There are a few techniques parents employ to help soothe a fussy baby. A popular tactic, of course, is swaddling. While it takes a little practice to successfully master, swaddling works by mimicking a cocoon-effect babies feel when inside the womb. When that feeling is recreated outside the womb, a baby will feel safe, secure, and comforted. So if you're looking around your nursery, asking yourself, "Can you use a blanket to swaddle your baby?" while your little one cries, know that sweet, sweet relief is not all that far away.
Because swaddling is meant to help baby settle down by keeping all jostled, disruptive movements to a minimum, The Mayo Clinic advises new parents the use of a large, thin blanket for swaddling. Not only will the blanket feel cozy, but parents are easily able to get the desired "snug-factor" and tight fit when using one (as long as it's big enough to wrap baby inside). The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to use caution when swaddling, though, as stated in their safe sleeping recommendations and in order to help prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and/or suffocation. Among the list of "do's and don'ts," parents should place babies on their backs, remove all loose bedding from the crib, avoid objects such as wedges, and to check their baby periodically for potential overheating.
The length of time you swaddle depends on a few factors, too. If and/or when baby is breaking out of the swaddle, for example, it's probably time to leave the swaddling blanket behind. The Baby Sleep Site also recommends you stop swaddling your baby when you aim to sleep train and if he, or she, has outgrown the Moro reflex — a startle reflex that causes disruption, but disappears around 4-5 months, according to The New York Times' Health Guide.
The Baby Sleep Site recommends phasing the swaddle out of your routine anywhere from 3-9 months of age, regardless of the type of cloth or swaddling method parents decide to use. A lot of the decision depends on your unique baby, so only you can know when he, or she, is ready. Likewise, when you start seeing the swaddling blanket on the floor, it may be a sign to move to a different method. The most important thing to remember, however and according to The Baby Sleep Site, is that a baby should never sleep on their stomach. So, if your baby is starting to roll over, it's time to ditch the swaddle.
The caveat to swaddling is, if you're going to do it, make sure it's done correctly. While swaddling is an "effective technique to calm infants and promote sleep," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, restricting baby's movements too much may result in hip dislocation, or hip dysplasia. The bottom line is, yes — you can use a blanket to swaddle your baby, but as with everything involved in the wild ride we call parenting, do so with the utmost care.