The burrito swaddle is the absolute best way to keep a fussy baby's arms at his or her side. This prevents your baby from squirming out of the swaddle and waking up prematurely from much needed rest.
If you are reading this, you probably already know about the wonderful benefits of swaddling. I think Dr. Harvey Karp puts it best when he explains swaddling as a way of mimicking the babies' close, comfortable experience in the mothers womb. Even very tight swaddling is not dangerous for your baby but rather comfortable.
Unfortunately, many swaddling methods do not successfully trap the arms of a fussy baby. This instructable links to a technique you might consider for a relatively calm baby, but it would never work for our little escape artist. The burrito wrap is the real solution. Enjoy!
Step 1: What You Need
1. A soft, even, raised surface (your bed)
2. A protective covering for #1.
3. A large, 48x48 swaddle blanket.
The soft surface is important because you will be rolling your baby onto his tummy and applying some pressure. The protective covering is important since tummy + pressure = spit up. For the 48x48 swaddle, Trend lab's flannel style works well. We have three of them. We've also tried Aden+Anais's 47x47, but the nice muslin slips too easily and our baby can still free his arms. If your swaddle is not large enough, the burrito wrap won't succeed. The 48x48 is the right choice even for a small 5-6 pound baby, as ours once was (13-14 pounds in these photos).
You should also consider trying to make your own swaddle!
Step 2: Layout
Lay your protective cover over your bed or soft surface. Lay the swaddle blanket on top, spread like a diamond. Fold the top corner very far down, almost so the swaddle becomes a triangle. Place your baby very far off-center, about one baby away from the left corner, with the fold line aligned with the top of their shoulders.
If your baby is still very small, below 8 pounds or so, fold the swaddle completely into a triangle. As they grow, you can adjust the fold so that their feet don't end up poking out of the burrito.
Step 3: Tuck
Fold the left corner of the swaddle blanket over your baby's right arm and over to his left side. If your baby is actively flailing, hold the arm at their side through the swaddle blanket and proceed.
Step 4: Roll, Roll, Roll.
Roll your baby to the right (their left) until they are facing down, pinning their left arm to their side. Place your right hand on their right side, applying pressure to keep the right arm pinned, and then grab the free part of the swaddle blanket with your left hand and pull it away from your baby to snug it tightly. Your left hand should pull as firmly as possible but not with sudden jerks. It is normal for your baby to grunt when you do this.
Roll them right again, another 180 degrees so they are facing up. Snug again by applying steady pressure with the right hand and tugging away from your baby with your left hand just as above.
Roll them again, and snug again.
Step 5: Fold the Bottom
Fold up the bottom corner and put it at their right shoulder.
Roll and snug again so they are facing up.
Step 6: Final Tuck
Take the remainder and push it under a fold of the swaddle on their chest. This completes the burrito wrap!
If there's not quite the right amount of swaddle left over to tuck it in properly, you can go back to the alignment step and tweak how far from the left corner you place your baby.
If it doesn't feel tight enough or your baby escapes this time, don't "throw the baby out with the bath water" ha ha. It can take some practice to get used to a new swaddling technique. Give it a few more tries and focus on snugging tightly. Ladies, you might consider asking your man to do the snugging step.
Your baby will continue to fuss and scream for a few minutes, but this doesn't mean they dislike the wrap, they just haven't calmed down yet. Give them a nice bear hug and let them face foward while you walk around if they're old enough to be intrigued by their surroundings (~3 months). Otherwise face them toward your chest or feed them.