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Benefits and Risks of Swaddling Baby
The first nights at home as a new mom were a nightmare. Q just wouldn’t sleep anywhere, but with me. I would walk around until dawn, holding him in my arms. Because if I didn’t, every time I put him down in his crib he would wake up and start crying again.
After a week, I was a zombie.
I was in luck, though, I had some very experienced moms around me. Not just experienced, but also vocal enough to step in and tell me this situation wouldn’t do, no matter how much adrenaline I thought I still had in my body.
Nice, but why are you telling me this?
In my view, there are two things at the base of leading a happy and healthy life; two things that need to be in order so everything else can be built on top of them: eating well and sleeping well.
Of course, the latter gets seriously disturbed with the arrival of a new baby, which is just normal and fine. It may not be an issue: getting up several times per night for a few weeks (or even months) can be easy overcome for some, and handled fine by most. However, I know of a lot of cases where the new bundle of joy isn’t sleeping anywhere, but in the arms of mommy.
In some cases, it’s even worse: baby cries all day. If you’ve ever spent the day with a crying baby, or not slept in a week because your infant needed you the whole night, you know exactly why this is so important. Extended lack of sleep is a serious threat to the wellbeing of both mommy and baby.
In which case swaddling baby may help.
Which is were I need to insert this DISCLAIMER: if a baby cries for longer than is normal, or if your gut feeling tells you something is wrong, stop reading this article immediately and go see a doctor!
What is swaddling?
Swaddling was used very much in the past as a means to help babies sleep and reduce excessive crying. Recently, it’s been gaining in popularity in the UK, United States and the Netherlands for exactly that benefit.
Swaddling baby is the practice of wrapping baby in a cloth to stop him from moving, or flailing his arms around when falling asleep or even when sleeping. When swaddling, baby’s arms are wrapped close to his body, while leaving the legs largely free to move. And is used to help babies calm down and sleep.
What does swaddling do?
I’m not usually lyrical about baby products, there are a lot of things sold in the baby industry that you don’t really need. In fact, you may not need to swaddle your baby. Do ask yourself that question before you buy something you don’t need, AND before you start adding something your baby might not need. Before trying to swaddle your baby, always test whether your baby takes to introducing an evening ritual.
However, failing regularity and evening rituals, what happens when you swaddle your baby? Like I said, I’m not usually overly impressed, but swaddling Q was like someone had waved a magic wand. We combined it with an evening ritual (at the time he was an extremely difficult sleeper, and I’m glad he grew out of it!) to support him falling asleep. With the swaddle cloth, whenever I put him in his crib…(insert drumroll)…he would just sleep!
Benefits of swaddling baby:
In general swaddling supports infants because it:
- Reduces excessive crying;
- Helps baby fall asleep;
Preterm infants can have:
- improved neuromuscular development;
- less physiological distress;
- better motor organization;
- more self-regulatory ability;
Why swaddling the right way is so important
To be honest, I also have to include the risks of swaddling baby, when not done correctly:
- Swaddling may increase changes of SIDS in children older than 6 months, most likely because they can roll over;
- Swaddling may increase changes of SIDS in children NOT placed on their backs;
- Swaddled infants don’t wake up as easily as non-swaddled infants, this is even more visible in infants who are not swaddled on a regular basis;
- Swaddling can increase the risk of Hip Dysplasia;
Safe swaddling guidelines
Now that you know why swaddling the right way is so important, you’ll also want to know how to do it. There are special courses you can follow to learn swaddling baby. But there’s an easier method as well: buy a specially designed swaddle cloth to make swaddling easier. However, you must always follow the guidelines to make swaddling safe and beneficial.
Safe Swaddling guidelines are:
- Always read the included instructions and follow them to the letter;
- Always lay baby down on his back;
- Stop swaddling before baby starts to roll over;
- Make sure your baby isn’t too warm. This may mean you can’t swaddle during summer unless you have air conditioning in the nursery.
- Check on your baby after he’s fallen asleep, especially the first few times, to see if the cloth is still closed correctly.
- Move baby’s crib to your room, if it’s not there already.
- Never swaddle the hips, this can cause Hip Dysplasia.
Why I recommend specially designed swaddling products
Yes, I mean commercial products.
You can use a simple cloth to swaddle with, if you do please make sure you know what you’re doing. Follow a course on how to swaddle properly. Improper swaddling can mean your baby will loosen up the cloth and pull it over it’s face. Cloth or blankets covering the babies face have been related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrom (SIDS) many times, so you need to make absolutely sure this doesn’t happen.
Personally, I was afraid I’d do something wrong when swaddling with a regular cloth, so I bought a commercial, designed one. If you go this route, make sure that the one you’re buying leaves enough room for the hips and legs, so as to prevent Hip Dysplasia.
Why I recommend a commercial swaddling cloth:
- A specially designed cloth is easier to use, making it safer;
- It’s designed to not swaddle the hips and legs;
- Sized to fit your baby’s size, with different sizes for different size babies.
- Specially designed to swaddle correctly, there is often only one way the cloth can be closed around baby.
Or, as my husband would put it: they’re idiot-proof. Which is exactly what I like about them.