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Would you like to learn how to swaddle so your baby sleeps longer?
Maybe this sounds familiar…
Your baby is not sleeping.
He struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep for long.
He only wants to sleep in your arms.
The minute you lay him down, he wakes up!
He hates the swaddle.
You are exhausted and frustrated!
Proper Swaddling Techniques to Save Your Sanity!
In this post, I am going to explain why many babies seem to dislike being swaddled and show you proper swaddling techniques that your baby will love!
Many parents claim that their babies hate being swaddled.
While it is certainly true that most babies initially complain when being swaddled, they usually settle down fairly quickly and fall fast asleep!
If your baby seems to dislike being swaddled, it’s probably because you are swaddling incorrectly!
Most Parents Swaddle Incorrectly!
The fact is, most parents don’t swaddle properly.
What do I mean?
Well, the most common swaddling mistake is not swaddling tight enough. Many parents are afraid of swaddling too snugly.
When your baby is loosely swaddled, she will most likely bust her arms out and startle herself awake.
In addition, swaddling loosely frustrates your baby and enables her to move her arms too freely, sometimes even pulling the entire swaddle up over her face!
Babies actually prefer a nice snug swaddle, which helps them feel safe, secure and warm.
Why Swaddling Works
All babies have a startling reflex, called a Moro reflex.
This is a built-in reflex that is triggered when a baby feels like she is falling, or otherwise feels unsafe.
This reflex is a good thing because it means that your baby has a healthy central nervous system.
However, when the startling reflex is triggered, it can startle your baby awake or prevent her from entering (or staying in) deeper sleep.
Why Tight Swaddling Works Better
A snug swaddle can REALLY help!
Many parents will say that “my baby hates the swaddle,” so they will abandon its use early on.
If this is you, I encourage you to give it another try!
The truth is…. MOST babies hate being put into a swaddle!
However, they will soon settle down and decide that they like the safe, secure feeling it provides.
Once inside, it reminds them of the womb, and keeps them feeling safe, warm and secure.
The best way to swaddle is arms in and down by their side.
Most babies will pull their arms up to their chest and that’s okay too.
Practice makes perfect… so practice your technique when baby is awake… and don’t be surprised if they complain at first!
The History of Swaddling
How do you swaddle your baby for better sleep?
As a postpartum doula, I have witnessed countless times “the miracle of the swaddle” in calming a fussy baby.
There is a reason that parents and healthcare workers use this age-old practice…. it works!
Swaddling has literally been used for centuries and by various cultures around the world.
Since the launch of the “Back-to-Sleep Campaign” in 1994, (now known as the Safe to Sleep Campaign) we have seen a resurgence in the widespread use of swaddling.
This is because babies tend to startle more easily in this sleep position.
Is it Safe to Swaddle?
When used properly, it is quite safe and effective in calming a baby. (See My Favorite Swaddling Tips below to find out more about safe swaddle use!)
There has been recent controversy over swaddling, however.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released the results of a 2016 study that called into question this age-old practice.
Swaddling and SIDS
Unfortunately, the study, which was a meta-analysis, was misrepresented in the news media.
While there are some potential risk factors with swaddling older babies, there is no proven connection between swaddling and SIDS.
Many healthcare professionals and newborn experts criticized the media’s interpretation of the study.
This article helps to explain the results of the study and puts it into proper perspective for parents.
It’s unfortunate that many parents were scared off by swaddling after that, when, in fact, swaddling is an evidence-based method of calming and soothing a baby that has been used for centuries!
My 7 Favorite Swaddling Tips!
1. Swaddle Snugly- Arms In!
Most parents don’t get the swaddle tight enough.
Make sure the swaddle is quite snug. I like to call it my “Baby Burrito wrap!”
Don’t be surprised if your baby complains at first!
Most babies act like they don’t like the swaddle, but quickly settle down to sleep.
If your baby acts like he hates the swaddle, it is probably because it is not tight enough! Yes… really!
2. Swaddle then Feed
For the best swaddling success, try placing your baby in the swaddle before the feeding.
After feeding and burps, wrap her arms up and hold her in an upright position for more burps, or until she is in a deeper sleep state.
If she is bottle-fed, it helps to wrap her arms before the feeding. (For breastfed babies, it’s best for them to have free use of their arms during the feeding.)
