To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle?

baby sleep team how to swaddle a baby newborn sleep advice swaddle swaddling

Swaddling! A technique that is very close to our hearts. We have certainly tried our fair share of swaddle blankets/products and techniques and are quite obsessed with creating the perfect swaddle. We love a good baby burrito!

I myself am a fan of the arms up, snug as a bug classic muslin blanket kind of girl. While Conan is a can’t be bothered with the wrapping kind of Dad and every time goes back to the zip it quick style J

The ancient practice of swaddling has been around for hundreds of years. It can be described as the most effective transition from the womb to the outside world and it is the natural progression for a new baby to enter their 4th trimester.

There are so many benefits to swaddling your baby when they are born but it ultimately comes down to three things. Swaddling makes your baby:

  1. Safe: A ground-breaking Australian study showed that swaddling can reduce the incidence of SIDS by up to 1/3 (with baby sleeping on their back, before they can roll)
  2. Secure: Babies have a startle reflex (also known as the Moro reflex)and these sudden, jerky movements can wake up your baby or make your baby upset. So that nice snug swaddle will keep those jerky movements under control for a happy, content baby.
  3. Comfortable: Generally,babies sleep longer by being swaddled. They were snuggled up nice and tight in the womb and they love the sense of security and calm it brings.

Swaddling replicates the environment of the womb which is a feeling of security for a newborn baby. Reagan Moya Jones, the founder of Aden and Anais who has made swaddle blankets for millions of babies says "Swaddling replicates the universal feeling of security that all babies recognize. Swaddling works because it feels good and familiar"

After being in the womb for 9 months, when a baby is born earth side, they are in a completely different environment and out of their snuggly, cozy, warm safe place. When swaddled, this helps a baby immensely to immediately feel safe again.

Some experts say that being born may well be the most traumatic experience in a human’s life. Let’s try to imagine for a moment the transition that a baby goes through when they are born. For 9 months, they have been living and growing completely surrounded by a warm, cushy, dark, snug environment with loud whooshing sounds (their mama’s heartbeat and blood flow) which lulls them into a peaceful sleep the majority of the time. It’s no coincidence that for many pregnant women, when they go to bed and have stopped moving for the day, that their baby ‘wakes up’ and is ready to party and they get a lot of kicks and movement because they have stopped rocking their baby to a blissful slumber.

Fast forward to the actual birth of a baby (regardless of how they enter into the world), but they then have a complete stark contrast and shock to an environment that is cold, loud, bright, stimulating with so much going on! The reason why swaddling is so calming for a baby is because it is familiar to them.

When should you start swaddling your baby?

Babies should be swaddled from birth. As soon as they are born, they need the feeling of comfort and security and are happiest when the womb is recreated.

There are a wide variety of swaddling products available to choose from. Below are our recommendations:

  • A single muslin blanket measuring 47” x 47” /120cm x 120cm: Muslin is a breathable, lightweight, open weave fabric that keeps your baby warm without them overheating.  They also have multiple uses: burp cloth, cuddly/comforter, nursing cover, picnic blanket, etc.
  • Love to dream: For those parents who find themselves frustrated to master the art of swaddling their baby (just like Conan is), or they have a swaddle Houdini, Love to Dream swaddles up are an excellent option. No wrapping is involved and the swaddle simply includes an easy zip.
  • The Ollie Swaddle: Custom designed moisture-wicking fabric to reduce the risk of over heating. It also has velcro to be individualized to meet the need and size of the baby and easy access diaper changes.
  • Embé: Legs in and out swaddle sack. Has the versatility of legs in warmth, legs out cooling and heat dissipation to help keep your newborn baby girl or baby boy from overheating.

When should I stop swaddling my baby?

If you baby starts to roll, you must stop swaddling your baby immediately to ensure that their hands are free to push up to breathe if they roll on their stomach. If babies are swaddled when they can roll, it is a significant SIDS risk.

The most common age that babies are swaddled for is between 3-5 months of age. If your baby’s startle reflex has stopped by 3 months of age, you can start to transition your baby out of their swaddle.

Is there a specific way that I need to swaddle my baby?

The most common way to swaddle your baby is with their arms down. This technique is the universal renowned style of swaddling babies. You can however also use a swaddling technique with your baby’s arms up however it has been advised that this technique is more suitable for premmie babies. Both of these techniques can be used with a muslin swaddle blanket.

How you swaddle your baby also depends on what product you are using. Some parents absolutely swear that they have a swaddle Houdini so they are more suited to a product such as a Love to Dream. This product is also very suitable for babies that prefer to have their arms up and still control their startle reflex.

Part of your routine

Swaddling is also part of establishing a bedtime routine with your baby. It is a quiet time that you can take your baby into their room to get them ready for bed. This important part when you start your baby’s bedtime routine (which we will go into more detail in a later blog post) is to ensure the same steps are taken in the same order so that you are consistent. You will be creating a routine that becomes so familiar to your baby, they will then know the cues that it is time for bed. It will then become a sleep trigger for your baby.

Finally, always make sure that you place your baby on their back when they sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS and ensure that there is nothing in their crib.