Swaddling 101: Everything You Need to Know 

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Being out in the big world feels a lot different than being in the womb, and swaddling your baby helps make him feel safe again. Parents turn to swaddling as a soothing tactic and as a way to help the baby sleep a bit longer. Swaddling is a trusted technique, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time to research this practice.

All of my babies loved to be swaddled to some degree, but I quickly learned there are right and wrong ways to swaddle a baby. Just like anything else, you need to take some time to learn the risks involved and how to swaddle your baby correctly.

Why Do Babies Love Swaddling?

Take a moment and think about what life in the womb must be like for babies. The uterus is warm and cozy with the constant perfect temperature. Your baby was snug and comfortable all the time with a full belly. What a dream!

Then, BAM! This comfortable baby is now stuck in a not-so-comfortable real world that is cold and wide open. Swaddling reminds your baby of the time spent in their mother’s womb, and it creates a sense of security and comfort.

Parents opt to swaddle for many reasons, but a common one is that babies have a strong startle reflex at birth that wakes them up while sleeping. Swaddling stops this reflex, and it often helps to decrease crying by relaxing and soothing your infant. 

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The Benefits of Swaddling

So, are there real benefits to swaddling your baby? 

Absolutely! After all, there is an entire market of swaddles and items to help make swaddling easier. I’ve seen the benefits for my children time after time. Swaddling can be a real miracle worker.

A few benefits of swaddling include:

Babies Sleep Better

Babies sleep well in the womb because they feel secure and close to mom. Swaddling creates a familiar environment. Plus, parents need some extra sleep those first few weeks as well! 

Less Anxiety

When you swaddle your baby, it applies extra weight to their body, and it feels like someone is touching them. That helps your baby feel relaxed and less anxious. 

Soothes Colic

Colic is hard for parents and babies, and using a swaddle with colicky babies is recommended. It adds a sense of comfort and security that soothes a colicky baby. 

Reduces the Startle Reflex 

The startle reflex is one of the most frustrating reflexes that newborn babies have. One minute, your baby is sleeping soundly, and the next minute, their arms are jerking outward. He might jerk his leg or arm, but either one is enough to wake up your baby from a deep sleep. That’s frustrating for parents who just spent time getting baby to sleep. 

No Face Scratching

Have you ever felt a baby’s nails? They’re like little razors, and babies don’t have much control over their limbs. So, those small nails always seem to be up by their face. Babies scratch themselves in their sleep so that you might notice dried blood on your baby’s face. Swaddling keeps their arms down, stopping face scratching while sleeping. 

Don’t Need Blankets 

Blankets are a severe suffocation risk, and cribs should be empty of all blankets. Swaddling keeps your baby comfortable and warm without any risk of covering your baby’s face, leading to accidental suffocation. 

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Swaddling Risks

While swaddling is fantastic, it also has some risk. Swaddling needs to be stopped around 2.5 months or whenever your baby can roll over in his sleep. Once your baby can roll over, swaddling can be dangerous because the baby can roll over and suffocate. 

Here are some other risks to look for and avoid. 

Breastfeeding Interference

Most hospitals hand you your new baby swaddled, but it can make breastfeeding more difficult. Babies need skin-to-skin time with their mothers after birth, and more skin-to-skin time helps babies take to breastfeeding easier. Babies need to be warm, but just lay a blanket over baby and mom. 

Hip Dysplasia 

My first child had hip dysplasia issues, and that can be a scary time for parents. Swaddling requires a position that causes your baby’s hips and knees to be fully extended. Keeping this position can cause hip dysplasia or dislocation of the hips. 

Make sure you pick blankets that are designed for swaddling and that you don’t swaddle too tightly. Tight swaddling increases the risk of hip dysplasia. Also, if your baby was born with hip dysplasia, avoid swaddling altogether. 

Body Heat

More skin-to-skin time helps babies learn how to regulate their body temperature, and it helps to keep baby warmer longer than swaddled babies. 

One significant risk of swaddling is that it can cause your baby to overheat. Don’t use many layers with your swaddled baby; one layer of clothing and the swaddle blanket is enough. Don’t use a thick blanket for swaddling because overheating increases the risk of SIDS. 

