Swaddling babies has been a common practice for centuries, but there is much controversy surrounding this topic in the medical community today.
Despite that, I swaddled both of my daughters for the first few weeks of their life. And they slept like angels. Hence, I am a true believer that swaddling babies makes them feel safe and help them sleep.
It appears that many parents face the swaddling dilemma. Should I swaddle my baby or not? If so, Should I Swaddle My Baby For Daytime Naps Or For The Bed-Time Only? Arghhh
Are you one of these confused parents? If so, then you are in the right place.
Here I explain everything you need to know about swaddling, so you can decide if it’s right for your baby.
Should I Swaddle My Baby For Daytime Naps?
If you choose to swaddle your baby, then the short answer is YES – you should swaddle your baby for both – naps and bedtime. Swaddling is indeed a proven method that helps newborns sleep better and longer. It prevents the startle effect from awakening the baby and provides the comfort of a womb-like environment. If done right, and by applying safe swaddle guidelines, it may be a way to soothe your little one – and give you extra sleep, too!
1. Should I Swaddle My Baby For Daytime Naps?
If you decide to swaddle your baby, then the short answer to this question is YES – you should swaddle for naps and night-time sleep. The reason for this is that swaddling can help your baby sleep, regardless of whether it is daytime or night-time. Thus you should stick to it as part of your baby sleep routine. Furthermore, your baby will recognize the process of being wrapped as an indicator that it’s time to sleep. Babies thrive on routine, after all.
To help you decide whether you should swaddle or not, here are a few things to consider.
2. Swaddling Facts You Should Know
Swaddling is a practice of snuggly wrapping newborn babies in a light blanket to help them settle quickly and allow them to sleep more soundly and for a longer time. And it is not just a theory – I know it from personal experience.
The main reason is that swaddling mimics the warm, cosy environment of the mother’s womb, where babies spent 9 months growing. An environment like this allows the baby to feel safe and comfortable – ideal for sleeping.
Secondly, have you noticed that your baby suddenly extends her arms and legs and throws her head back? That’s called Moro reflex (or startle reflex). It is a normal, instinctive reaction of healthy newborn babies that they show when they become startled. This reflex can be triggered by noise, bright light or even by their perception of falling.
So, swaddling your baby to sleep will restrict the movement of their arms and legs, therefore preventing them from startling themselves awake by their sudden movements. Voila.
3. Swaddling – Dos & Don’ts
Swaddling undoubtedly has its benefits, but there are also some risks to consider. Many of these risks can be reduced or avoided entirely by following safe swaddling and sleeping recommendations.
3.1 Suffocation And Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can both be caused by certain situations. SIDS is the unexplained death of newborn babies in their first year. As you can imagine, tightly wrapped babies will not have enough mobility to adjust their heads if something hinders their airway. Therefore, increasing the risk of suffocation and SIDS.
You should take the following measures to reduce these risks;
- First and foremost, babies should always sleep on a firm, flat surface on their backs. Never on their stomach or sides – especially when swaddled.
- There should be no object in the crib that could potentially cover the baby’s face or block her breathing. This includes loose blankets, bumper pads, pillows, and toys.
- Once the baby can roll over from her back to tummy – it’s time to wean her off swaddling. This can happen any time between 3-6 months, depending on your baby. So you should keep that in mind and closely monitor your child if she starts learning to roll.
3.2 Swaddling Too Tightly
You should make sure the swaddle is tight enough at the chest, but loose enough at the bottom. This will allow your baby to move her hips and legs freely so she can sleep in her natural frog-like position.
Her legs will appear unnaturally straight if she is swaddled too tightly. As a result, she may develop hip dysplasia (damage to her hips, joints or cartilage).
I must admit that my swaddling journey was not an easy one, to begin with. I couldn’t grasp the swaddling technique. Every time I swaddled my daughter, she would always manage to get her arms out of the blanket. Obviously, I was doing it wrong. So, I decided to try some of the zip-and-velcro swaddling wraps widely available in the baby section. While these products simulate a swaddled feeling, they are far easier to put on. And most importantly, you don’t have to master wrapping techniques (check). Also, they meet all the safety requirements – being snug at the top (check) and loose at the bottom to allow for mobility (check). These things become a real game-changer for us!
To this day, I still don’t understand how midwives can wrap babies in blankets so quickly and securely…
Swaddling is more about making your baby feel safe and secure than keeping them warm. So, to prevent overheating, you should use appropriate infant sleepwear for the current season and temperature.
4. When Not To Swaddle Your Baby
There are certain circumstances that swaddling is not recommended
4.1 Swaddling Is For Newborn Babies Only
Swaddling should only be introduced to newborn babies. It is not recommended for older babies who can effortlessly free their arms out of the wrap. Besides, being wrapped prevents older children from practising motor skills and mobility, potentially interfering with their healthy development.
4.2 During active time
Swaddling should only be used to calm babies or to help them sleep. When they are awake and active, you should remove the swaddle to allow them to move. Additionally, their hands and legs need to be free to explore.
4.3 During Breastfeeding
During nursing, babies are actively using their hands. They need them to latch properly and to locate the nipple. Secondly, babies use their hands to show you hunger cues, such as sucking on their fists.
Also, more sluggish babies may become too comforted by the swaddle and fall asleep while nursing without getting enough to eat. If you remove the swaddle for breastfeeding they will be awake and alert to feed.
4.4 Babies Who Sleep Well
Obviously, swaddling might not be appropriate for every baby or every case. For example, if you are lucky to have a sound sleeper from day one – perhaps there is no need to introduce swaddling.
4.5 Babies Who Don’t Like Swaddling
Furthermore, some babies might simply not like it. When you wrap them up, they would try to free their arms from the swaddle, causing them a lot of frustration and distress. In such cases, it is worth experimenting with different types of wraps before abandoning the swaddle entirely. You may find one that works for your child. Swaddling your baby can be a lifesaver, especially if she is a catnapper or has trouble settling down.
Final Few Lines
It is up to you, the parent, to decide whether they want to swaddle your baby to sleep.
Above all, if you decide to do that, be sure to follow a safe swaddle and sleep guideline to ensure your baby’s comfort and safety.
And remember. Babies don’t have to be swaddled to sleep. If your baby is happy without a swaddle, then let it be.