Swaddling can be a very soothing for young infants, and mimics a similar security and coziness of the womb. Swaddling can also dampen the startle reflex.
There are lots of benefits for swaddling a baby for the first few months of life. It's important to know how to swaddle the right way and when to stop swaddling.
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HOW TO SWADDLE THE RIGHT WAY
1. DO swaddle your baby for soothing and sleep during the first few months of life, IF it works for your baby.
2. Make sure that the swaddle is snug, but not too snug. You should still be able to place a couple of fingers between the swaddle and your baby.
3.Secure your baby's arms. Babies have a startle reflex, which makes them feel like they are falling if their arms can move freely up and over their head.
4. Tuck in and secure any loose corners of your swaddle.
For safety reasons and to decrease risk of SIDS, you do not want any loose blankets near your baby's face. Young babies do not yet have the ability to move blankets off of their faces, if they accidentally become covered.
5. The swaddle should NOT be snug around your baby's hips and legs. Normal hip development can be negatively impacted if your baby's hips are swaddled so that his legs are close together.
Hip dysplagia can result, or pre-existing hip dysplagia can get worse. Please check out this post for more information about hip dysplagia.
The benefit of this classic swaddle is that it is easy to learn and a well known technique by many.
The main con of this technique is that some make the mistake of swaddling too tightly around the hips.
Pros of this technique include that the legs are free and the hips are maintained in the optimal frog leg position. This swaddle technique is especially great for babies with hip dysplagia.
A downside of this alternative swaddle is that it is more challenging to complete and takes a little longer to master.
WHEN TO STOP THE SWADDLE
You want to stop swaddling your baby when he begins to roll. This is especially true when your baby begins to roll from back to belly.
It is important to stop swaddling your baby at this point for safety reasons and to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Babies usually begin to to roll around 3-4 months. This is when you will want to transitioning away from the swaddle.
A lot of parents dread this moment because the swaddle worked so well! It allowed mom and dad to sleep a few extra hours in a row at night.
I know my husband and I prolonged getting rid of the swaddle as long as possible - we were just as attached to the swaddle as our daughter was!
I totally understand the panic of losing the swaddle, but let me give you a few ideas on how to transition away from the swaddle gradually...
HOW TO STOP SWADDLING WITHOUT LOSING SLEEP
1 Arm Out
For some babies, it works well to first transition 1 arm out, while keeping the other arm in the swaddle. The secured arm will continue to help dampen the startle reflex.
Continue with 1 arm out for a few days until your baby starts to get used to it, then start to transition the other arm out. I am not giving a specific time frame here because every baby and every family is different.
Next, leave both arms free, but you can continue to swaddle around your baby’s trunk and chest. Swaddling around a baby’s chest and trunk will not dampen the startle reflex, but will continue to give your baby that sense of security.
Swaddle Arms Up
You can also transition your baby from a more traditional swaddle to sleep sack that swaddles the arms up. The arms are still contained, but they are up by the baby's shoulders and face instead of at his side.
The startle reflex will still be dampened, but not as much as a traditional swaddle.
With this swaddle up sleep sack, the arms can zip off, to be adapted to a classic sleep sack over time.
Even with swaddling the arms up, you will eventually need to transition away from swaddling all together. The zip off sleeve allow you to remove one arm at a time, to again allow for a gradual transition to no swaddle.
All in all, the swaddle is a great tool for parents and babies! We all need as much sleep as we can get in those early months, and the swaddle can definitely work wonders.
I hope you can use some of these tips and tricks to help you through your swaddle journey!