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I am a big fan of swaddling your newborn. Why? Because…generally speaking… a swaddled newborn is a happy newborn. HOWEVER… did you know that there are pros and cons of swaddling a newborn?
Yes, and I want to clarify a few things about newborn swaddling and skin-to-skin contact.
Are there times when newborns should NOT be swaddled?
In this post, I am going to share with you when you should NOT swaddle your newborn and also list the pros and cons of newborn swaddling.
Should swaddling ever take the place of skin-to-skin contact during the newborn season? The short answer is NO.
Let me explain…
Skin-to-skin needs to take priority
In the early hours and weeks after birth, swaddling should always take second place to skin-to-skin time with mama!
In fact, ask your birthing team to place your newborn skin-to-skin on your chest immediately after birth. (Fortunately, many hospitals now routinely follow this practice, but it’s still a good idea to include this request in your birth plan, just in case!)
In some hospitals, your baby many be immediately placed into a swaddle instead of on your chest. Find out!
It’s a good idea to learn your hospital’s standard newborn protocols before your baby’s birth. Also, make sure that you understand your rights as parents to refuse or adapt any of your hospital’s newborn care procedures.
If your hospital is not willing to work with your reasonable requests… it’s okay to find another hospital!
Don’t Swaddle During the “Miracle Hour”
The first hour after birth is often referred to as the “miracle hour” because your baby will usually be in a very sweet “quiet alert state” immediately after birth.
You don’t want to miss out on this special bonding time with your newborn!
Holding your baby skin-to-skin will be the best way to interact with him while he takes in all the sights and sounds of his new world. It’s such a precious time!
It’s also the very best way to initiate breastfeeding. In fact, many babies will self-latch when allowed this uninterrupted time on their mother’s chest.
Learn more about the miracle hour in this post.
The Benefits of skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact has so many HUGE benefits for both mom and baby! In fact, there are significant benefits for dads too.
In a perfect world, mom and baby should enjoy hours of skin-to-skin snuggles, long breastfeeding sessions and uninterrupted bonding time together.
When moms and newborns follow the 5-5-5 postpartum recovery rule, these long skin-to-skin sessions are more likely to happen!
But, when a baby spends too much time in the swaddle during the early weeks, she (and mom) miss out on this amazing evidence-based bonding time!
Because it is not always possible to keep baby skin-to-skin, especially during overnight sleep, swaddling is the next best thing for your newborn.
Related: What is Kangaroo Care?
Related: Why You Need a Newborn Care Plan
The pros and cons of swaddling a newborn
Okay… let’s dive into the pros and cons of swaddling your new baby.
Although some of the “cons” may seem really scary, the truth is that research overwhelmingly reaffirms the overall safety of proper newborn swaddling. The key to always remember is to use the swaddle appropriately!
If you have specific concerns about the appropriate use of the swaddle, talk with your baby’s doctor to discuss these concerns.
Pros of swaddling a newborn
- Swaddling helps newborns sleep better!
- Swaddling reminds your baby of the womb
- It makes a newborn feel safe and secure
- A swaddle keeps your baby warm and cozy
- Swaddling helps babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer
- Babies wake less frequently when swaddled
- Swaddles help babies transition through sleep cycles without waking prematurely
- The swaddle prevents the triggering of the Moro reflex which often startles a baby awake
- Swaddling can calm a fussy baby
- Swaddling eases baby’s transition from womb to world
- The swaddle can mimic the feeling of being held, reducing baby’s stress
- A swaddle takes the place of a blanket to keep baby safely warm
- Swaddling prevents a baby from scratching his face
- A swaddle keeps newborns in a safe sleeping position
Cons of newborn swaddling
- Swaddling can interfere with skin-to-skin, bonding and breastfeeding during the early days
- A swaddled baby may sleep too long and miss necessary feedings
- Over-use of a swaddle can take the place of essential human touch
- Babies can overheat in a swaddle that is too warm
- Incorrect swaddling can increase risk of hip dysplasia or suffocation
- Swaddling may interfere with your baby’s feeding cues
- Swaddling may lead to a baby’s decreased arousal which may increase risk for SIDS
- Newborns will eventually need to be weaned off a swaddle
Want to learn more about the hows and whys of swaddling?
I have written a much more extensive post about the “whys” and “hows” of swaddling. How to Swaddle Your Baby Like a Pro: Swaddling Tips for Better Sleep!
My favorite newborn swaddles…
All swaddles are NOT created equal!
I’d love to hear from you!
What are your thoughts or questions about newborn swaddling? Please leave a comment. 🙂