When your baby is swaddled, he or she is taken back to the days in the womb, when everything was comfortable, safe and snug. Swaddling has a number of key benefits for both parents and babies – when done correctly and safely.

Mothers have been swaddling their babies for thousands of years. Whether you’re a new parent or a veteran, you could probably use the extra sleep that swaddling your baby will provide.

Unfortunately, swaddling your baby might seem like somewhat of an art form. Wrap this, tuck that. It can feel confusing, especially when you’re up for a 3 a.m. feeding. Learning and practicing the art of swaddling your baby will help you get more sleep. It will also help your baby feel more secure and comforted, just like he was in the womb.

Benefits of swaddling

You might be thinking that swaddling your baby every time they go to sleep (which is a lot) seems like a lot of work, but there are many benefits to swaddling your baby. Here are some you and your baby will experience:

Swaddling mimics the womb

Transitioning from the womb to the world is not so simple for your new little one. Babies suddenly find themselves in a cold and bright world from what was once a warm, cozy environment. Swaddling recreates the secure and cozy feeling of the womb, making this transition from baby easier.

Swaddling mimics a parent’s soothing touch

Touch has been proven to have neurological effects; it triggers a self-soothing response in the human brain, stabilizes our heart rate and blood pressure, and lowers cortisol levels. Correspondingly, touch is fundamental for healthy infant development. A snug swaddle helps to mimic the soft pressure of a mother’s touch and helps the baby have longer, more restful sleep with fewer disturbances.

When your baby is swaddled, he or she is taken back to the days in the womb, when everything was comfortable, safe and snug. Swaddling has a number of key benefits for both parents and babies – when done correctly and safely.
CREDIT: RYAN STONE / UNSPLASH

Swaddled babies tend to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep more consistently throughout the night. If the baby sleeps better, then Mom and Dad sleep better, and this is great for the whole family!

Swaddling may soothe a crying baby

This is the benefit that compels so many parents to try swaddling. Imagine: Getting your newborn to stop crying in a few simple folds! It’s not magic, though. Research has shown that swaddling can decrease crying by 42% in infants 8 weeks old or younger. But the baby-wrap is not so successful with wailing babies beyond that age.

Swaddling moderates the Moro Reflex

One of the benefits of swaddling a baby is that it helps alleviate the effects of the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex, or startle reflex, is a normal neurological response that causes a newborn to feel as though they are free falling. Babies experience this all the time within the first 3 to 4 months of life. While the presence of the Moro reflex is an indication of a healthy infant, its effects can disturb your baby’s sleep. The startle reflex causes the baby to have involuntary movements that can easily wake them up, and swaddling helps prevent those spontaneous movements, allowing for a much more peaceful sleep.

Swaddling helps regulate temperature

While swaddling a baby can help maintain the optimal temperature for the baby, it is important to ensure that you are using a high-quality breathable swaddle to ensure that baby does not overheat. Avoid “double swaddling” or using a blanket that is too warm. Over-bundling with multiple layers can cause the baby to overheat which can increase the risk of SIDS.

Experts also recommend maintaining a comfortable room temperature of around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. After being swaddled, your baby’s skin should feel comfortable to touch and not too warm.

Swaddling may lead to longer, sounder sleep

While a newborn sleeps about 16 hours per day, that sleep is in 3- to 4-hour intervals. Swaddling appears to increase the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that newborns get. This deeper sleep state may make it less likely for a baby to fully awaken when roused – which for parents means fewer trips to baby’s bedside to tend to a wide-awake and crying tot.

Swaddling helps alleviate colic

Any parent who has experienced a baby with colic will tell you that it can be one of the most difficult parenting experiences. Some parents describe a feeling of helplessness in their inability to calm their crying baby. Colic is mainly thought to be the result of a developing digestive system, making it difficult for babies to digest food. This can cause gas and other intense pain, leading to prolonged and inconsolable crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy baby.

