Swaddling is an ancient tradition in many countries. The practice is based on the belief that a newborn feels secure and snug when swaddled, much like being in the mother’s womb. Though you learned swaddling from the hospital nurse or a family member, as a mom, you may have wondered many times if swaddling is a safe practice for your baby. Let us see if swaddling has any risks associated with it and is it a necessity.
What is swaddling?Swaddling is wrapping your baby’s body, hands, and legs in a light, breathable blanket or cloth, leaving out the neck and head. Swaddling has a calming effect on babies, and they are seen to sleep longer when swaddled.
How to swaddle a newborn baby?While there are various swaddling techniques, it is typically done by wrapping the infant lying on his/her back. Here are a few tips for safe swaddling:
- Use a thin, breathable material such as lightweight cotton or muslin cloth to swaddle your baby instead of heavy blankets or rugs. Do not overlayer since it can cause increased body temperature.
- Research suggests a cloth made from 85% nylon and 15% polyurethane. It will be stretchable and may improve the muscle tone of the baby when they are wrapped in it.
- Keep a check on the baby’s body temperature regularly when swaddled so that they do not get overheated.
- Do not cover your baby’s head and neck while swaddling.
- Your baby should always be swaddled and put on their back for safety. Do not place your baby to sleep on their front or side when swaddled.
- Be gentle. Do not tightly wrap the cloth or blanket. It is better to use a less tight swaddling technique such that your baby can move their knees and hips and rest their legs in a natural position (like frog legs).
Till what age can I swaddle my baby?Some schools of thought consider the first 3 months of a baby’s life to be the transition period after emerging into the outside world from the mother’s womb. Swaddling during these months makes the baby feel secure and cosy, similar to their mother’s womb.
Some studies show that babies up to two months of age sleep peacefully when swaddled. However, once your baby starts rolling over, at around two months old, there is a risk of accidental suffocation. You should stop swaddling as soon as you notice any signs of your baby starting to roll over.
What are the risks associated with swaddling?While swaddling has many benefits, some studies indicate that it is also associated with the following risks:
- Swaddling may increase the baby’s body temperature.
- Placing your baby on the stomach while being swaddled may lead to suffocation.
- Tight swaddling may increase the risk of respiratory infections.
- If their hips are wrapped tightly, the baby is at risk of hip dysplasia (hips are not formed properly) or hip dislocation due to the applied pressure.
- It is better not to swaddle your babies while breastfeeding, as babies find it difficult to get a comfortable position due to restricted movements.
What are the benefits of swaddling:Safe swaddling is beneficial for babies, as per some studies.
- Swaddling has a calming effect and promotes sleep.
- It prevents hypothermia.
- Preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units are separated from their mothers; swaddling can give them a cosy and comfortable feeling.
- Swaddling reduces the startling in babies caused by the flailing of their hands or feet, which may lead to babies sleeping for a longer time and waking up fewer times during sleep.
- It is seen to lower heart rates in some infants.
- Swaddling can reduce crying in infants who cry excessively.
- Swaddling may relieve infants' pain.
When done safely and correctly, swaddling is beneficial to infants until they turn two months old. Talk to your pediatrician regarding the risks and benefits associated with swaddling. Let your little one be as snug as a bug in a rug while they sleep.