Why Do We Use the Baby Swaddle?

baby swaddleSo why do we use the baby swaddle?

Swaddling is the age-old practice of wrapping a newborn up tight and cozy in a blanket, in order to restrict the movement of limbs. It helps to keep the baby on it’s back and makes for a sounder sleep with fewer upsets and tears.

The practice dates back millennia and has been practiced in varying degrees throughout history. Statues and engravings from Cyprus and Crete, depicting babes in a swaddled state, date back as far as 4500 years. In the Christian Bible, Mary is said to have wrapped her newborn baby Jesus in swaddling clothes, before placing him in the manger.

The original swaddling garb was a linen cloth that was bound tight with bandage-like strips. A common practice was to wash and oil the baby down after birth and immediately bind him up tight.

During Tudor times the practice was taken to the next level: babies were bound like mummies from head to foot, forehead and shoulders were bound in place so that the baby was completely restricted. It was believed that this would prevent the baby from developing deformities and stop out-of-control babies from hurting themselves with strange movements.

baby swaddle

During the 1700’s physicians called out for abolishment of the practice, saying that the tight bindings prevented the babies little bodies from growing strong, that the severe restrictions imposed on newborns were doing far more harm than good and toddlers were left with weak muscles and fragile frames.

So the Western world abandoned the more severe custom of heavy-swaddling but there are many Eastern and tribal peoples who still continue the heavier version of the practice to this day.

Swaddling and SIDS Prevention

Up until the early 90’s it was considered normal for us to put infants to sleep on their tummies. In-depth research into the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome soon revealed that newborns sleeping on their tummies was one of the key contributing factors and pediatricians called out for parents to put a stop to it. With the launch of the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994 we saw the reintroduction of the age-old baby swaddle, because babies who are put to sleep on their backs (without a proper swaddle) are likely to be kicking themselves awake most of the time.

shutterstock_339833201Nowadays swaddling is practiced with a slightly more gentle approach. Breathable cotton or cotton muslin fabric is used for blankets, often made in a triangle, T or Y-shape with specialized wings to allow for proper wrapping. Modern versions often include special fasteners or velcro strips to ensure that babies stay bound. It’s important that the fabric can be secured well without causing the baby to overheat.

It’s now widely agreed that swaddling is a solution for irritable newborns, who are often awoken from sleep by their own movements (the Moro-reflex). It allows them a deep and undisturbed sleep and it stops them from rolling onto their tummies and suffocating. We now know that babies legs shouldn’t be too tightly bound, so that their hips can develop properly. Swaddles are therefore designed to tie around the shoulders, allowing a little extra movement in the hip area.

baby swaddle

Swaddling Today

Physicians agree that swaddling is a helpful practice, making for well-rested, happy babies… but it should only be done in early infancy, up until the 4 or 5-month mark. At this age, the little one will have figured out, one way or another, how to roll over and he’ll need to have his hands free to adjust his position, should he happen to do so.

Studies now show that swaddled newborns cry less and sleep more, plus the risk of SIDS is hugely averted. One or two decent swaddling blankets, ensuring safe swaddling practices, are a must-have for stressed-out newbie moms and dads who definitely need all the sleep they can get!

After reading a lot about baby swaddles and looking around out there to see what free patterns were available, we decided to create our own baby swaddle pattern.  Please feel free to give it a try.

Free Baby Swaddle Pattern Easy Tutorial

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49 Responses to Why Do We Use the Baby Swaddle?

  1. Jean Robinson says:

    I would appreciate files that are printed on a plotter. Saves time and money. This specific pattern can not even be assembled in corel (graphic program) back to what the pattern is suppose to look like. It looks like there are individual pieces that are for two different areas of the pattern. I would hope to get some instructions on assembling. Your hyperlink in the pdf does no explain when you just have the gray markers
    Very difficult pattern to assemble. If I could get the entire pattern that would be great!
    Maybe if I could e mail the owner of the pattern. How they did the pattern I am sure in in a CAD program.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Thank you Jean for your feedback, this patter is to be printed on Adobe Reader only not on Corel. I do not own CAD (too expensive) I do not have time to make yet another file for a large plotter do not have access to one and do not own one. As it is a tutorial like this one takes me over 36 hours to put together and it is free for all.

