Saturday, October 19, 2013

My First (and Last) Attempt at Swaddling

From guest contributor David Ozab and is based on a short excerpt from his memoir A Smile for Anna. He blogs about parenting and life at Fatherhood Etc, and about his writing career at

I learned a lot as a new dad.

I learned how to change and feed our baby, how to comfort her and interact with her, and as she grew older I learned how to keep her out of too much mischief. Becoming a parent made me a parenting expert, with one exception.


I read that swaddling is the best way to get a newborn to sleep. I also read that it is easy to learn.

The first statement is true.

The second is a horrible lie!

But I had to find out for myself. I saw the nurses swaddle Anna in the hospital, and it didn't look that hard. And she slept pretty soundly—for a newborn, only waking every few hours to eat. So shortly after we brought her home, I looked up directions on the Internet and gave it a try. I had a blanket, a changing table, printed instructions, and Anna. I was all ready to go.

Step One: Fold one corner of your blanket down. (A receiving blanket works well.) Place your baby in the middle of the fold with his head …

Her head.

… with her head above the edge.

Okay, Anna in one hand. Folding blanket down with the other. Setting her down on the changing table. So far, so good.

Step Two: Pull the left side of the blanket snugly across your baby's chest …


… making sure her right arm is wrapped close to her body …


… Then lift your baby's left arm and securely tuck the blanket under her body.

Right arm in, left arm out. Got it!

Step Three: Bring the bottom of the blanket up and either fold the edge back or tuck it into the first swathe …

“Either? I don't know what I’m doing. Don’t give me either!”

“You need help?” my wife Julia asked from across the room.

“I’m fine.”

Okay, David, pick one.

… tuck it into the first swathe. Then pull the last corner of the blanket across your baby's chest, securing her left arm near her body.

Left arm secure? Check.

Step Four: Tuck the blanket under your baby's back as far as it will go. Keep your baby snugly wrapped as you pick her up.


I lifted Anna up to my chest. “Check it out. I think I got it.”

Julia walked over. “Looks good.”

I carried her to the bassinet and set her in. Out popped a finger. A wiggle or two more, and she freed her right hand. Then more wiggles, a finger, two fingers, and she freed her left hand. Wiggle, squirm, and grunt … both arms out.

“Nice try.” Julia leaned over, picked up Anna, and cradled her in her arms. “That’s my little Houdini.” She leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

Step Five: If your baby is a "little Houdini," give up now and drink more coffee. She'll sleep through the night eventually.

Five months later, she finally did. So did we. I never mastered swaddling, but I learned a lot about being a dad from practicing the other skills that I eventually got right.

And now, seven-and-a-half years later, she's a bright, outgoing second grader, and a testimony to my dedication as a parent. So don't be afraid to make mistakes as a new dad. You will learn from them and be a better father as a result.

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