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Wrapping babies safely - and sleeping bags

baby; sleep; wrap; wrapping; babies; swaddle; swaddling; sleeping; bags;

Some parents choose to wrap their babies when they put them down for sleep. Wrapping can help some babies to develop a more settled sleep pattern. Some babies do not settle more easily when wrapped. Whether you wrap your baby or not is your choice.

Wrapping babies safely

  • Always settle your baby on his or her back. Wrapping a baby in the tummy position is even more dangerous as it prevents baby moving to a position of safety.
  • Make sure that your baby is placed with the feet at the bottom of the cot, and the face is uncovered.
  • It is essential to stop wrapping as soon as babies start showing signs that they can begin to roll, usually between 4-6 months of age but sometimes younger.
  • Leave arms free once the startle reflex disappears - around 3 months.
  • Use only lightweight wraps such as cotton or muslin - bunny rugs and blankets are not safe as they may cause overheating.
  • Ensure that your baby is not overdressed under the wrap. Use only a nappy and singlet in warmer weather and dress your baby in a lightweight grow suit in cooler weather.
  • Baby should not be wrapped while sleeping in a baby sleeping bag.
  • Wrapping needs to allow babies to breathe easily (adequate chest expansion) and allow their legs to bend at the hips. For normal hip joint development legs need to be bent at the hips with knees apart. Don’t wrap legs straight. Wrapping should allow for free movement of the legs.

Much of this information is from a publication by Red Nose 'Is it Safe to Wrap/Swaddle My Baby?'

Also have a look at the topics Sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (including SIDS) and Safe sleep for babies and toddlers for more information.

Some benefits of wrapping

Whether you wrap your baby or not is your choice.  If you wrap your baby, think about your baby’s stage of development.

  • Wrapping can help some babies develop a more settled sleep pattern.
  • Wrapping helps to prevent random arm movements which can disturb a baby’s sleep.
  • Babies whose sleep is disturbed by colic or reflux may be more settled when wrapped.
  • Babies with stiff or floppy limbs may benefit from being wrapped. Talk with your physiotherapist or child health nurse.

How to wrap

This is one method for safe wrapping.

In most cases the key to successful wrapping and settling lies with holding your baby's arms firmly. This will give your baby the cue to settle. Some babies settle best when their arms are held with their hands near their face so that they can suck on their hands to comfort themselves. Do not wrap your baby’s arms so they are straight down by their side. Fold them across the chest. Leave arms free once the startle reflex disappears - around 3 months.

Spread the wrap so that you can place the baby's head at the top of the long side of the wrap, or if the wrap is square, fold one corner of the wrap towards the centre.

  1. Place baby on the wrap at shoulder level. Ensure the wrap does not cover the baby's face.
    position 1
  2. Bring arms together on upper chest. Make sure baby has enough room to breathe easily.
    position 2
  3. Bring one side over both arms and tuck under your baby.
    position 3
  4. Bring the other side over arms and then tuck under body.
    position 4
  5. Fold the end of the wrap and place it to the side so that both legs remain bent up.
    position 5
  6. Place baby with feet at the end of the cot.

Sleeping bags

Sleeping bags may reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infancy (including SIDS). A safe sleeping bag is made in such a way that the baby cannot slip inside the bag and become completely covered. Sleeping bags can prevent legs from dangling out of the cot rails.  Babies in sleeping bags can be positioned anywhere in the cot if no extra bedding is used.

  • they reduce the risk of bedclothes covering baby’s face
  • they delay baby rolling onto the tummy during sleep until baby’s past the age of peak risk of SUDI
  • they promote back sleeping as the zipper opens to the front
  • they will keep baby’s temperature at a more constant level while sleeping

Have a look at this information from Red Nose: 
Red Nose: saving little lives: Australia  https://rednose.com.au/ 

A safe sleeping bag

  • A safe baby sleeping bag is constructed in such a way that the baby cannot slip inside the bag and become completely covered.
  • The sleeping bag should be the correct size for the baby with a fitted neck, armholes (or sleeves) and no hood.
  • When using a sleeping bag, ensure that baby is dressed according to the room temperature. In cool climates, dress baby in layers of clothing within the sleeping bag.
  • If additional warmth is needed, use a single, lightweight blanket over the sleeping bag, ensuring baby’s feet are at the end of the mattress and the blanket can only reach as far as baby’s chest and is tucked in firmly so it cannot ride up and cover baby’s head during sleep.
  • Before changing from wrapping to a sleeping bag you might like to start by wrapping your baby with arms out: this may help with the change.

What is a Safe Sleeping Bag? https://rednose.com.au/article/what-is-a-safe-sleeping-bag 


South Australia

  • Child and Family Health - call 1300 733 606 for an appointment (Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm)
  • Parent Helpline - telephone 1300 364 100.


Have a look at many topics on the Red Nose - saving little lives site for many more articles for safe sleep.

Raising Children Network has many topics on sleep - including topics in these sections

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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