Swaddling is like a universal truth here in the United States. If you’re a new or expectant parent, chances are you have read or been told by a trusted friend or family member that you need to swaddle your new bundle of joy. If you’ve attended a new parent or birth education class, it’s surely been brought to your attention, and if you’ve been to a baby shower in the last 10 years, you will have witnessed the overwhelming amount of options available.
Why all the emphasis on this one seemingly minuscule aspect of bringing home baby? Is it really that important to swaddle your baby? In today’s post I’ll review the top three reasons why you should swaddle your baby as well as review a few of my favorite swaddles for different ages.
Before I jump into why you should swaddle your baby, I want to address something I hear from new parents on the regular. “My baby hates being swaddled!” In the 5.5 years I’ve been working with babies, I have never worked with an infant/newborn that hated being swaddled. This is 100% true. Newborn babies LOVE being swaddled and you will learn why in a minute. The reason parents may think their baby doesn’t like being swaddled is twofold. Operator error and or an underlying imbalance.
Operator Error. This encompasses the actual skill of swaddling as well as the proper tool (swaddle) for your particular baby.
Underlying imbalance. One of the baby’s needs is being missed. Overtired, hungry, hot/cold, in pain etc. so they may have challenges sleeping and thrashing around in their swaddle making it appear they do not like being swaddled.
Top 3 Reasons to Swaddle Your Baby
Reduced Risk of SIDS
In 1994, a “Back to Sleep” Campaign was launched and new parents were encouraged to place their babies on their backs to sleep. With the new recommendations, including back sleeping (no tummy or side), it was observed that there was roughly a 50% reduction in the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome over the course of the following 10 years.
You may be asking, Where does swaddling fit into the recommendation to place your baby on their back to sleep?
Infants are born with a reflex that is a primitive reflex, called the Moro Reflex. More affectionately known as the ‘Startle Reflex’. This reflex causes a newborn to throw their arms out to the side. This can happen when they are on their backs asleep already, or being placed on their back for a task such as changing their diaper. The Moro reflex is strong in the first few months of life, so you will likely notice it quite often in the first two months. By 4-6 months of age the reflex generally goes away completely or diminishes significantly so that sleep isn’t disturbed on a regular basis.
Infants spend a lot of time, roughly 50% of their total sleep, in a sleep state called ‘active sleep’. In this sleep stage, infants move, wiggle, twitch, laugh, frown, smile and even cry. It is a light stage of sleep, but unlike adult sleep, babies get their REM sleep in this active stage of sleep. To recap:
- 50% of total sleep
- Light sleep state
- Lots of movement
- Startles easily
If your baby isn’t swaddled these 4 components create a very difficult scenario for you little one to actually sleep. Sleep deprived parents want and need their babies to sleep! Swaddling, when done properly will help!
Appropriate Age: Birth-4 months (as long as baby isn’t indicating signs of rolling)
Tips/Notes: Create “V” at the neckline so that fabric doesn’t potentially creep up near baby’s face. Can be combined with a layer over or under.
Swaddle: Halo Sleep Sack
Appropriate Age: Birth-1 year +
Tips/Notes: Arms can be placed inside zipper if baby isn’t rolling. Use transitional Halo without the arm wings once baby indicates they will roll soon.
Swaddle: Posh Peanut Blanket
Appropriate Age: Birth-4 month (as long as baby isn’t indicating signs of rolling)
Tips/Notes: Lay fabric in rectangle and fold top down 4-6”. Swaddle arms snugly, making sure there is not bulky fabric on baby’s back and then secure the end in a loose knot.
Swaddle: ZipDeeZip Sleep Sack
Appropriate Age: 4+ months. Best used as a transitional sleep sack.
Tips/Notes: This sack is safe for baby to use while sleeping on their belly.
Have questions about swaddling your baby? We are happy to chat with you! Please contact us here.