One of the benefits of swaddling a baby is that it can have a wonderfully soothing and therapeutic effect on a baby suffering from colic by applying light pressure to the baby’s belly. The pressure and cocoon-like feeling mimics the womb and provides relief for the baby.

When your baby is swaddled, he or she is taken back to the days in the womb, when everything was comfortable, safe and snug. Swaddling has a number of key benefits for both parents and babies – when done correctly and safely.

Swaddling reduces incidents of SIDS (risk of sudden infant death syndrome)

Swaddling, when done properly, is effective and safe. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that swaddling helps babies maintain the supine position during sleep (sleeping on their back). Research has also found that infants placed to sleep on their stomachs are at an increased risk of SIDS. Babies should therefore always be placed to sleep on their back, never on their stomach or side. By swaddling the baby in the supine position, you help the baby maintain this safe sleep position. For a baby who is not yet capable of rolling over on their own, the risk of SIDS diminishes.

You should stop swaddling when the baby begins to roll over from back to front, break free from the baby swaddle wrap, or when the swaddle becomes disruptive to sleep.

Loose blankets and bedding also pose a threat to a baby’s healthy by increasing the chances of suffocation. A baby swaddle wrap also constrains the baby’s arms and helps prevent the baby from pulling loose bedding or clothing over their heads. It is also important to keep any loose bedding or clothing out of your baby’s crib and stop swaddling when the baby starts to roll.

Is swaddling for your baby?

Swaddling doesn’t work for all newborns. Though some babies will feel snug and secure wrapped in a swaddling sheet, others will kick and struggle against the constraint. If your baby persists in trying to turn over onto their belly when sleeping, swaddling is not a good option, due to the SIDS risk.

Babies will often “let their parents know” when they’re ready to stop swaddling by kicking and resisting. By the time a baby is about one month old, swaddling should be kept to a minimum so as not to impede development or limit a baby’s burgeoning mobility. Learning how to properly swaddle your baby is key to ensuring safety and effectiveness. Here are seven tips:

  • Don’t overwrap – Over swaddling or using double swaddles can lead to overheating. Signs of an overheated baby include damp hair and sweating.
  • Make sure the swaddle doesn’t come undone – A loose swaddle can end up covering the baby’s airway.
  • Position baby “hands over the heart” – In the past, it was traditional to wrap the baby’s arms around the side of the body, but this can cause joint problems and limit mobility. Place baby’s hands on the chest before wrapping or, with a ready-made Swaddle, place baby, place baby’s hands on the chest and zip up!
  • Don’t wrap too tightly – Use a special baby swaddle that hugs baby comfortably, but allows natural leg/hip movement to avoid hip problems such as dysplasia.
  • Stop swaddling when baby starts to roll – When baby starts to roll, it is a good time to consult with the to find out if the technique should be continued or not. Usually, a transition to a sleeping bag is made.
  • Don’t swaddle all day – Babies need the freedom to move around and learn to cope with the movement of their bodies. Even if your child loves to be swaddled all day, give them time to develop and leave the swaddling for bedtime.

Most people use the wrapping technique during the newborn stage and start removing it before six months. Some babies like to be swaddled until nine months, and this is perfectly normal, as long as you use an armless sleeping bag when the baby starts to roll over. At some point, however, your baby will prefer the freedom outside the wrap and struggle to escape.

Note: Every baby is different; some babies resist swaddling from the start, although this is rare. All newborns resist a little but quickly accept the feelings of security and peace that the wrap provides.

 

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Nelson, T., 2021. Benefits of Swaddling with 7 Swaddle Safety Tips (Plus a Giveaway!). [online] The Baby Sleep Site – Baby / Toddler Sleep Consultants. Available at: <https://www.babysleepsite.com/safety/benefits-of-swaddling-swaddle-safety-tips/> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

Nested Bean. 2021. Benefits of Safe Baby Swaddling With Zen Swaddle. [online] Available at: <https://www.nestedbean.com/pages/benefits-of-swaddling> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

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