Baby Colostomy Care: How To Do an Infant Arm Swaddle to Change an Ostomy Bag


Changing an ostomy bag on an infant is nerve wracking to begin with in the beginning. Then, when you realize that the baby doesn’t lay still like the plastic doll in your class at the hospital, it’s enough to send your blood pressure soaring. At the hospital, they have all sorts of little gizmos to secure the baby. When you get home and you’re standing there like a deer in headlights staring at him/her for the first time on your own, those flailing arms and legs seem like they’ve doubled and your cute baby has turned into an uncontrollable octopus!

Our homecare nurse taught me this trick on her first visit and it works like a charm to both calm and soothe the baby as well as keep his/her arms out of the way while you work on their tummy.

Changing Ostomy Bag on Child
Swaddling Jack’s Arms for His Ostomy Bag Change

1. Take a large receiving blanket, I prefer the soft cotton stretch blankets from Carters, and fold it in four ways until it looks almost like a long bandage.

3. Lay the folded blanket across baby’s bent arms and tuck 3 inches of the blanket behind baby’s back.

  • For extra security, as long as baby’s onesie is not soiled, you can flip the onesie up over baby’s arms, like a pocket and then wrap the blanket around.

4. Wrap blanket all of the way around the front to the back and across the front of the baby again, tucking the excess behind the opposite side of baby’s back.

I try to get the swaddle nice and snug. The stretchy cotton or muslin works great for this because you can get it snug without squeezing the baby and making him/her uncomfortable. Through trial and error, I have found, criss crossing the blanket across the front seems to secure the arms a little better. We have found that almost immediately, our son would relax his body to let us work on his tummy and we would relax a little too 🙂

Another trick that we use in tandem with this great trick is “sweeties”. In the hospital, the nurses would squirt a little bit of sweeties (sugar water) into our son’s mouth and then give him a pacifier and it would immediately relax and soothe him so that they could work on him. They gave us a few sweeties to take home with us, but when we ran out, we switched to a little bit of gripe water and that does the trick too!

When we change Jack’s ostomy, daddy is usually in charge of keeping him calm and relaxed. Daddy sits next to Jack’s head, he talks to him and squirts a little bit of gripe water in his mouth, makes sure his pacifier stays in his mouth and makes sure his swaddle stays nice and secure.

This method has worked well for us. It’s always easier when daddy is home to help. However, when we have to do a bag change solo while daddy is at work, the arm swaddle has been this mommy’s lifesaving trick.

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