Having a baby at home brings about a whole lot of new and exciting experiences for the entire family, especially the new mom. And, as a mother’s love for her child is the most unconditional of all, we all can agree that moms are the best at helping her baby sleep better and calm down before nap or bedtime.
One effective and gentle technique of soothing a baby for hours is “swaddling”. If you’re a mom (or a would-be-mom), then you've probably heard of this simple technique and how it has helped babies feel every bit of warmth, comfort, and protection. Join us as we share more about what swaddling is, why it may be helpful for your baby, a few of the best techniques, and safety precautions to consider.
What is Swaddling?
Swaddling is the first of the 5 S's Methods for Soothing Babies. It is done by gently wrapping your baby in a thin, soft blanket or sheet to recreate the snug packaging inside the womb. It’s perfectly okay if you haven’t had any experience swaddling a baby because you have an entire support system to help you do it properly. Here are some quick facts about swaddling that will pique your interest in trying this method with your baby:
- Swaddling is a soothing experience for the baby. As babies still seek the snug feeling of being in the womb, swaddling recreates that sensation of being in a small, cozy space.
- Babies who were swaddled as infants develop emotionally faster than babies who were not swaddled.
- Swaddling allows your baby to remain calm while taking in the sounds, sights, and stimuli of his or her surroundings.
What Are the Benefits of Swaddling a Baby?
Swaddling is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years, possibly dating back to 4000 BC in Central Asia. It is an effective parenting technique that is still used by parents all over the world.
- Swaddling boosts your baby’s sleep. The amount of sleep that babies get during their first few months of life is very crucial to their development. However, due to their own startle reflex (which is completely normal) babies are easily disturbed in their sleep. But with swaddling, your baby’s startle reflex is now being limited, and this will also prevent your little one from wiggling her arms, causing her to get upset every time it hits her face. Know what this means? Better sleep, not just for your baby, but even for you.
- Swaddling keeps your baby safer. Babies are faster to sleep when they find that ‘one’ position that they feel comfortable with. But comfort doesn’t always mean it’s safe. Your baby may like laying flat on your stomach, or easily get asleep when put in a sofa or chair, which could be extremely dangerous if you also fall asleep. Swaddling eliminates this risk as it keeps your baby in the safe back position while sleeping. To put your mind at greater ease, you may also install a smart baby monitor which detects all your baby’s movements, so you know when your baby is moving in or out of her safe zone.
- Swaddling provides your baby a sense of security. As you’re very well aware, when your baby’s sleep is disrupted, especially at night, cries and screams are most likely to happen next. Being wrapped snugly gives your baby the sense of security she felt while still in your womb. This helps calm and soothe your baby, which helps her cry less often, too. Swaddling also helps alleviate anxiety in your baby by imitating your touch, allowing your baby to learn to soothe herself.
How to Correctly Swaddle Your Baby
If done correctly, the benefits of swaddling a baby are always apparent. Practice the following steps and you’ll be a pro in no time.
- Spread out a swaddling blanket on a flat, soft surface. Make a diamond shape out of the blanket, with the bottom of the diamond pointing toward you.
- Place your baby's head over the folded corner, face up. Position your baby's feet such that they face you. His shoulder should be just below the blanket fold.
- Wrap the blanket's right corner around your baby's right arm and body, and tuck it underneath. The left arm of your baby should remain free.
- Fold the swaddle blanket's bottom-up over your baby's feet. Tuck the blanket behind his shoulder if it's long enough.
- Wrap the left corner of the blanket around your baby's remaining arm and across his body.
Safety Tips to Remember
While the benefits of swaddling are evidently numerous, let’s review a few safety tips to bear in mind as you’re practicing swaddling:
- Make sure the blanket isn't too tight around your baby’s hips and legs, and that his lower body can still move. Swaddling your baby too tightly can cause hip dysplasia or dislocation.
- When swaddling, don't use extra blankets. Your baby may overheat as a result of the extra thickness. It can also detach easier, increasing the risk of suffocation.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics advises when to stop swaddling. Accordingly, swaddling should stop once your baby can roll over, which can happen as early as two months of age.
- Swaddling should be done for every sleep during the day and night to ensure that your baby becomes comfortable to the feeling of being swaddled.
- Check your baby's temperature on a regular basis. Overheating has been linked to an increase in the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). With two fingers, examine the back of her neck or her tummy.
- If you leave your baby with someone else, make sure they know how to safely swaddle your baby.
You've been through pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but your journey to motherhood is just getting started. And now that you have learned a new skill for helping your baby's sleep and teaching them self-soothing, we're confident that the next time your baby is unsettled, your gentle touch will be all she needs to fall asleep calmly. This is the most genuine expression of a mother’s love!