Swaddling is a parenting topic that has been talked about quite a bit lately. It can be a difficult to decide if you want to swaddle your baby or not. I have been a fan of swaddling for quite awhile but just like anything, swaddling can be abused. I find many of my clients say that their babies sleep well when being held but wake up as soon as they put the baby down. This makes perfect sense since they just came out of a tight space where they were constantly feeling tight. When they are born the freedom of space that they now have actually makes them uncomfortable. Swaddling is a wonderful tool to help babies sleep better.
Before swaddling make sure:
- Baby is well fed. A baby who has only snacked, will wake up more frequently. Make sure to take off baby’s clothes before starting the feeding. Feed from one side, massaging your breast to encourage baby to keep feeding when he/she slows down. After baby does not respond to the massaging anymore, take your baby off breast, burp, change and repeat process on the other side.
- Make sure to burp your baby well. This can sometimes take up to 10 minutes or so. Many parents make the mistake of putting baby down right after the feeding because most babies have fallen asleep. Parents are afraid that if they handle baby too much, it will wake up and then be hard to get back to sleep-especially at 3am. If baby has had enough to eat, it may stir while you are going through the act of the swaddle but your baby will settle down quite quickly after being swaddled. If baby does not settle, then you know there is something else it needs. Most of the time it is that they need more milk or to be burped.
- Make sure baby’s diaper is dry. A very full diaper can disturb a sleeping baby and they may wake sooner than necessary.
- Pay attention to the temperature. Remember that baby only needs one more layer of clothing than you are wearing. The swaddle that I recommend uses 2 blankets and is very difficult for baby to get out of. If you don’t do the swaddle tight enough and they are able to loosen it, then your baby may wake up because it is cold or a blanket may cover your baby’s face. If your house is quite cool, place your baby in a onesie and then swaddle.
- Leave the leg area fairly loose. The swaddle is meant for the arms/body to be tight. Many people are discussing how swaddling can lead to hip dystocia, which is a misalignment of the hip joint. If you leave the bottom fairly loose, this is not an issue.
- Only swaddle for sleep! If your baby is alert, do not swaddle. Swaddling is a sleep tool so as soon as your baby is showing signs of sleep, that’s when you swaddle.
How to swaddle:
- The trick to my swaddle is using 2 blankets. It was originally shown to me by “The sleep Doula”. One blanket can be a regular receiving blanket and the other should be larger and preferably have some stretch to it. The Moses blankets are a good size but tend to not have very much stretch.
- Place the larger blanket on a non-slippery surface with the smaller receiving blanket on top. Place them with one corner at the top like a diamond and fold down the top slightly.
- Place your baby with neck at the fold.
- Take one side of the receiving blanket and wrap it around your baby’s arm and tuck under back. Repeat on other side and twist the blanket together under your baby’s back. Make sure that the arms are secured at the baby’s side and not under his/her back.
- Now you can take the larger blanket and wrap one side all the way around baby. Roll baby onto side so you can tuck it behind the back.
- Loosely fold up the bottom, keeping in mind that you want baby to be able to move the legs if they want.
- Grab other side under the blanket but close to the baby. Pull as you tightly wrap around baby as many times as blanket will allow.
- Your baby should now resemble a burrito 😉
Remember that if you are doing it right, your baby will probably have woken up by this point. That’s okay! Within 5-10 minutes your baby will probably be asleep. If he/she is not settling, than go through your check list of things like burping, feeding and changing. If baby is alert, don’t swaddle. Swaddle should be part of your sleep routine. When your baby is showing early cues that he/she is getting tired, that’s when you go through your sleep routine including your swaddle.
And lastly…PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. It will take some time but you will become a master swaddler in no time.