  2. Susan says:

    Fundamentally, swaddling was done to replicate being in the womb to comfort infants through transition into this world. Wrapping ‘tight’ is a term I would show caution around, as ‘snuggly’ might be a better term. Once a baby is able to sit up, the practice is usually abandoned in Western countries, if not before.

    Similarly, a fussy baby lying on the chest of the mother (or other) is also comforting, hearing the heartbeat also reminds them of being in the womb and safe…thus teddy bears and other sound machines can be helpful or are often used. Of course, proper placement of the baby when doing so, is paramount.


  3. JC says:

    The Ancient Romans also practiced swaddling. For a time it was common to swaddle a child up to 3 years old! They believed the same thing as people in the 1700’s: that it would prevent growth deformities. If you want my opinion, I think they were just terrified of the little ones catching something or getting themselves killed, as more than 50% of children didn’t make it to adulthood at the time.

  4. Linda says:

    yes, most diffently

  5. Angi Swan says:

    Love it!
    I swaddled both my sons (back when it wasn’t cool or readily accepted) and all of my four grandchildren were swaddled….and they all loved it.

  6. gila says:

    I would definitely be interested in a swaddling pattern. Thanks for sharing the information I would make them for the grand babies to come.

  7. Jane says:

    Yes please my first grandchild is due soon and I am looking to do anything I can to support them in their parenting experience

  8. Judith Venters says:

    I would love to have this swaddling pattern.

  9. I would love to have a swaddle pattern. Our newest granddaughter is due mid September! It would make for a memorable gift. I think swaddling babies is a wonderful practice and definitely help with sound sleeping 🙂

  10. Stephanie says:

    I do not have any children but I would love a pattern to give as gifts.

  11. Chrysa Hefty says:

    Pleas share a swaddle pattern! My son is 3 months old,and loves being wrapped up but is too long legged for most commercial wraps. It will be great to finally have one that fits.

  12. Susan Long says:

    Yes! My niece has twin boys due in the next month and my great-grandson is to be born the first of October so this will be something that not everyone will get for babies.

  13. Polly Clements says:

    My daughter work’s in the foster care and adoption department of a company and understandably swaddling is prohibited by the CPS . This is a national policy. The reasons why are because people are not u understanding the importance of how to use them correctly. They have also banned the use of bumper pads, blankets, toys, and pillows with regards to any child under the age of 2 years. I never used a swaddle for my 4 children nor any of my 8 grandchildren. I used a rolled receiving blanket at their back in the bassinet and tucked another tightly in each side of the mattress pad. This allowed them enough movement, yet restricted them from rolling or jerky movements that would have awaken them. All of my children and grandchildren were sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night by 3 weeks. None of them have ever had sleep issues or problems with hips, shoulder, or any other extremity. This method was handed down to me by my paternal grandmother. I have also shown it to many others that have had the same results, and have passed it on to their children, family members and friends.

  14. I would love a pattern. Got my 11th grandchild due in November.

  15. Holly Lagasse says:

    Yes, please! Swaddle us!!

  16. Ruth O'Hara says:

    A swaddle pattern would be most welcome to make and give as gifts. As an OB RN we swaddled all the babies–babies slept and parents were happy, as were the nursing staff!

  17. Shirley says:

    As a great-grandmother of 4 (#5 is due in early Sept. I would love to have a pattern for “Swaddling”!!

  18. Cecilia Ridgeway says:

    I would love a pattern for swaddling cloths. I have a great niece coming soon and would love to make them for her.

  19. Bunny Ryan says:

    Oh yes! Just had a new grandson born 7/29/16! And a great grandson due in October! Thanks for all the info!

