To swaddle or not to swaddle

What is swaddling?

Swaddling is the process of wrapping your baby in a cloth from below their head down. It has been used throughout history to calm babies and it is said to give them a feeling of being in the restricted space that they knew for 9 months (the womb). It takes a bit of practice to fold your piece of cloth into an origami baby den and do a successful swaddle. I practiced with a doll and blanket first as I didn’t want my first attempt to be at 3 AM trying to calm my daughter down and not knowing what I was doing.

Once you have the method understood it’s fast and I found it pretty effective initially when she was a newborn. Some people disagree with the method and wouldn’t use it at all. Hopefully, in this article, I can show you the pro’s and con’s of swaddling your baby and you can decide what is best for you.

You can use any blanket or cloth of your babies for the purpose of swaddling, but my particular favorite was muslin cloth as it stopped my little one from overheating.

Should I swaddle my baby?

There is research that suggests swaddling a baby is a great idea and other research that suggests doing it isn’t a good idea. One of the main concerns if not done correctly is hip dysplasia. I have put a short video below from a hip dysplasia charity that explains this in a bit more depth.

The process

From the video above you will probably have an understanding of how to swaddle your baby and how the folding process goes. But the basic process is outlined below:

  • Lay the blanket or muslin cloth out in a diamond shape, so a corner facing up, one down and one to the left and right.
  • Fold the topmost point over to create a straight flat edge for your baby to rest its neck on.
  • Hold their right arm at the side of them, pull the left side of the cloth around and over their body and tuck it under their left arm.
  • Roll the baby to your left, this will allow you to fold and excess blanket under their back.
  • This can be securely tucked in, but the most important thing is to make sure that babies hips can move up and out. Babies do a lot of kicking and thrusting and restricting this movement is what causes the hip dysplasia as discussed in the above video.
  • Next, hold the babies left arm down and in place and pull the bottom corner of the blanket over their left shoulder. Again tucking in any excess material.
  • Finally, pull the material from the blanket that is left on your right-hand side across the front of their body and tuck it behind their back.

You should now have a nicely tucked in baby, that feels content and safe. Please ensure you check again that babies hips can move up and out, this is very important!

Why not swaddle?

There have been various pieces of research to suggest that swaddling a baby can have negative effects. These include:

  • Risk of cot death
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Increased early weight loss

The issues above I see arising if swaddling is used constantly as a permanent position and state to have your baby in. Some people use swaddling as a method of keeping their baby still whilst breastfeeding. Babies like to wriggle about, hold on and be with you if you restrict them they aren’t getting what they need. Likewise using swaddling as a method to get your children to settle in bed each night is probably a situation where the above-associated risks could come into play.

One of the side effects associated with swaddling which can directly link to the above risks is overheating. Your babies body temperature can increase fairly quickly and wrapping them in a blanket can increase this risk. You need to be aware of how many layers of clothing your baby is wearing before swaddling them and also what material you are swaddling with. I always used muslin cloth as it is light and breathable.

Keeping safe

There are a few basic things to ensure you do should you decide to swaddle your baby.

  • Ensure they are the correct temperature, this can be helped by using a muslin cloth.
  • Do not cover your babies head as part of the swaddling.
  • NEVER place your baby on its belly when it has been swaddled.

Over to you

Whether you decide to swaddle your baby or not is up to you. Personally, I found it something that worked when I needed it in the middle of the night on occasion. I would try some of the other tactics that I had in my arsenal and discussed in my how to stop a baby crying article first. But failing that I knew I had it as an option.

I have pointed out some of the pro’s and con’s above. If you decide to go ahead and try it, get some practice in first and make sure you abide by the keeping safe guidelines.

Good luck,

Francesca x

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