No matter your age, it's always nice to be wrapped up in a warm and cozy comforter at the end of a long day, so it should come as no surprise that infants love being swaddled. But what is swaddling, anyway? Put simply, swaddling is the practice of wrapping your baby up tight in a comfy blanket, like a little parcel. Or a big burrito.
Of course, it’s not as simple as rolling up your baby and calling it a night. Swaddling takes practice, and can be harmful to your baby if not done properly.
Why do we swaddle babies?
For the most part, babies love getting swaddled. Think about it, all a baby has ever known is being scrunched up in a tight little ball, safe and secure, and suddenly they're out in the world. Not only are they free to wiggle for the first time and explore their newfound limbs, newborns also have what's called a startle reflex, which can prevent them from sleeping comfortably.
Wrapping your baby tight in a blanket can keep them calm and warm, and prevent any compulsive movements. It’s like a weighted blanket for newborns, only safer.
There’s a technique to swaddling and perfecting the correct technique can take a few practice rounds. First-time parents often like to practice swaddling on dolls before baby comes home, just to be prepared.
The most important thing to keep in mind when swaddling your baby is the balance of security and breathability. If you swaddle too tight, you could inadvertently damage your baby's hips and legs. We suggest leaving enough room for your hand to fit between the blanket and the baby, so that movement is limited, but breathing is not. If you don't swaddle tight enough, the blanket could loosen and become a hazard.
When to Stop Swaddling
As much as newborns love the feeling of being wrapped up in a warm, cozy blanket, there comes a time when they don't want to sleep swaddled any longer. This usually happens between the three- and six-month marks. Once your baby is able to roll over on their own, swaddling can become dangerous. It can be a tough transition from the snuggly swaddle, but usually only takes a few nights to adjust. At this point, you can still swaddle baby, but leave their arms out of the swaddle (swaddle under their armpits). If you're unsure how to make this a safe and smooth transition, consult with your child's pediatrician.
Is swaddling risky?
When it comes to babies, there’s always a plethora of blogs and articles advising against everything from co-sleeping to swaddling. But, as a parent, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for your baby. Some parents avoid swaddling, citing risks of hip dysplasia, while others preach its benefits, such as a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Either way, what matters most is that you swaddle properly, and listen, or look, to see what your baby's vocal reaction and body language is telling you. The biggest risks to newborns are loose bedding and blankets, and swaddling can help with that. In fact, many cultures swaddle their babies for over a year. Even Plato—that’s right, the Greek philosopher—thought that babies should be swaddled until they turn two.
If you ask us, it’s all about what works for you and your family. Always do your research, and ask your pediatrician for guidance as they know your baby better than the internet.
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