Though we’re constantly witnessing changes, as they’re part of life, some things simply stand the test of time. One such thing is the age-old practice of swaddling.
Wrapping infants in cloths or sheets from head to foot has been something parents have been doing for ages, and it’s still a common practice – it’s the first thing done in most hospitals when a baby is born.
Over the years, however, the only changes that occurred are design-wise, so nowadays you can come across a wide assortment of wraps for babies, ranging in fabrics like delicate muslin designs, breathable bamboo, or a combination of both for a luxurious feel and other fabrics, like cotton, in various patterns and colours.
The Benefits of Swaddling
When babies are in the womb, they feel safe and snug, and that’s exactly what the swaddling provides for them – the same soothing feel. It doesn’t take long to see how this is of help also when it comes to handling a newborn’s crankiness, when other alternatives don’t offer a calming effect, like feeding or rocking.
It Promotes Longer and Sounder Sleep
Sometimes babies have reflexes that happen throughout sleep, one of them being the startle reflex, also known as Moro, and even though it’s normal and can disappear by the fifth or sixth month, it may wake your baby from sound sleep.
When swaddled in wraps for babies, the little one’s arms and legs are covered up and there’s no body movement that’s typical for the startle reflex, so there’s no sleep disturbance.
It Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Infants who sleep on their stomach are more likely to be in the risk of SIDS, which is why it’s important to keep them on their backs.
A properly swaddled baby, sleeping with the face up is less likely to move throughout the night and turn to the tummy, or cover himself/herself up with the bedding over the head which can lead to suffocation or overheating. It’s important to note, however, some babies may turn on their tummies even when swaddled if they already have different sleeping habits and they aren’t used to swaddling.
This is why it’s best to start swaddling first thing after birth, instead of waiting to do so when the baby’s already two or three months old with certain sleeping habits established and the risk of SIDS is greater. If the baby is used to sleeping on the tummy, then don’t opt for swaddling.
It Serves as Multi-Purpose Piece
Except for swaddling, the wraps for babies can come in handy for various other newborn necessities. They can double as nursing covers, burp cloths, stroller covers, floor rugs, and depending on their size and material, long stretchy ones can even serve for carrying the baby wrapped up around your body. Yes, they really are worth the money!
Avoiding All Possible Risks
When the baby is wrapped up with fabrics that can cause overheating, there are risks of hyperthermia. Despite this, you could still opt for swaddling, but it’s important to look for breathable fabrics and models of wraps that aren’t too heavy and thick, the best options being muslin, natural bamboo and cotton. With the right wraps, in the suitable fabrics, you can even achieve the effect of thermoregulation.
When the baby is wrapped up tightly, without any room for slight movement, and the legs are in an extended position, there is a risk of hip dysplasia as well as dislocation which in turn can lead to reduced mobility, development of limp or different leg height later on. The way to prevent this and still reap the benefits of swaddling is to leave some room for the baby to be able to bend up and out at the hips and knees.
How to Swaddle Your Baby Properly
- With square wraps, fold back one corner to get a straight edge. If the wrap is rectangular, you can use the long side.
- Place the baby on the wrap with the folded straight edge/long side ат shoulder level.
- Bring one arm down, wrap the side of the wrap around that arm and the chest and tuck it under the baby.
- Bring the other arm down, wrap the remaining side of the wrap around that arm and chest and tuck it under the baby.
- Fold the bottom end of the wrap leaving the legs bent up and out with room to move, and tuck it behind the baby.
If you want to try wrapping both arms at once, wrap with one side of the cloth, tuck it under, then fold up the bottom, leaving room for the legs to bend, and finish by wrapping the other side across the body and tucking it under. Remember, the swaddle shouldn’t be too tight, if you want to prevent the risk of hip dysplasia, or too loose, to prevent SIDS.