Do you want to make sure your baby grows up in the best possible way?
Swaddling helps with your baby’s development, but too much of it can cause more harm than good. On average, new parents lose 109 minutes of sleep every night for the first year after having a baby.
Sometimes, that’s because they don’t know what they need to do to keep their babies comfortable. Swaddling a baby is one vital step to keeping your baby calm and at ease.
In our guide below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about swaddling a baby.
1. What Is Swaddling?
For new moms, birthing and taking care of your first baby can be frightening. Instinct is a powerful tool, but it won’t always be correct without experience. Each wrong move can agitate your baby and cause everyone in the home more stress than necessary.
Swaddling is a good way to get babies to calm down. Swaddling a baby is when you wrap a blanket around its body. Newborn infants feel comfortable when they’re wrapped in snug blankets.
This offers a feeling of safety, soothing, and comfort because it resembles a mother's womb. There are many other benefits of swaddling a baby, which we will discuss further below.
2. How to Swaddle a Baby
Swaddling a baby is simple. You can use a regular baby blanket to swaddle a baby. You can also find swaddle blankets with a better shape and form for swaddling.
Take a square blanket and spread it out flat. Fold one corner inside, but only small enough to have the same size as a baby’s head. Place your baby face up with the head above the corner you folded inside.
Stretch out the baby’s left arm and straighten it while holding him or her in place. Bring the left side of the fabric over the baby and tuck it between their right side and right arm. Take the baby’s right arm and stretch it over the right side of the fabric over your baby.
Tuck it under the left side of the baby’s body. Fold or twist up the bottom of the blanket. Leave some space for your baby to move around their legs and tuck the leftover fabric under one side.
The best way to swaddle a baby is to keep the upper part of the baby’s body snug. Meanwhile, the lower part of the swaddle must be loose enough to allow leg movement. We’ll discuss the reason behind this below.
3. Benefits of Swaddling a Baby
Because you tuck in their arms, babies are less likely to roll around. You can rest assured that your baby will have a better sleep quality.
This practice of swaddling can also save your baby’s life. Swaddling lowers the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To be more specific, SIDS occurs most often when a baby rolls onto its stomach while asleep.
Newborn babies also have the startle reflex or the Moro reflex. This newborn reflex is the normal response to new stimuli in the baby’s environment. You’ll notice that babes will stretch their arms and legs out when they get startled and then curl in again.
The Moro reflex is one of the survival reflexes that protect babies. When the Moro reflex gets triggered, the infant experiences a sensation of free-falling. This is what causes babies to stretch their arms out, often in an attempt to cling to their mothers.
Swaddling a baby can deactivate this reflex and keep the baby from crying or startling. You can also deactivate the startle reflex by placing the baby on his or her side or stomach. However, if you choose to do this, you must ensure that the baby’s airway is clear.
Newborn babies need at least 14 to 17 hours of sleep daily. Yet, the Moro reflex also causes babies to wake up and start crying during the night. When swaddled, your baby will stay calm and go right back to sleep.
This benefits the child and the parents, who can snag some extra recharge time.
4. Risks of Swaddling a Baby
Every parent needs to master how to swaddle a baby correctly. Otherwise, you put your baby at great risk of SIDS. In other cases, swaddling can lead to suffocation and infant death.
For example, you swaddle your baby but give it enough room to roll onto its stomach. This can cause suffocation and unexpected infant death. This can also happen if your baby's swaddle blankets are too tight.
If your swaddle is too loose, your baby’s arms can get free. The loose blankets can then cover the baby’s mouth and nose, which will lead to suffocation. A loose swaddle can also lead to SIDS.
When you swaddle your infant, check that your baby’s legs can bend up and go across each other. This is how they’re positioned in the womb, and this is the most comfortable position for them. If you don’t allow the baby to create hip movement in the swaddle, you can cause hip dysplasia.
5. How Long Do You Need to Swaddle a Baby?
Avoid swaddling your baby for too long. You may keep him or her from developing age-appropriate motor skills in time. If you wean swaddling too soon, you put your baby at risk of SIDS.
Most pediatricians' advice is to keep the swaddle on for at least 2 months after birth. You can extend this to 3 months. Babies start rolling on purpose at 4 months, so you need to have weaned the swaddling by then.
Don’t worry about the baby’s startle reflex. At 4 months, your child will start self-soothing. The startle reflex will also start decreasing at this age.
Give Your Baby the Best Care
That ends our guide on how long you need to swaddle a baby. Now you know the benefits and risks of swaddling a baby, plus how long you need to continue it. We hope you learned something useful from this short guide on swaddling.
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