating.

When changing from wrapping to a sleeping bag you might like to start with wrapping your baby with arms out, this may help with the transition.

Safe sleeping

  • Place your baby on her back to sleep.
  • Make sure your baby’s face is not covered.
  • Cigarette smoke is bad for babies.
  • Make sure that your baby’s cot or bassinette is safe. The mattress needs to fit well with no gaps at the sides or the ends.
  • Place your baby with feet at the end of the cot.
  • The cot should be free of toys and bumpers.

See the topics Sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (including SIDS) and Safe sleep for babies and toddlers for more information.

Resources

South Australia

  • Child and Family Health - call 1300 733 606 for an appointment (Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm)
  • Parent Helpline - telephone 1300 364 100.
  • Contact SIDS & KIDS on 1300 308 307 for more information about safe sleeping. http://www.sidsandkids.org/
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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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