From ancient times, women have swaddled their newborn infants. The custom seems to transcend all cultures and time periods, stemming almost from a primal parenting instinct. And modern science seems to bear out that swaddling is very good for your newborn baby.

Swaddling a baby is, very simply, wrapping her snuggly in a light blanket or cloths. This serves several purposes for your baby. Perhaps the most obvious is that it keeps her warm. It takes a few days of being out in the world before your baby’s inner thermostat kicks into gear, and she needs to be kept just a bit warmer than the rest of us. After the first week or so of baby’s life, she should be kept at about the same temperature as the rest of us.

Swaddling is also believed to give a baby a sense of security similar to what he enjoyed in the womb. For those nine months of his prenatal existence, everything was safe and warm inside mom’s tummy. He was fed as he needed it via feeding tube (umbilical chord), his temperature was naturally regulated, and he was held firmly at all times by mom’s embryonic fluids. The firm wrap of a swaddling blanket helps soothe him because it feels as similar to being in the womb as anything he is able to experience on this side of childbirth.

Another benefit of swaddling your infant for sleep during her first month or so of life is that, by swaddling her with her arms inside the wrap, you stop baby from scratching herself or waking herself up by jerking. Babies hands should be wrapped with their bodies for the first month or two of life.

By two months, if you choose to keep swaddling your baby, swaddle her with her arms outside of the blanket. Many babies continue to like being swaddled, and there’s nothing wrong with swaddling them at any age if it helps them relax and get to sleep. You’ll have very little trouble figuring out if your baby likes being swaddled or not after the first couple of months. There’s no set time to stop swaddling, but if your baby is fighting against it, or doesn’t seem to relax when swaddled, then stop.