You will hear a lot of different opinions about swaddling, but we have studied all the information and concluded that for the first three months, a baby needs to be swaddled any time he or she is asleep.
Babies are born with a fear of falling that causes them to cry out and fling their arms and legs into the air at random times. This makes them feel very insecure and also encourages a wind-milling action with arms and legs that can work a baby into a crying spell for no apparent reason.
We recommend the Harvey Karp method of swaddling, as described in his book and DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block, because it produces a snug wrap with a V-neck opening, which won’t work its way up over the baby’s face. You’ll need LARGE swaddle blankets to properly do this kind of swaddle. Another excellent swaddler is The Miracle Blanket, which truly is a miracle and makes swaddling a totally effortless endeavor.
The swaddlers with velcro closures don’t work as well as swaddling cloths or the miracle blanket. They don’t really keep a baby’s arms inside, and also there is a chance the front can edge up over the baby’s face, as they don’t make a V-neck the way Karp-style swaddling does.
Here are a few questions that might come to you when you begin swaddling your baby.
- “My baby doesn’t like being swaddled.”
Many babies cry while the swaddling is happening, but calm immediately when the swaddling is finished. It’s the process of swaddling that he doesn’t like, but being snugly enclosed in a swaddle is something he will love!
- “My baby wants his arms out of the swaddle.”
Newborns through two-month-olds sometimes do seem to be trying to extricate their arms. Babies were in utero with arms across their chests until they were born. Swaddling with arms down to their sides accustoms them to have arms outreaching, so that by three months they can comfortably reach and develop eye-hand coordination. (Preemies should be swaddled with arms on chests until they reach their gestational due date, and from then on, with arms down.)
- “My baby needs his arms and legs free to exercise them.”
He doesn’t need to be exercising while he is asleep. Only swaddle your baby when he needs to go to sleep. Studies show that babies sleep as much as 50% longer when swaddled, because they feel so secure and their innate fear of falling is not activated.
Swaddle your baby, he will love it. It reminds him of that tiny warm home he came from!
Triangle Mothercare doulas are trained to answer most of your questions about the development and care of newborns and to offer resources for locating more information if you have special needs.