As a new parent, you might be concerned about how to soothe your baby. You are not alone in this. This is a common concern for all newbie parents. But first, answer one thing. How did you first meet your baby?
I am sure you first saw your baby neatly wrapped in a blanket with just their head popping out of it. Well, that is what you have to learn. That is what makes them comfortable, as it resembles the womb. You just have to learn the technique properly, and it will help your baby stay calm and also get them relaxed so they can sleep peacefully.
Swaddling is a year-old technique of wrapping your newborn in a cloth or thin blanket. Not only do they look cute and adorable, but there are a few benefits to them as well. But let’s start with what swaddling is.
What Is Swaddling?
Swaddling is an age-old simple technique of wrapping your baby in a blanket neatly to soothe them. It is just like wrapping them into a burrito and concealing the sides to give them the feeling of being in their mother’s womb. This makes them feel safe and allows them to sleep peacefully.
Benefits Of Swaddling
- Swaddling keeps your baby warm and cozy while they are sleeping.
- Swaddling limits the startle reflex in a baby, which might wake them up in the morning. Dr. Kyle Monk, M.D. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, says startle reflex prevents them from getting the required amount of sleep and does not allow them to sleep peacefully.
- It will provide your baby with comfort and safety as it replicates the environment inside a mother’s womb. Dr. Monk says, “They’re used to feeling snug in the womb, so they find swaddling comforting.”
- Swaddling will keep the baby calm, even when they have colic.
- This also keeps the baby relaxed in uncomfortable situations, like when they are taken for a vaccination.
How To Swaddle A Baby?
As I mentioned earlier, this is something that you have to master to provide your baby with the ultimate comfort in their initial days and soothe them. To master the technique, follow the steps mentioned below.
Step 1: Prepping The Swaddle
Spread the swaddle blanket in a diamond shape on a plain surface and make sure one of the corners is pointing up. Fold the corner that is facing upward, down by about six inches.
Step 2: Place Your Baby
Put your baby on the blanket and keep their head above that folded corner, and their body should be down straight, pointing towards the bottom corner.
Step 3: Straighten Their Left Arm
Be gentle with them and bring the left arm down so it is dangling straight. Now take the left corner of the blanket (left to your baby) and wrap it over their left arm up to their chest. Then tuck the corner under their right arm and towards their back. Basically, in this stage, you have to make sure that you are covering their left arm, keeping the right one free.
Step 4: Bring The Bottom Up
Get the bottom corner towards their chin and lock in under the first fold. Not it’s time to straighten their right arm just like you did with the left one. Make it comfortable and snug but not too tight.
Step 5: Finish The Wrapping
Bring the right corner of the blanket over their body and tuck it under the left side of their body. Twist the part that is left at the bottom and tuck it nicely under them. But remember, this is for getting them comfortable, not to suffocate them. So, don’t make it too tight.
Here Are A Few Tips On How To Swaddle A Newborn
While you are swaddling, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
- Make sure that the blanket is not wrapped around too tightly. You should be able to get two or three fingers between the blanket and their chest. It should be loose around their hips for free movement of the legs.
- If your baby wants their arms out, then try to keep one, or if they want both their arms free, get them in a comfortable posture.
- If your baby is wiggly and you are not being able to get them into a snug swaddle, give it a rest. Try a few moments later and wait for them to get the squirmies out. But, if they are always trying to wiggle their way out of the swaddle, that might be a signal that they are not enjoying it. You can try some other blanket, or you can stop swaddling them.
- Swaddling is soothing for premature babies as well. But if your baby is premature, it would be better if you bring their hands close to their chest instead of straightening them out. This position is more comfortable for premature babies.
Is Swaddling Safe?
Many new parents learn to comfort their baby through the technique of swaddling. The closely wrapped blanket makes it comfortable for the baby as it resembles the womb. Knowing how to properly swaddle a baby could be effective, but it is not without any risk.
According to AAP or the American Academy of Pediatrics, swaddling can get the newborn to snooze better when it is done properly and when the safe sleeping guidelines are followed. Swaddle blankets that come out loose while the baby is sleeping could pose a great threat to the newborn.
Dr. Gina Posner, M.D. at MemorialCare Medical Group, says, “There is always a risk of suffocation if a blanket goes over a baby’s face.” this is because babies who are used to swaddling sleep more peacefully and soundly, so if a blanket goes over their face, they might not wake up or change their position.
