The Importance of Swaddling
Swaddling has undergone a lot of recent praise, and more and more doctors and childcare experts are encouraging new parents to swaddle their infants. I’m all for it! Swaddling is a wonderful way to help your baby sleep better, and for the more anxious baby to learn to assimilate sounds more easily and with less stress.
First, some questions and answers about swaddling:
Q: Will swaddling my baby impair her development in any way?
A: Nope! Swaddling is safe and effective, and very comforting to most babies. In many parts of the world, babies are kept swaddled for almost 100% of their first 6 months to one year, and longer. These babies have the same developmental abilities as non-swaddled babies.
Q: How much of the day should my baby be swaddled?
A: As much as you feel like your baby needs/wants. I love to encourage some tummy time after baby is a few weeks old, but if he’s happy in his swaddle, its okay!
Q: At what age should we stop swaddling?
A: Baby will tell you! When baby starts getting out of her swaddle in the night and not waking up, or getting herself back to sleep, she’s done with the swaddle. She may still like it for falling asleep, but there’s no reason to get up in the night to re-swaddle.
Q: My baby has started rolling over in the night and sleeping on her tummy. Is this okay, and should I still swaddle her?
A: Once your baby can consistently turn herself over, it’s fine to let her sleep on her tummy. Swaddling is up to you. I’d try it both ways, and see what works best.
Q: How tight should the swaddle be? I do it very tight, my husband does it very loose, in concern for her being able to breathe.
A: I swaddle very tightly. I wish I had a way to put a diagram, but here’s a description of how I swaddle.
First, choose a blanket that is larger than a receiving blanket, and preferably one that stretches somewhat. The thinner the better for this purpose. Put the blanket on the floor in a diamond shape. Take the top point of the diamond and fold it down just a bit, about 6 inches. This is where baby’s head will be above, and her shoulders lined up along the top edge of the blanket. Choosing one arm, take the point of the blanket on that side. Take the blanket and wrap it around baby’s arm, so that the forearm and hand are wrapped inside the blanket. Take that arm and pull it and the blanket across her chest. Tuck very tightly and firmly under her back on the other side. Then, take the point of the blanket at the feet and put up over the blanket fold you just made. Then, take the last point, wrap her arm and hand again, and pull firmly and tuck under her back. Voila! A baby burrito! Baby may fuss a little while getting swaddled, but if all goes well, she’ll quiet down very quickly. Practicing this on a baby doll may be a good idea, or even a pillow, so baby doesn’t get irritated with repeated attempts. I’m not a big fan of store bought pre-shaped swaddling blankets with Velcro, etc, as they just don’t fit every baby, and usually aren’t tight enough.
A client of mine, Mary, brought her baby home after a successful and relatively easy birth. After a few sleepy days, baby Jill got very fussy, easily upset, and startled constantly, leaving everyone anxious and over stimulated and tired! After showing them a good tight swaddle, I talked with them about how to help Jill learn to assimilate her new environment more easily. Swaddling was the first key. The second was to talk to her as she heard new sounds, naming them and letting her know what they meant. It may seem strange to talk like this with and infant, but it helps baby immensely. It sounds something like this:
“Oh, you hear the phone ring. Yes, that’s the phone. It rings a lot. People are calling to find out about you! The phone is okay; it’s safe and won’t hurt you. You’re okay.” While talking, keep you voice calm and steady, and your face and body as well. Jane is looking to you to show her how to respond to things in her life. By giving her information in these many ways, she will quickly learn to do so for herself, by recognizing sounds and she’ll soothe herself more easily. If you’re startled too, for instance by a car backfiring, acknowledge that as well. “Oh! That startled me! That was a car backfiring. It was loud and hurt my ears. It’s okay though, we’re safe.” Follow with a sigh and relaxing of the body.
By doing this, Baby Jill learned by her family’s example how to more easily assimilate sounds. She’s much more peaceful and at ease now.
Swaddling also helped Baby Jill startle less in her sleep. She would startle strongly, her arms thrusting out in front of her and she’d wake abruptly and cry. In her swaddle, she’d startle, but her arms would be kept close to her, so she wouldn’t fully wake, if at all.
Swaddling is a wonderful tool. I hope it helps you and your new baby!