Learning to swaddle an infant goes beyond just finding the best blanket and wrap, and comes down to technique. To help a child cross the bridge from life inside their mother to that outside it, an initial measure of mimicry is required.
The security of a perfectly wrapped blanket imitates the tight quarters of a womb. This in turn promises a smooth transition for the baby. Jokingly called ‘the fourth trimester’, the first few weeks post-birth are a steep learning curve for the parents.
So as you prepare to brace for impact, let us help arm you with the knowledge you need when it comes to swaddling a baby.
Why is Swaddling Important?
Swaddling ensures sound sleep. Usually, babies sleep in 3-4 hour intervals but when wrapped securely, they fall into a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
This kind of sleep assists the infant to dwell into dreams for longer without waking up, while simultaneously promoting faster brain development.
Moreover, by drawing the limbs in, swaddling inhibits the newborn’s startle reflex, which often disturbs them in their sleep. If you’re not on board already, bundling up the child in a blanket has also been proven to soothe their tantrums.
Creating a familiar environment (similar to that of a womb) makes the child feel calm and settled. It also gives tired parents a window of opportunity for some well-needed rest. Last but not the least, a critical advantage is the reduced risk of SIDS.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is usually brought on as the baby either changes positions or sleeps on his stomach. A correctly swaddled baby sleeps on its back, face-up, and is not able to turn over as easily.
How Do You Swaddle a Baby?
First of all, lay out a blanket in a diamond shape on a preferably soft surface. Form a small fold over the top corner. Above that folded corner, place your baby’s head gently, face-up.
Now taking the left corner across the body, tuck it underneath the baby’s back on the right side. At the end of this step, the baby’s left hand will be secured with the right hand still free.
Moving further, place the bottom corner over the baby’s feet. In case of excessive fabric reaching the child’s face, fold twice. Bring the right corner around the baby, and tuck it underneath the back on the left side.
This will leave only the neck and face exposed. To test if the baby is not wrapped too tightly, try and slip your hand underneath the blanket and the baby’s chest.
Important Swaddling Tips
There is a higher risk of SIDS if your swaddled baby sleeps face-down. With restricted movement, if the baby still manages to turn over during sleep, it is better to unwrap him/her immediately.
Swaddling can also impede physical development if done constantly. It should only be limited to the baby’s hours of sleep. The infant needs time to move around for it to become stronger and develop crucial motor skills.
Three months is the recommended time to gradually stop swaddling the infant. This is because, with passing days, the baby’s movement increases. Consequently, this then poses a higher risk for the infant to end up on its stomach while swaddled.
In order to slowly phase out your baby from the habit, try doing it one limb at a time. For instance, start with only letting your baby move his right arm free, then the left and so on, and so forth.
The Bottom Line
Even Jesus was said to be swaddled in a cloth when born. So it’s not surprising that many parents put their faith in this centuries-old tradition when welcoming their own children.
Swaddling makes a path for the baby to comfortably adjust and aids their first interaction with the environment around them.