Blankets that are too tight around the waist could be dangerous as well. If the baby cannot move their hips and legs freely, it is not good for their hips, cartilage, and joints. It is important for the development of the hip to encourage free movement, like they would when they are lying back on their own.
Sleep Safety Recommendations By AAP
AAP has recommended a few safety guidelines and wants every parent to follow those while putting their baby to sleep.
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back and on a flat and firm surface, and keep a check on them so they do not roll over from their swaddling blankets.
- Never keep any loose blanket in the crib. Any loose cloth, blanket, or even the swaddling blanket, when comes unwrapped, might cover the face of the baby and get them suffocated.
- Never use heavy swaddling blankets. Heavy blankets can put pressure on your little one’s lungs and chest.
- Be careful when you are buying things that claim to reduce the risks of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. Special mattresses, positioners, wedges, and other specialized sleeping surfaces often claim to reduce SID, but there is no proper evidence backing that claim.
- Babies are safest when they sleep in their own bassinet or crib and not with you in your bed.
- Put the crib in a place where no smoke can enter.
- Consider getting them habituated with a pacifier while they are sleeping.
- Keep a check so that your baby does not get overheated. Swaddling might have a way of getting that done, but monitor them while they are sleeping. If you find them sweating or if they have damp hair, rad rash, flushed cheeks, and rapid breathing, that means they are not comfortable in their blankets.
Is It Okay Not To Swaddle A Newborn?
There are many parents who claim that swaddling is one of the best ways to soothe their cranky newborns. But for some, this does not work. That is when you should consider whether it is necessary for your baby or not. It might not be necessary for your child. Every child is different, and their needs are also different.
Dr. Jesil Pazhayampallil, M.D. and F.A.A.P. at Good Samaritan University Hospital, says, “not all babies like to be swaddled.” some of them find it restrictive and try to sweep out their way from the confinement of the blanket. If you find them getting fuzzy when you are swaddling them, then do not do it for your newborn.
Before you give up, try a few other techniques, like getting their arm or both arms out of the blanket to give them some more moving space. If your little one loves throwing their legs besides throwing tantrums, then try some other ones for them that would be difficult for them to kick off. You can also try a sleeping sack or a zip-up cocoon, which will allow them to move their legs.
Try a few different ones to figure out the best swaddle for newborns or the specific one that your baby prefers. You will find a lot of newborn swaddles or baby swaddles in the market. If nothing works, then leave it altogether. Try soothing your baby some other way because clearly, this is not the way for your little one.
When To Stop Swaddling?
Some newborns enjoy swaddling, but this becomes a risk when they start growing and reach a stage when they can break free of the swaddling blankets. Being wrapped and confined can hamper their development as they grow; it restricts them from practicing motor skills that are appropriate for their age.
You should stop swaddling when your baby starts moving a lot or becomes more active with the passing days. AAP recommends to stop swaddling as soon as they learn to roll over. There are many doctors who recommend parents to stop swaddling when their baby becomes two months old.
That is the time when they try to roll over, but many babies do not roll over till they reach three or four months. Even though they have grown out of the swaddle, it is really early to give them a blanket to sleep with. It is better if you try a sleeping sack and follow the sleeping guidelines. There are wearable blankets available as well, and those are a good option at this stage.
Swaddling might seem a little difficult in the beginning, but parents have been doing it for years. This is an age-old practice. Find the suitable technique and the best blanket for your infant, and you will master it in no time. Still, if you are scared or not confident, get your swaddling skills checked by your pediatrician, and they will help you out.
There are benefits of swaddling, as we have learned in the above-mentioned sections. Swaddling promotes better sleep and gets them comfortable, but it comes with a few risks as well. Not all babies require swaddling. Your healthcare provider would be able to advise whether your newborn requires it or not and would be able to get aware of the pros and cons of swaddling.
If you have made the choice of going with swaddling, then it is best that you follow the sleep safety guidelines given by AAP. Follow the step-by-step guidelines to get your baby safely wrapped, and if needed, take help from others who have experience doing this.
There are a few child-care organizations that have a policy against swaddling babies at their facility. This is because of the risk of SIDS that swaddling brings along. Children who are not accustomed to swaddling at home react differently to swaddling and have a hard time waking up, which increases the risk of SIDS.
Learning how to swaddle a baby is not that difficult; all you have to do is follow the guidelines and keep a check on your baby. And not need to force them if they are not comfortable with it. It is not something necessary. So, just skip it if your baby is not enjoying it.