What Mary Read on the Way to Bethlehem

What does it mean to swaddle a baby?

Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket for warmth and security. It can keep him from being disturbed by his own startle reflex, and it may even help him stay warm and toasty for the first few days of life until his internal thermostat kicks in. Most important, it can help to calm your baby.

Nowadays, you probably won’t leave the hospital without a little lesson in this technique. Try it, after you’ve made sure your baby isn’t hungry, wet, or tired. It can be used to help settle your baby down when he’s overstimulated or when he just needs to feel something close to the tightness and security of the womb.

Once your baby is about a month old you might want to stop swaddling him while he’s awake, as it may interfere with mobility and development in older babies. It’s fine to keep swaddling your baby for naps and nighttime if he seems to sleep better that way. He’ll let you know by crying or kicking when he no longer wants to be bundled up.

—text from the BabyCenter web site; image: Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Madonna and Child (1319).