Most parents believe that swaddling plays a very important role in the first few months of life of an infant. This ancient practice of making the newborn feel secure and safe is done by snugly wrapping him/her in a thin blanket or sheet. For many centuries, different cultures have used this method in helping babies feel more settled and for helping them sleep. Swaddling resembles the way the mother’s womb envelops that baby while it is still inside, so in essence, it helps soothe your newborn by making him feel that he is still safe and secure inside the mother’s womb. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), swaddling can be effective in helping to calm infants and can promote if it is done correctly. Although it may seem uncomfortable for the baby, swaddling can keep the newborn’s reflexes and random movements to a minimum, as long not too tight that it interferes with the baby’s natural breathing.
Swaddling is done in a snugly fastened burrito style, so it is not easily undone. To properly swaddle your newborn, you should follow these steps:
- Spread a square receiving blanket on a flat surface so it follows the shape of the diamond.
- Fold the top corner over to the center, so the top forms a straight line
- Place the baby down on his/her back on top of the blanket, making sure that his/her neck is along the top edge.
- Hold the baby’s arm to his side. Then, pull one corner of the blanket over the baby’s body and tuck the end underneath him/her.
- Bring the bottom corner up over your child’s feet and tuck it underneath the shoulder.
- Gently straighten the remaining arm, and pull the remaining corner snugly across the body, wrapping and tucking the end into the blanket behind the baby.
- Double check to make sure that the swaddle is snug and won’t unravel. You can secure it with duct tape, too.
- Swaddling should not cover the baby’s head or neck.
If swaddling is done properly, the baby can enjoy its benefits, and the cons of swaddling are greatly minimized. It is a great way of getting your baby to sleep soundly and for longer periods of time. However, you should not be swaddling your newborn for the rest of his/her infant years. When he/she starts to roll over, or when he/she starts to intentionally try to roll, then it is time to stop swaddling. On average, you should stop swaddling when your baby reaches approximately two to three months old. Other experts say that a good time to stop swaddling your baby is when he/she outgrows his/her Moro reflex (when your baby startles and wakes themselves up, which is a sign of a healthy developing nervous system).
While swaddling is widely believed to be beneficial for the baby, some experts say otherwise. Some believe that swaddling increases the risk of SIDS; as the baby’s arousal is decreased, it also becomes harder for the baby to wake up, which may be one of reasons babies die of SIDS. If not monitored properly, swaddling can cause the baby to overheat. It can also interfere with breastfeeding, but this has been known to occur only if the newborn is swaddled directly out of the womb. Swaddling your newborn tightly for a long period of time can contribute to your baby having developmental dysplasia of the hip. These risks become more pronounced if swaddling id not done correctly and the newborn is not monitored frequently. Therefore it is important to keep the proper swaddling in mind and to always keep an eye on your baby regardless if he seems comfortable with swaddling.
Whether the pros of swaddling outweigh its cons depends on the preference of the parents and the needs of the newborn as well. For instance, you are fortunate that your baby does not move a lot, then you may find swaddling to be not necessary. Sufficient research and consultation with your doctor are still important in considering swaddling as being part of your newborn routine.