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Warm and Cozy: Keys to Swaddling

Newborns face a loud, bright, cold new world and swaddling can be a great technique for helping calm new babies.  Swaddling is the practice of gently wrapping a baby in a lightweight cloth to create a warm, cozy environment that helps prevent them from being frightened by her own startle (Moro) reflex.  By mimicking the secure embrace of mommy’s belly, swaddling can help sooth a fussy baby and can become an invaluable part of baby’s naptime routine.

There are a number of techniques for swaddling, but no matter what technique you choose here’s what you need to remember:

1) Choose a soft, lightweight, breathable textile like a loosely woven cotton cloth.  Such fabrics allows baby to stay warm and comfortable without overheating.  Avoid heavy fabrics and blankets that may be a suffocation risk should the swaddle come undone.

2) Larger swaddling cloths work better than small ones.  Larger cloths can be folded to the perfect fit, but smaller ones may not securely envelop your baby making it easier for you little one to wiggle free from the wrap.

3) Don’t swaddle too tight.  Swaddling in a way that pins the legs down can loosen the hip joint over time and increase the risk of hip dysplasia.  Your pediatrician will certainly screen your baby for hip dysplasia, but help reduce this risk by allowing the leg and hips to move freely within your swaddle wrap.

4) Back to sleep.  For years we’ve been told to put babies on their back while sleeping, and the same holds true for babies who are swaddled.  Remember, placing sleeping babies on their backs in a crib free of any loose blanket, pillows, and toys reduces the risk of SIDS.

5) The ability to swaddle will naturally decrease over time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies stop being swaddled past 2 months old - before they learn to roll themselves over.   Don’t worry though, there are number of sleep sacs and other products out there that will continue to comfort your sleeping baby as they grow past their swaddling days.