It’s such a joy to watch our newborn sleep soundly and peacefully. But what if she suddenly wakes up all startled and worse, gets all fussy?
To soothe a baby, newborn experts and parents swear by this technique – swaddling. Learn about its benefits and how to swaddle your baby here.
What Is Swaddling?
Swaddling is an ancient form of wrapping an infant to help keep them feeling safe and secure. Swaddling helps reduce an infant’s tendency to wake up from involuntary movements during their sleep.
This is actually how nurses wrap the baby before putting them in the nursery or in your room. They wrap their bodies in a neat little package that keeps them calm.
Benefits of Swaddling a Baby
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), when done correctly, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep. You may ask, how exactly does wrapping your baby in a small blanket do that?
Like us, babies have a natural response to being startled which is called Moro reflex or startle reflex. You would notice this if your baby suddenly jerks and flings her arms and legs up even when she’s sleeping.
While this is completely normal, this involuntary reflex might affect your newborn’s sleep. Being wrapped up snugly can stop your baby from being disturbed by her own startle reflex. Swaddling also helps soothe your baby when she’s overstimulated.
Another benefit of swaddling is it helps the baby acclimatise to her new environment. Experts believe that swaddling helps recreate that feeling of security that your baby had in your womb when she had less room to move about.
Swaddling also aids in easing colic and calming your fussy baby. The warmth and snug fit can help release air bubbles from the baby’s tummy and relieve gas.
How to Swaddle Your Baby
Now that you’ve read about the benefits of swaddling a baby, it’s time to give it a try. Sounds intimidating? Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it the right way.
What do you need?
Swaddling clothes or a swaddling blanket, of course. But what are swaddling clothes? It’s nothing more than a blanket large enough to wrap securely around your baby in such a way that he/she is enveloped or swaddled. Those that work in labour and delivery in most hospitals these days call it wrapping up a baby “burrito style.”
To swaddle a baby correctly, you need to do the following:
- Lay the blanket out flat and turn the right top corner down approximately 6 inches.
- Lay your baby on the blanket with their neck resting on the fold.
- Take the top left corner of the blanket and wrap it around your baby; tucking it under their right arm.
- Take the bottom left corner and fold it over their feet.
- Take the right top corner and wrap it around the baby’s back, which leaves only the head and neck exposed.
For more information on how to swaddle your baby, watch this video tutorial:
Risks of Swaddling
After learning about the benefits of swaddling a baby and how to do it properly, you should also know that it also comes with some risks.
Dr Rachel Moon, an internationally recognized expert in SIDS and post-neonatal infant mortality, reminds parents that swaddling a baby increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Swaddling may decrease a baby’s arousal so that it’s harder for the baby to wake up.
“That is why parents like swaddling – the baby sleeps longer and doesn’t wake up as easily,” she said. “But we know that decreased arousal can be a problem and may be one of the main reasons that babies die of SIDS.”
Overheating is also one of the main causes of SIDS, so it’s important to refrain from bundling your baby up in heavy cloth material.
Swaddling your newborn too tightly can also affect her mobility and development. If the baby’s legs are held pressed together and straight down, it will cause discomfort. She’s also more likely to develop problems with her hips (hip dysplasia).
Some Reminders When Swaddling Babies
If you do decide to try this habit, you should know how to swaddle a baby properly. It is important that you leave their head and neck completely exposed to allow for proper breathing. Swaddle her firmly, but not too tightly. Make sure that your baby’s legs and feet should and can move freely, and bend at the hip.
Should you decide to swaddle your baby, do it for sleep during the day and night, so that she becomes accustomed to the feeling of being swaddled.
However, given our weather, it is best to use only thin, cotton blankets to prevent bulk and to allow your baby’s body to breathe. You can also check the baby’s temperature regularly to avoid overheating and reduce the risk of SIDS. Check the back of her neck or tummy with your two fingers.
When the baby is swaddled, it’s important to always observe safe sleeping guidelines. According to AAP, always put the baby in a secure firm sleeping space, free of any loose bedding or soft objects. Place baby on her back to sleep, and monitor her to be sure she doesn’t roll over while swaddled.
If you will leave your baby in the care of someone else, teach them how to swaddle the baby safely. If they can’t do it properly, better not do it and just find other safe ways to keep the baby warm and calm.
When to Stop Swaddling Babies?
Swaddling is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to having a happy and calm newborn. But it can also pose danger for older babies who can already break free from their blankets.
Being wrapped up can interfere with their healthy development since it hinders them from practising age-appropriate motor skills.
So at what age should you stop swaddling? Here are some signs that tell you your child has outgrown the swaddling stage:
- Once the baby is past one month of age. By the time a baby is 4 weeks old, they begin to move more voluntarily and need to be able to do so.
- When placing a baby on their stomach or side. Placing a baby on their stomach or side should be avoided anyway, to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- If a baby is sick or has even the slightest temperature. Swaddling naturally holds in body heat — not what you need when a baby is feverish and ill.
- When the baby is already able to break out of her swaddle.
- When the baby already knows how to roll to her side or her tummy.
Wrapping It All Up
A lot of parents swear that swaddling is key for soothing their newborns. But if your baby doesn’t seem to be a fan and continues to be fussy, then feel free to try other methods of soothing her.
Literally and figuratively, swaddling has been done for centuries so we know it definitely has a purpose and value. But like anything else, its purpose and value are only realised when done correctly and safely.
This article was written by Darla Noble and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.