Why, When & How to Swaddle Your Newborn Baby (brought to you by Love To Dream)
A guide to swaddling your newborn
Getting your newborn baby to sleep can be incredibly overwhelming as a new parent. Your little one’s comfort is so important, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of your own rest.
It’s very likely that the nurses or midwives in your birth setting had your baby wrapped them up like an adorable baby burrito in those early days. This is called swaddling, and it’s an easy technique used since ancient times to help your baby feel calm and comforted.
Imagine that your newborn has just moved out of home for the first time. The outside world is vastly different to the comforting confines of the womb, and your baby’s first few months will be spent adjusting to this new life. Swaddling works by imitating the cosy warmth your little one experienced in utero and makes this adjustment gentler and more gradual. This all leads to snug, sound sleep – for your little one, AND for you!
Learning how to swaddle your baby for the first time can be intimidating, but we’re here to help!
Why should you swaddle your baby?
Who wouldn’t want to feel wrapped up nice and snug on a cold night before drifting off to sleep?
Swaddling provides your newborn with the comfort, warmth, and security that helps encourage a deeper sleep. Not only this, but it also addresses specific behaviours that may be causing your little one to wake frequently.
Have you ever had a dream where you feel like you’re falling, and the moment you do, you wake up while still lying-in bed? Newborn’s experience something similar called the startle reflex: an involuntary extension of their arms and legs that interrupts their sleep. Swaddling reduces the startle reflex infants experience by keeping them snug and secure, while also preventing them from instinctively scratching their cute little face.
To reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) it is recommended to follow the Safer Sleep Guidelines. These safer sleeping guidelines are created to target known risk factors associated with sleeping accidents, and when followed, can help to keep your swaddled baby sleeping safely and soundly.
Swaddling creates a pleasant condition of comfort that will encourage your little one to sleep deeper and more soundly, giving you peace of mind and the chance to catch your own shuteye. By consistently swaddling your baby, it will kickstart their recognition of the rhythms of bedtime, which will help them understand that their swaddle is a cue for drifting off to sleep.
When should you start swaddling your baby?
It’s likely your nurses were swaddling your little one while still in the hospital - perhaps they even gave you a demonstration of how to do it yourself! It’s a great idea to start swaddling from day one.
It’s very important to establish a sleep routine as soon as possible, and to build positive sleep cues and familiarity between your baby and their swaddle.
The sooner your little one gets used to this routine, the sooner you’ll be getting a better night’s sleep yourself. As your baby grows and is ready to transition away from swaddling, the warm nurturing feel of a swaddle will still be familiar to them as they try out a cosy transition suit or transition bag.
How to swaddle a baby
Practice makes perfect when it comes to swaddling your baby. The more you practice, the quicker you’ll master a technique that works for both you and your baby. Here are some key factors to take into consideration when swaddling your little one:
Step 1: Temperature Check
Consider the temperature of the room and of your baby. Most swaddles will have a TOG rating guide that will assist you in selecting the appropriate garment for your child. Temperature regulation is essential; ensuring the room is not too hot or too cold can reduce the risk of SIDS. Finding this optimal temperature will help to support your baby to sleep soundly.
Step 2: Safety Check
Avoid placing any loose items or blankets in your baby’s cot or bassinet. This will ensure that no fabric can come up above your baby’s face to cover their nose or mouth. Make sure no hanging cords are within reach, including electrical and blind cords. Your baby should have a firm surface to sleep on: either a cot, bassinet, or portable crib with a tight fitted sheet.
Step 3: Choose Your Swaddle
When selecting your swaddle, it is important you have selected the appropriate garments to suit the
season and general temperature of the room, as discussed in Step 1. If you choose a swaddle that can be opened from the lower end, any emergency nappy changes won’t disturb your little one and they can stay sleeping throughout the change.
Step 4: Time to swaddle
Lay your chosen swaddle down on a flat, safe surface then gently place your baby on top. Wrap or zip up the swaddle, ensuring there are no loose ends or open parts, with baby’s arms safely contained within it. It is important to ensure that your baby is not swaddled too tightly, and that full hip flexion is possible, as this is recommended for healthy hip development.
Now it’s time to place your baby down to rest in their sleeping space. It’s important to have your baby sleep on their back. Do not place them on their sides or stomach.
How long should you keep swaddling your baby?
Babies grow up quickly, so it’s important to make sure that you’re monitoring their development and updating their sleep suits to suit their needs.
If your baby shows signs of attempting to roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling to ensure your little one’s safety. They may also start resisting, or become unsettled whilst being swaddled, which can also be a sign. This can occur from as early as 2 months of age, but more commonly around 3 to 4 months.
The next stage will see your baby transition to a sleeping bag or suit. These differ from swaddles; in
that they have more flexibility to move and roll and will eventually lead to arms fully out.