I’m always skeptical of anyone saying that they have “one cool trick to” do whatever. But if you can figure out how to swaddle a baby quickly, efficiently, and tightly, nothing is going to make you feel like more of a badass as a new father. Swaddling is that powerful.
The Happiest Baby on the Block was my big introduction to swaddling and the “Five S’s.” It includes a lot of discussion of why swaddling works. Basically, the newborn has just come from a place where baby has been wrapped up really tightly in the womb, and being wrapped up tightly in a swaddle is comfortable because it’s familiar. Babies also have crappy motor control and their arms tend to wave around randomly. So they hit themselves in the face and wake themselves up. Silly babies.
But if you’d rather skip to the punchline, swaddling is a great way to comfort a baby (both of our daughters took to it, but our first in particular was happy as a clam for the first three months while swaddled and generally angry when not).
Here’s how to do it if you learn best through drawings and written instructions. Here’s how if you prefer a video. The biggest thing to remember is to not be shy; push the kid to the left into the swaddle harder than you think you should, and wrap a little tighter than seems comfortable. You want to be using the stretch in the fabric so that your kid can’t use the stretch to their advantage when they fidget.
You can swaddle a baby in any piece of fabric large enough for it, but to make things easier, you’re going to want swaddling blankets with a little bit of stretch to them. Muslin blankets like these are the most versatile. Unless your kid is an escape artist, good technique with them will give you a solid swaddle, and you can use the blankets for other things – sun shades, light blankets, wiping up poop explosions, whatever.
If your kid commonly weasels out of the muslin blankets, it’s worth getting a velcro-assisted option like one of these. They’re less versatile – once your kid outgrows them they’re not good for much, but they can help contain escape artists.
The last pro tip: practice. It’ll be super stressful if the first time you’re swaddling you’re doing it on your hours-old newborn. Find a doll or stuffed animal that is roughly newborn-sized and practice on it. Then, when it’s game time at the hospital, you’ll be ready.