You have just nursed your newborn after giving him or her a lukewarm sponge bath. You look forward to an hour or two of rest after laying your infant in the crib to sleep. Sadly, it has just been a few seconds of shuteye on your part when your baby becomes fussy and starts to cry for no apparent reason.
Say goodbye to that rest as the crying will definitely not cease for quite some time. As you comfort your baby, you might find yourself wondering if anything is wrong with it. How can you get it to stop crying and start sleeping?
Have you heard of swaddling, mom?
Swaddling is the art of wrapping infants’ bodies snugly using a blanket, with only their heads peeking out of the wrap. It’s a technique used by moms for centuries to give their infants that calm, soothing sensation similar to when they were in the womb for months.
Swaddling is a fairly common practice in North America. In fact, nine out of 10 babies are swaddled during infancy. Experienced doulas would recommend and teach new moms how to safely swaddle their babies.
To help you visualize what swaddling is all about, think of a burrito and how all the ingredients snugly fit in the burrito wrap. To keep things in place, the burrito is securely wrapped so that ingredients do not fall out as you take a bite out of it. When you swaddle your baby, it’s like wrapping them up snugly and securely just like a burrito.
Why swaddle a baby?
Swaddling helps calm your infant and to give them a feeling similar to when they were in your womb. Keep in mind that your womb is your baby’s first home, so if they feel the same sensation, they will be more relaxed.
Swaddling helps your baby gently transition from your womb to the big and oftentimes scary outside world for your newborn. It helps calm them down when they start to become fussy or when they go into a crying fit. Swaddling babies also makes them sleep better, giving new moms a bit more time to rest too.
New moms also have to know that there is such a thing as a startle reflex in infants. Any loud noise or abrupt movements easily startle a baby. Babies then go into a crying fit as they wake up suddenly from sleep. Swaddling infants serves as a motor restraint to avoid triggering an infant’s startle reflex.
Doula tips on when and how to swaddle your baby
You may now be thinking that swaddling seems a fairly good idea. How do you try it out?
Fortunately, help from our doulas is on the way. These tips from our trained and experienced doulas who have mastered and perfected the art of swaddling will help you do it properly and perfectly.
Tip 1: Start ‘em young!
The best time to start swaddling your baby is right away. Swaddling can be done as soon as you bring your newborn home with you.
Remember, just before delivery, infants are kept snug and tight in your womb. Swaddling babies soon after is an extension of the environment that is familiar to them.
For infants who are experiencing the outside world for the first time, the vastness and unfamiliarity of the space they now belong to can feel scary. Being swaddled allows them to have the experience of being in a snug and tight space as they grow accustomed to the outside world.
Tip 2: Keep it snug.
The key to a good swaddle and a calm and comfortable baby is to keep things snug for your infant. Keep in mind that swaddling is not just covering your infant with a blanket. It is wrapping their whole bodies comfortably tight with only their heads peeking out of the wrap.
We also do not want infants’ wrapped too tightly as this may restrict their breathing. And if their legs and hips are wrapped too tightly for a prolonged period of time, it may also cause hip development issues.
Find a blanket made of a material that is gentle for the sensitive skin of babies. Make sure also that it will not get too warm to avoid exposing your baby to unnecessary heat.
Tip 3: Do it safely.
There are safety issues in swaddling, especially if it is done incorrectly and or when babies develop motor skills that allow them to roll over their bellies. Infants that are wrapped too tightly may develop respiratory issues. If the blanket material used keeps too much heat in, your baby will feel discomfort.
The ideal position for babies when they are swaddled is to lay them on their backs. This ensures that they can breathe comfortably without restrictions on airflow. You or your partner can take turns checking on your baby if you will leave them swaddled overnight.
Tip 4: Practice makes swaddling perfect.
As they say, practice makes perfect. This applies to swaddling too. New moms do not have to wait for their newborns to come home to start practicing swaddling. A doll and a blanket are good ways to start practicing your swaddling skills.
Practicing allows new moms to become skilled at swaddling even before the arrival of their babies. And since it’s a doll, you don’t have to worry about making fatal mistakes. You can also practice anytime you feel like it.
Tip 5: Know when to stop swaddling.
The general rule is that swaddling can be done until babies are 3 to 6 months young. It is during this period that babies can be weaned off from swaddling.
New moms have to keenly observe the movement of their babies during this period. When moms notice that their babies begin to roll over their bellies, it is time to stop swaddling. While swaddling is generally safe, there is a small but significant risk of harm to babies as they age and acquire the ability to roll over on their bellies.
Also, you wouldn’t want them getting too used to the sensation of being in your tummy, since that’s not how the real world is, anyway!
Is swaddling for you and your baby?
Deciding whether swaddling is for you and your baby is up to you new moms. Use your motherly instinct along with a sprinkling of common sense. Hone your swaddling skills through practice and reap the benefits for you and your infant.
If you feel that your newborns will do well even without swaddling, then that is an ok choice to make too. The health and wellbeing of your baby, and yours too, should be your topmost priority.
We at Northeast Doulas support new moms who are going all-in for swaddling their newborns. All our trained and experienced postpartum and infant care doulas have mastered it. We would love to share our swaddling knowledge and skills perfected through the years with moms like you.
If you would like to know more about swaddling to help you make the right decision, our doulas will be delighted to talk with you. Reach out to us today.
We look forward to hearing from you!