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What is swaddling?

by beatrix19

Swaddling is wrapping a baby in swaddling clothes from shoulders to feet, arms tightly wrapped and legs looser (for healthy hip development ). By swaddling, you limit a baby’s (involuntary) movements so that he can more easily surrender to sleep.


Swaddling is an ancient tradition in the Netherlands until the end of the eighteenth century.

Babies were wrapped in large linen cloths that covered the head and whole body. Then wrapped with wrapping bands, a kind of bandages of different widths. The winding technique depended on the time, the habits, the fashion and the status. The basic principle has always remained the same.


The act of swaddling was entrusted only to capable women. There were midwives (one of the few historical women’s professions) and bakers. A baker was what we now call a maternity nurse. She accompanied the midwife and was in the house a few days before and after the delivery. Until the twentieth century, each village had different bakers. A baker had to be someone with a lot of experience and preferably also have children. The baker had no training. A maternity training course was not introduced until around 1900. After this professionalization of the profession, bakers got a bad name. The term ‘baker’s talk’ arose from the false claims made by the bakers. There is also talk about swaddling.

Back in the days

It was thought that swaddling babies would heal the bruises from birth, prevent umbilical hernias, and help the baby grow with a straight back, legs and firm shoulders. This also prevented the baby from scratching its eyes and was protected against shocks and bumps. On the head a baby was given a triangular cap, a ‘father’s sweetheart’. This cap was securely fastened to cover the vulnerable fontanelle, prevent floppy ears and ensure flat temples. The baby was wrapped like this for up to three months, then the arms were released, and only the body and legs were wrapped. After six months, the baby was free of wrappers. At the end of the eighteenth century, it was discovered that swaddling a baby in this way stunted growth and fell into disuse.

How do you prevent your swaddled baby from rolling?

  • Arms along the body and pack tightly.
  • Make sure that arms and legs cannot come free.
  • Cover the baby in a short-made bed sufficiently high and tuck it firmly under.
  • Reduce swaddling from 4 months and stop at the latest by six months.
  • What about swaddling and hip development?

About 1 in 50 children is born with an underdeveloped hip joint. Sometimes you know in advance that your child has an increased risk (e.g. after a breech presentation), and sometimes, the midwife or the youth doctor discovers it. Additional examination (ultrasound or X-ray) provides a definitive answer. That means that the legs of ALL babies should not be wrapped tightly. Your baby should be able to spread their legs in a raised position (‘frog position’) and extend them fully. In elastic swaddling bags such as the Woombie or the Ergococoon, the legs experience resistance due to the elasticity.

How do you prevent your swaddled baby from getting too hot?

Use a cotton product.

Wash the new swaddle product several times in the washing machine, making it airier and absorbing moisture (compared with new tea towels). Do not swaddle after vaccination or if you have a fever.

Let your baby sleep in a well-ventilated area.

Synthetic materials are unsafe because they do not ventilate, which greatly increases the risk of heat build-up.  This product invites unsafe to use. The pictures suggest that you can put your baby to sleep in the wrapper. Fleece as a wrap to put your baby to sleep unsupervised is unsafe. It is no wonder that, as parents, you can no longer see the forest for the trees. If in doubt, ask the youth nurse of the child health centre or a baby nurse consultant for advice. Real (cotton) swaddling cloths or bags that have been tested have excellent TOG values ​​(insulation values). And during high summer, it is a matter of common sense.

How do you prevent the cloth from loose or your baby from wriggling free?

Some maternity nurses wrap a hydrophilic diaper around a baby’s arms. Unfortunately, this is an unsafe example. A baby can free his arms (restlessness), has free feet (restlessness), and the diaper can slide down or up. Instead choose a safe product from the start. Hydrophilic diapers of 70×70 are anyway too small to swaddle a baby completely.

Swaddling with two regular swaddling clothes (traditional way)


So which material? Roughened cotton (flannel) forms better around a baby’s body and stays in place. Choose a flannel that is thin but firm and not stretchy. Stretchy fabric provides insufficient rest and is less safe.

If you want to swaddle your baby traditionally, use two cotton cloths.

The Bakery

Ordinary swaddling cloths of the right material and in the right dimensions are for sale at De Bakermat.

The right steps

An image of Minimonkey, how to swaddle a baby traditionally, is circulating on the internet. This company no longer sells swaddling clothes, but this drawing shows the correct steps.

The traditional method is also described in the manual Swaddle brings peace. To perform the traditional method properly and safely. It is wise to practice under expert guidance.

Swaddle with XL hydrophilic

Swaddling with one large hydrophilic cloth is a method that has come over from America. This ‘DUDU’ (Down Up Down Up) method is considered insufficiently safe in the Netherlands. American paediatrician Harvey Karp. The picture looks simple, but it is still complicated to do this method correctly. Not a single instructional video on YouTube demonstrates this method in a good way. Usually, the baby is wrapped loosely in a large cloth, after which the cloth is not secured.

What to look for with ready-made swaddling products?

What should you pay attention to if you want to buy a product to swaddle your baby? Clothes that are too loose or (stepped) feet that stick out make it easier for your swaddled baby to turn on his stomach. There are many differences in sizes and fit. Many size indications are incorrect, especially if the weight indication of babies in English pounds is not converted correctly into kilograms with American towels. Note the fit around shoulders and arms. If your baby can move or free his arms, this increases restlessness. The Swaddle Me is an example of a swaddle wrap that many babies can quickly get out of, using both arms and legs. An inexpensive swaddle bag, but not safe.

Safe swaddling checklist

In the Netherlands in 2018, there were about 20! Swaddling products on the market. With the checklist below, you can check for yourself whether the product you have in mind meets the requirements for safe material:

  • Use a size or size that fits well (big enough but not too big).
  • Your baby should not be able to sink into the cloth or bag.
  • The fabric should not be able to roll up in front of the baby’s mouth.
  • Wrapped from shoulders to feet.
  • Bottom closed, no protruding feet.
  • Always wear two clothes with regular newborn swaddling clothes.
  • Arms as good as outstretched and tightly wrapped to prevent your baby from rolling over.
  • Sufficient space for the legs (‘frog position’) in connection with the hip development.
  • Your baby should be able to extend his legs fully.
  • Always lay your swaddled baby on its back.
  • Baby’s arms from 3 months are no longer in a swaddle sleeping bag.
  • Reduce sturdy Swaddle from 4 months.
  • Do not swaddle babies older than six months.
  • Super soft sleeping bag
  • Cotton’s outer and inner
  • fabric * Filling: amicus
  • Zip-off sleeves
  • Good value for money

Most professionals work with the Pacco swaddling cloths or teach parents the traditional method with two swaddling cloths. A safe swaddling cloth such as the Pacco comes with clear and comprehensive instructions: information and photos to swaddle and put your baby to sleep safely. And information about when to swaddle and when not to swaddle, clothing, making the bed safely, warmth, etc.

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