3. Swaddle Off the Shoulder
Another tip is to wrap the swaddle flaps lower, off-the-shoulder, so that is doesn’t ride up over your baby’s face!
It really helps to pull the bottom of the swaddle down before wrapping arms, so that the shoulder seam is resting on the shoulder.
The zipper swaddles are much easier to use and much less likely to cover up a baby’s face when the correct size is used.
4. Size Matters
It’s very important to use the proper size swaddle!
If it is too large, it can ride up over baby’s face and be unsafe.
It is also not possible to get a nice snug fit with a swaddle that is too large!
If the swaddle is too small, your baby will not be able to move his legs properly, which is not healthy for proper development.
5. Do Not Swaddle Older Babies
It is not safe to swaddle older babies.
Safe swaddling is only recommended for babies under 3 months.
Once a baby begins to roll and move more, they should be graduated from a swaddle into a sleep sack.
6. Keep Hips and Legs Loose
Do not swaddle your baby too tightly around the hips and legs.
This can cause hip dysplasia in babies or interfere with proper bone development.
Do make sure the swaddle is snug around your baby’s arms and chest. If it’s too loose, it can ride up over her face.
7. Use Convenient Swaddling Outfits
I prefer to use specially designed swaddling outfits rather than blankets.
It is so much easier to get it right!
Unless you are very experienced at swaddling, your baby will most likely bust right out of a blanket swaddle!
Make sure and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the swaddle that you choose.
See my favorite swaddle picks below!
My Top Picks for Infant Swaddles
There are some amazing swaddles to make swaddling easier.
These are my favorite ones here. Check them out!
The Ollie Swaddle is my ABSOLUTE favorite swaddle!
Don’t let the more expensive price scare you away, because it’s TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!
Most of the other swaddles have their flaws such as openings where baby’s arms can escape, having to un-swaddle for diaper changes and how quickly baby outgrows the swaddle.
For all other swaddles, you will need to buy a larger size as baby grows. This swaddle is one size fits all! No need to upgrade as baby grows.
It is also so well-made that this swaddle will easily last through several babies!
If you are into a more minimalist lifestyle, this swaddle is for you!
Is My Baby too Warm in the Swaddle?
Many parents are concerned if their baby will over-heat in a swaddle.
It’s a good idea to choose natural fibers like cotton when swaddling and take into consideration the temperature of your home.
If you have air-conditioning in the summer months, then using a fleece swaddle might be appropriate.
If however, your home is warm, then choose a light-weight muslin one.
A good test for baby’s temperature is to feel their back between their shoulder blades.
A baby may have cold hands and be perfectly warm otherwise!
When thinking about your baby’s body temperature, remember that they are probably not as warm as you are, since they are sleeping most of the time.
Keep in mind, for safe sleep recommendations, the swaddle takes the place of a blanket, so they probably appreciate the added warmth.
Be sure to use common sense and take into consideration your own unique home environment!
The Blanket Swaddle
Perhaps you are a bit nostalgic or prefer a DIY method!
You can also use a receiving blanket for swaddling. I am including a video with 3 different swaddling methods for blanket swaddling:
Great swaddling video link here:
Have you ever heard of bath swaddling when bathing your baby?
It’s true! Bath swaddling can be used to keep your baby cozy and warm during his bath!
Find out more in this post.
Safe Sleep Practices
It’s a very good idea for all new parents to be familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Safe Sleep Recommendations.
The AAP Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction are intended to help prevent SIDS and other tragic sleep-related deaths.
A desperate, sleep-deprived parent will find creative ways to get some sleep, but not every sleep situation is safe for your baby.
For example, a swing or an inclined chair is fine for supervised, daytime napping, but not recommended as safe alternatives for overnight sleep.
More Sleep Help!
Are you still struggling with a restless, sleepless or fussy baby even after perfecting the swaddle?
Maybe you are making these common new parent sleep mistakes?
Learn how to help your fussy baby with these tips:
30 Easy Sleep Tips for New Parents!
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The greatest challenge for most new parents is loss of sleep.
How can you get more sleep with your newborn?
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I teach new parents how to maximize their sleep during the postpartum period by sharing my favorite sleep strategies.
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It’s called 30 Sleep Hacks for New Parents: A Sleep Survival Guide for Parents of Newborns.
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What’s your favorite swaddle?
Share your thoughts in the comments!