The Benefits and Techniques to Swaddle Your Baby

Swaddled baby

Swaddling has been practiced for centuries as a way to comfort and soothe newborns. It involves wrapping a baby snugly in a blanket or cloth to mimic the feeling of being in the womb. Babies don’t have much space in the womb and can only move a little. So, babies feel swaddling familiar and comforting in the initial months. In this blog, Dr. Clara Guru will guide us about the benefits of swaddling, techniques for safe swaddling, and tips for incorporating it into your baby care routine.

Benefits of swaddling your baby

  • Better Sleep

Swaddling mimics the womb-like safe and comforting feeling for a baby leading to an uninterrupted sleep. Swaddling can also help babies sleep more soundly by preventing the startle reflex, which can wake them up. In the startle reflex, babies respond by throwing their arms and legs outward, extending their necks a little, and then quickly bringing their arms together. This happens when they are startled, disrupting their sleep and leading to crying. This reflex remains for the first 2 months.

  • Soothing Comfort

The gentle pressure of swaddling can provide a sense of security and comfort to babies, helping them feel calm and relaxed as it recreates a womb-like warm atmosphere.

  • Reduced Crying

Swaddling can help reduce crying and fussiness in babies by providing them with a cozy environment that mimics the womb. It can be especially calming for babies with colic. It tends to soothe the pain and discomfort caused by colic in babies.

  • Reduced SIDS Risk

When done correctly, swaddling can help keep babies on their backs while sleeping, which reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Reference from Swaddling: A systematic review and Risks and Benefits of Swaddling Healthy Infants: An Integrative Review

How to swaddle?

  • Use a Lightweight Blanket

Choose a comfortable, breathable, and lightweight blanket made of cotton or muslin to prevent overheating. Research says that babies sleep more soundly in breathable materials. Avoid fabrics that may be rough or irritating to your baby’s skin. 

  • Start with a Diamond Shape

Lay the swaddle blanket on a flat surface in a diamond shape. Now fold the top corner down to the center. The top might look like a straight line.

  • Place Baby on the Blanket

Lay your baby on their back with their neck and head above the folded edge of the blanket.

  • Secure One Arm

Now, lay your baby’s left arm straight down along its body and bring the left corner of the blanket over your baby’s body. Tuck it snugly between the right side of their body and their right arm.

  • Fold the Bottom Corner

Bring the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body and tuck it under the first fold, below their chin, making sure their hips and legs can move freely. 

  • Secure the second arm

Now, straighten your baby’s right arm down like you did with the left. Take the right corner of the blanket over the body and securely tuck it safely under your baby’s left side. Your baby’s arms should always be positioned straight down by their sides, not crossed over their chest

  • Make sure it’s not too loose or too tight

The swaddle should be snug, but not too tight. Make sure your baby can move their hips and legs comfortably. You can check this with your hands. There should be a two-finger gap between your baby’s chest and the swaddling blanket.

Reference from Swaddling: A systematic review

The arms-out swaddling technique

If you feel your baby prefers having their arms free, you can follow this swaddling technique. Lay your blanket on a flat surface in a diamond shape and fold its top corner halfway down to the middle of the blanket.  Place your baby on the blanket on their back. Make sure that your baby’s shoulders are above the fold. Now take the right corner of the blanket and wrap it around the left side of their body. Tuck it under the left armpit. Now pull the bottom corner of the blanket up over your baby’s body. After this step, take the left corner of the blanket, wrap it around the right side of the body, and tuck it snuggly under your baby’s right armpit. Again, make sure the swaddle is not too tight that it might restrict breathing or movement of the legs and hips. You should always be able to put two or three fingers between your baby’s chest and the swaddled blanket.

Tips for swaddling

  1. Swaddling should not be practiced when babies start to roll over. 
  2. It is important not to let the baby sleep on their side or on their stomach when swaddled.
  3. Prevent overheating by not dressing your baby too warmly when swaddling them with warm or thick blankets. A few signs of overheating are sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing. 
  4. Do not swaddle your baby too lightly or too tightly as it can restrict the airflow of the baby. 
  5. In the early weeks, skin-to-skin contact is encouraged over swaddling.

Reference from Swaddling: A systematic review and Risks and Benefits of Swaddling Healthy Infants: An Integrative Review

When should you stop swaddling?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends stopping swaddling your baby after 2 months of age as some babies begin to roll over by then. If your little one is rolling over a bit early, you will have to stop swaddling your baby at that time. After 2 months of age, babies may roll onto their tummy but not be able to roll back over. This can raise their risk of SIDS and unintentional suffocation.

Reference from The effect of swaddling on infant sleep and arousal: A systematic review and narrative synthesis

Do babies like being swaddled?

Even the swaddling is soothing and comforting for most of the babies, many don’t like it and that is normal. Not all babies like to be swaddled because they might find it restrictive and would want to be free. If you feel that your baby is less calm and swaddled you don’t have to swaddle your baby. You can experiment a little with the arms-out technique. But if your baby is still not feeling comfortable, then it’s okay to not swaddle your baby at all. 

Final thoughts by Dr. Clara Guru

Swaddling is a time-tested practice that offers numerous benefits for both babies and parents. Dr. Clara Guru says that by providing comfort, promoting better sleep, and reducing crying, it can be a valuable tool in your baby care toolkit. It is important to swaddle safely and always monitor your baby while they are swaddled. With proper technique and practice, swaddling can help create a peaceful and soothing environment for your little one.

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FAQ

  1. What are the benefits of swaddling?
  2. What is the appropriate technique for swaddling?
  3. Is there any other method for swaddling?
  4. What are some guidelines that I should follow?
  5. When should I stop swaddling my baby?’
  6. My baby doesn’t like swaddling. Is it okay?

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