The Happiest Baby on the Block: Swaddling


The first step in Karp’s calming process is swaddling. Karp points out that swaddling itself does not calm your baby. It is the first step in order to prepare your baby for what you will do next (page 108).

In Chapter 8, Karp discusses common worries parents have when it comes to swaddling. One of those is that baby will become dependent on it. He says that by four months, the baby won’t need to be swaddled anymore (page 112). For us, swaddling Kaitlyn was something she was done with around three-four months old. It wasn’t hard to stop the swaddle at this time, and she actually slept better once we stopped (though I believe it did help her sleep better when she was younger).

Another concern is that swaddling prevents baby from being able to reach her hands. Karp says your baby doesn’t have the ability to do this until three-four months old (page 113). Kaitlyn wanted one hand out at a rather young age (I think somewhere around 4-6 weeks), and it was so she could suck those fingers. He does say it is fine to leave a hand out if your baby is happy that way (page 112).

Karp has a method for swaddling that he calls the DUDU wrap. It is an acronym for Down-up-down-up. To do this, you need a square blanket. Chapter 8 is full of diagrams illustrating the wrap, but if this is something that is of interest to you, I would again suggest the DVD might be the better option.

Karp lists things that can interfere with the success of a swaddle (pages 118-119):

  • Swaddling too loosely
  • Swaddling with bent arms
  • Letting the blanket touch baby’s cheek
  • Allowing finished swaddle to pop back open

Karp then has 13 questions that he commonly gets about swaddling (pages 120-122). Here are some points I found of interest:

  • Calm babies might not need to be swaddled at all (page 120)
  • You can start swaddling any time during the first three months (page 120)
  • Karp suggests at two-three months you try swaddling with one arm out. If she gets fussier, continue wrapping for a few weeks. If she stays happy, she doesn’t need it anymore. Kaitlyn, however, was ready for one arm out long before she was ready for both. Karp says most babies are ready to be weaned by three-four months, though some like to be swaddled up to a year old.
  • To determine if your baby is too hot, “…feel her ears and fingers. If they’re hot, red, and sweaty, she’s overwrapped. However, if they’re only slightly warm and she’s not sweaty, her temperature is probably perfect” (page 122).

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12 thoughts on “The Happiest Baby on the Block: Swaddling”

  1. I have been reading your blog and its been SO helpful, however I have a question for you, or maybe a couple 🙂 My daughter is now 11 weeks old and not really sttn yet. We had been on a very consistent 3 hr schedule, eating 7, 10, 1, 4, 7, 10:30 and she was waking at night but not really interested in eating or eating a little bit then not having a good feeding at 7. So, lately, I’ve adjusted her schedule and added in a feeding during the day, so its more like 7, 10, 12:30, 3:30, 6, 8:30 then 11. Which is tiring because by the end of the day it was up, down, up down, etc. She did pretty good at night for several nights of doing this, I’d give her a paci and she’d go back to sleep, but now she is waking and crying and not going back down. I feel like during the day she could extend her schedule to 3.5 hours since I am waking her for most of her naps at 3 hours, however she’s not sttn so I’m at a loss of what to do!! On this new schedule do you think she’s sleeping too much as well since I added a feeding? Please, please help!! I dont want to keep changing things up on her but I feel she could sleep through the night but its just not happening quite yet… Thanks!!!

  2. Interesting that he says a baby cannot reach their hands before 4 months old. I have a picture on the Babywise group on of my son sucking his thumb at 9 weeks old. And he’d been doing it for several weeks at that point, basically whenever his pacifier fell out the thumb went in. He was an excellent self-soother, and I’m sure doing Babywise from the start helped that.

  3. Glad to see posts regarding Dr. Karp. I purchased this book and thought it was great. I can say that swaddling helped us tremendously in getting our LO calmed down. I was nervous to stop swaddling for fear she would start waking up. But she did not. We stopped a couple of weeks ago when she turned 5 months. She too liked one arm out to suck her thumb. Thanks for the post…

  4. Swaddling worked wonders for us! Abby slept so much better swaddled. We swaddled her at night and for naps until she was 10 months old!!

  5. Leah,She shouldn’t be sleeping more with the added feeding, it should just be that sleep is rearranged.Some moms have found that feeding on a longer schedule in the day actually ends up extending night; however, I would drop the 11 PM feed (the dreamfeed) before extending beyond a 3 hour schedule.I would first evaluate her reason for waking in the night. If it is hunger, there is nothing you can do other than try to get her to eat more in the day and wait for her to not need to eat in the night anymore.There are other possible reasons for waking in the night. SeeNighttime Sleep Issues: also might not be able to soothe herself to sleep, which will hinder STTN.She might be one of the 15% who don’t STTN until 12 weeks. There are actually more than that who don’t STTN later even.If she is waking at about the same time each night, then there is a good chance she is waking out of habit. One way to solve that is CIO.

  6. Amanda, Thanks for sharing that. Your son was probably advanced in that area, but my observations would put most closer to 3 months rather than 4 months.

  7. Abby’s Mom,There are several parents who swaddle for a long time like that, or even longer. You do what is best for the baby. Kaitlyn loved being swaddled in her early months also.

  8. This blog really is great! I’m always reading and re-reading things! I have always swaddled my 9 week old, but I find it to be a pain. Would you suggest keeping out one arm to ease her into not being swaddled any longer? Or should I wait until she is 3-4 mos. old?

  9. Ashley, at that age, Kaitlyn had one arm out. I would say it is worth a try. Try it and see if she is okay with it. If not, go back to a full swaddle and try again later. If so, you are one step closer 🙂

  10. Hi, I loved Happiest Baby on the Block and my son, Noah, really took to all of the techniques – especially the swaddle. We have not been doing CIO and I'm starting to feel drained as we near the 12 week mark. Dr. Karp says to begin to teach them to self-soothe at this age and putting them to bed slightly awake. I've been trying to do that, but it's not really working for me. I want to start to let Noah CIO, but almost every time he fusses really hard he gets out of his swaddle and it ends up covering his face with his legs out. I can't imagine that I would be advised to leave him like that so I don't know what to do. I've tried leaving him unswaddled and I just don't think he's ready – he can't seem to keep himself to sleep for very long. The only thing I can think to do is to continue to reswaddle until he falls asleep. Has anyone else had any experience with this struggle – if so, any advice?

  11. Rhea, what are you swaddling with? I would suggest you try a swaddling blanket if you aren't. There are lots of brands out there. If he is super strong, you might like the miracle blanket or the woombie.


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