To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle?

Posted in , , , on 7-11-12

To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle?

Swaddling has fallen in and out of fashion for centuries.  The choice of whether or not to swaddle is not even a simple question. It leads to follow up questions, “Should I swaddle my baby? How do I swaddle? ”

With such a complicated question, I hope you didn’t expect a clear cut answer. Basically, it depends.


Should I Swaddle?
Swaddling is such a common ritual that most parents don’t often think about what they are trying to accomplish by doing it. Read up on what swaddling does for your baby. Swaddling can be a great tool, but there are also alternative care options.

A modern alternative to swaddling is Kangaroo Care. Instead of wrapping your baby up in a blanket, kangaroo care promotes holding your baby skin-to-skin. Evidence suggests that there are many emotional and physiologic benefits to kangaroo care. In infants the practice produces increased sleep time, decreased purposeless motor activity, and decreased crying. Improved weight gain, increased alertness, and decreased length of hospital stay have also been noted .Emotional benefits for parents include enhanced parent-infant bonding, lower rates of depression, and greater confidence in caring for their  baby. Kangaroo care has many benefits, but is impossible to do 24/7 – that’s where swaddling should come in as a secondary (not a primary) care method.

How Do I Swaddle?
In my practice, I have found (just as the studies have shown) babies that are carried more fuss less as newborns and as they get older. The sacrifices you make in the early months to meet your baby’s needs will pay off as they grow and you will reap the benefits of a happier child.

Swaddling can have a calming effect on your baby and can help your baby stay asleep. When babies sleep lightly their startle reflex can wake them if they are not swaddled.

There are different ways to swaddle your baby. Try different swaddles – hands up, hands down, one hand up, knees bent to chest or slightly bent. Your baby will let you know what she likes. For example, say you put your baby’s hands down to her sides and she squirms until she gets one hand up to her face. That’s how you will know. They will naturally settle into their favorite position.

By 4 – 5 months most babies outgrow the need to be and comfort from being swaddled. Which, conveniently, is around the same time their startle reflex diminishes.

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