Decreased Arousal

Sleeping better is a benefit of swaddling; it does keep your baby asleep longer. However, swaddling also reduces arousal, and some believe that decreased arousal can increase the risk of SIDS. It also means your baby might not wake up when he’s hungry, leading to a problem with weight gain. 

Dependent Upon for Sleep 

My second child became very reliant on a swaddle to sleep, and that made the weaning process away from swaddling troublesome. Some babies get used to being wrapped before bedtime. It becomes a sleep association, required for your baby to fall asleep. It doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad thing, but it means it takes more effort for you to remove the swaddle when it comes to being time. 

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Swaddling Safety Tips

Ready to get swaddling? Here are a few essential swaddling safety tips. You want to use swaddling as a way to soothe your baby, creating a comfortable environment, but you also want to make sure your baby is safe. 

Follow these tips to ensure your baby is safely swaddled.

Don’t Use Too Many Layers

Overheating is a risk when it comes to swaddling. You want your baby to be warm, but too warm can be dangerous. Newborns aren’t able to regulate their temperature yet, so some parents think that means you need to add extra layers.

Don’t do that. Overheating increases the risk of SIDS. If your baby is sweating, has red cheeks, or damp hair, they’re too hot.

Babies need a single layer under the swaddle and the blanket or swaddle sack. Try not to use materials such as fleece or anything too fluffy that might be too warm. A full-term baby needs to be in a room between 65 and 70 degrees F. So, a single layer of clothing and a light blanket are perfect. If you live in a warm climate, you can skip the single layer of clothing. 

Not Too Tightly!

There is a balance between snug and tight. Swaddling too tightly can cause joint problems in your developing baby. Using a blanket designed for swaddling helps to ensure proper mobility while swaddled because they have more stretchy and movement to the blanket. 

Not only does tight blankets cause potential hip problems, but some evidence shows that tight swaddling might hinder lung function. It limits the amount of oxygen your baby’s lungs can hold. That’s scary! 

Secure the Blanket 

The blanket needs to be secured. If the blanket can come undone, then it might cover your baby’s face and become a suffocation risk. Figure out how to make a secure closure when swaddling. 

Stop Swaddling When Rolling 

Once your baby learns to roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling. My last baby started rolling at eight weeks old, so we had to end sooner than with my other kids. You can use a transitional swaddle sack or swaddle with your baby’s arms free. Babies who can roll over while swaddled will have their arms trapped and be stuck in that position. 

How to Swaddle Your Baby 

Are you ready to swaddle your baby? Here are the necessary steps. Trust me; it’s easy! 

  1. Pick a blanket that is the right size for swaddling. Some are too small, but other blankets are way too large! Lay your blanket of choice down in a diamond shape on the floor or another flat surface. 
  2. Fold down the top part of the diamond to make a place for your baby’s head. Then, lay your baby on this spot. 
  3. Pull one side of the blanket over up and over your baby. Tuck it behind your baby’s body on the opposite side. The fold should be tight enough that your baby isn’t able to unravel the blanket themselves. 
  4. Then, grab the bottom corner of the blanket by your baby’s toes, and bring it up to your child’s left shoulder. Tuck it under the blanket. Make sure you leave plenty of room for your baby’s feet to move around to reduce any problems with their hips. 
  5. Now, pull the opposite side of the blanket across your baby’s chest and tuck it under the fabric by your baby’s shoulder. The fabric around your baby creates a fold that’s perfect for tucking the end of the blanket. 

You may decide to use swaddling sacks which remove the folding and wrapping that you need to do with blankets. Each brand of swaddling sacks have their directions for use, so be sure to read the instructions before using the sacks. 

The Lowdown on Swaddling

Swaddling is an excellent tool for parents to use to get more sleep from their baby and to keep their babies more relaxed. You get more time for yourself, just watching your kid through a baby monitor. If you decide to swaddle your baby, remember to avoid too many layers and to stop swaddling before your baby can start to roll over. Follow the rules and safety tips for an enjoyable, safe experience for all. 

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