  20. Maureen Wright says:

    Yes please – asap, our new grandchild is due at the beginning of October. The other two managed without but I’d love to make a swaddle for this one.

  21. linda says:

    Yes a pattern please. I love to make them for charity and after many years of high risk infants they are wonderful!

  22. Gail K says:

    Please design a swaddling blanket!

  23. Diane Martin says:

    Yes! I have been searching for a pattern to make a swaddle for a few months now. Thank you! I’ll be most anxious to get started.

  24. Pat Hanna says:

    I too would like to see a good appropriate pattern made. Would like to be able to make swaddles to sell at our church bazaar — the less SIDS happens the better as it is a heart breaker.Our only grandson died of SIDS years ago so appreciate the update info given.

  25. Emily says:

    My baby is 4 months old and swaddling was necessary during the first two months. We liked the swaddle pods the most because it was a quick zip. My husband and our care givers had a harder time with the wrap kinds. Also, most doctors will advise to wean off swaddling around 2-3 months. There is some evidence swaddles can put babies into too deep of sleep and cause SIDS but when the Moro reflux is very active I couldn’t find a way to get sleep and I have a very good sleeper!

  26. Delma Ingram says:

    I would be interested in the swaddling pattern. This is so interesting

  27. Mary Lynn Bartram says:

    yes I was hoping there would be a pattern for a swaddle ! Would be interested in one thanks

  28. balagna5 says:

    Would love the swaddlig Pattern . Thank you for all that you share.

  29. Janelle S says:

    I would love a pattern on a swaddle blanket. Something easy to make though. Not too complicated please

  30. Susie says:

    My daughter swaddled her 3 babies very successfully. She used a large triangular stretch cotton cloth, wrapping around baby’s shoulders and arms, then flipped up the ‘V’ to cover the legs before the final wrap was tucked in. Hope that makes sense! The legs were only loosely swaddled.
    I would be interested in a pattern to make it safe for any future grandchildren!

  31. Judy Michaelis says:

    After watching one of the videos above a pattern for a ‘sleep sack’ with attached swaddling blanket would be great!

  32. Ruth says:

    I’d also be interested for my forthcoming grand-baby , I’m one of those from the ‘put them to sleep on their tummy ‘ generation and have no experience of swaddling (other than as a historical practice.

  33. Christa Van Gemert says:

    Swaddling my son saved the sanity of everyone in our household. My favorite product was something called a Woombie. It’s like a little tight-fitting cocoon sack made of lightweight, stretchy material, that keeps the munchkin from waking up every time the Moro reflex kicks in, but still allows them to move their limbs a little within the sack. It zips up the front and is so easy to use, with as much or little clothing as the temperature warrants. A pattern for something similar would be fantastic. It would make a great baby shower gift.

  34. Rmbt_3 says:

    I agree with Jotygifts and Bex
    please look at if you want to see what the evidence says about swaddling

  35. Laurie de Vries says:

    And now with the link…. (I’m not at all embarrassed) 😀 http://hipdysplasia.org/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip/hip-healthy-swaddling/

  36. Laurie de Vries says:

    Mayra, here is a link to the Interational Hip Dysplasia Institute that contains a video on how to swaddle. I hope this helps!

  37. jotygifts says:

    Research is now that baby need there hands free, this helps with self soothing. It is better to swaddle under the arms which is still an effective way to swaddle

  38. Anneta Vandermeer says:

    I would be very interested in a swaddling pattern. I would make them for the grand babies to come.

  39. Bex says:

    A swaddling pattern is a great idea, but it must be hip safe. Allowing the babies legs to fall sideways at 90degrees to the body.
    Any swaddling which doesn’t allow this can contribute to Hip displasia even if only used for short periods of time.
    It is very sad how many swaddling patterns online don’t allow for this, I’d hate to see another like that.

  40. Laura Webber says:

    I would definitely be interested in a swaddling pattern. Thanks for sharing the information; I didn’t realize it was still a recommended practice.

What do you think?