What is swaddling?
Swaddling your baby is one of the best things you can do for your newborn. In ancient times, mothers utilized the swaddling method for carrying their babies around- a tradition that, even centuries after, is still very much in use. It has been such a prominent practice due to its helpful and convenient method of keeping your baby close and helping them get settled for sleep.
Although swaddling has been proven to soothe and calm your baby, any mother must be aware of its risks. Most importantly, swaddling a baby too tightly and for extended lengths of time can cause physical problems. Below are a few must-knows about times in the day you should be taking a break from swaddling and the effects of not doing so.
Swaddling during naps and nighttime
Prominent in the development of newborns is association. Besides food and satisfaction being connected to you, your baby will also strongly associate the act of being swaddled with naps and bedtime. Over a short length of time, swaddling will recognize being wrapped tightly by a blanket as a sign that their nap time is approaching. This particular time of the day is when swaddling is perhaps most important, as the strong associations make for a more manageable settle-down period and a night of more relaxed sleep. However, during the hours in which your baby is awake and moving around, keep them unswaddled for this exact reason.
Knowing when not to swaddle
One key piece of information to take away from swaddling is to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. As stated above, swaddling is a way to calm down your baby and let them know it is time for nap time. The tight band around their body means they are cozy and feel safe and secure. A common mistake is to swaddle your baby to keep them warm, a feeling which is often associated with safety and sleep. However, warmth achieved via swaddling may result in long periods spent in a swaddle, which bears its risks in terms of the baby’s motor development. To ensure this does not happen, swaddle when your baby’s nap time arrives and in the night.
Another time to take your baby out of the swaddle is during breastfeeding. During this crucial mother-baby moment, babies need their limbs out of the swaddle to breastfeed. This is because they need their hands and fingers to be able to find the nipple and then be able to breastfeed. Hands are also required to latch onto the nipple properly. Without it, the child may not see the correct area, or it may take longer. Additionally, having handed out swaddling bands during breastfeeding so they can locate the nipple also promotes exploration.
Also, in terms of breastfeeding, the baby may get too hot, which can cause them to fall asleep. As stated earlier in this article, babies make strong associations with sleep and swaddling. Henceforth, the swaddle means they should be sleeping, and you do not want a baby to be sleeping when it is time for their food. Additionally, a baby communicates through their hands when they are hungry and have had enough milk. It is therefore essential to be able to see hunger cues.
Risks of swaddling
If you keep your baby swaddled for too long, there can be detrimental effects to your child. As the wrap is so tightly bound, it prevents your child’s limbs from moving. As we know, the first few years of a child’s life are integral to motor skills development. So, imagine if your child is tightly wrapped to their body in a sleep-like position for many hours at a time. They will not be able to use their limbs and develop muscles in the way other babies would. In addition to this restriction, babies need to be able to use their hands and feet. This is because babies need to explore their surroundings and get to know themselves, and they cannot get a grasp of their form if they cannot see it. Your baby will mostly explore new environments, surfaces, or textures with their hands, so they need to be able to reach out and learn that they can grab and feel things with some of their limbs.
Listed below are a few more risks associated with swaddling.
- SID’s- sudden infant death syndrome is sometimes brought on by loose blankets in the crib, so ensure your baby is swaddled correctly before putting them to bed. This loose swaddling could cause a strangulation hazard and injure or hurt your baby.
- Motor development- it is integral that your child is out of the swaddling phase when they are rolling over. If your baby is still in swaddles, it will hinder their motor development significantly.
- Hip joint misalignment- swaddling your baby too tight to itself will not allow for proper hip movement. Failure for a baby to do so will result in damage to the cartilage in the hips.
In conclusion, swaddling your baby is highly beneficial in promoting healthy and calm sleep and helping to calm your baby down. However, as is evident, swaddling must not be done for long periods. It hinders motor development and limb exploration, which is integral to the child’s growth mentally and physically. Alongside this, wrapping your baby’s limbs tightly to their body means that there is an increased risk of SID and hip joint misalignment. Henceforth, swaddling should only be done during nap times and night times when sleeping due to a baby’s power of association. Practiced by mothers for centuries, swaddling is indeed a great way to form that connection with your baby, but, like most things, it comes with its risks if not executed correctly.