Swaddling is the age-old practice of wrapping a baby snugly in a blanket or swaddling cloth to make it feel secure. Although it fell out of favour in the Western world for some years, many Eastern cultures and tribal people continued to use it. But now, swaddling has come back with a bang!
Swaddling: the secret of successful sleep
Mums of new babies know how happy and calm their babies become when they are held. They also recognise the startled reflex – where baby’s arms fly upwards – and which can waken even the most deeply sleeping baby in an instant. That’s why swaddling is so popular, since it creates for baby the feeling of being held and of being warm and secure.
Tizzie Hall is an international baby sleep expert, who has been working with babies and parents for over 18 years. She believes that most newborn babies love to be swaddled.
‘I always recommend swaddling a baby. I believe swaddled babies settle faster for two reasons.
‘First, babies come from a very confined environment (the womb) with little room for movement and would have felt as though they were being held very tightly.
‘Second, sometimes your baby’s jerky movements may wake or frighten him. I don’t believe babies realise at first that the hand that keeps appearing is theirs.
‘The only babies I have come across that don’t like to be swaddled are overtired babies. I feel it is even more important to swaddle an overtired baby to encourage him to sleep better.
‘There are many ways to swaddle a baby, and it can be daunting for a new parent to have to learn how to swaddle their new baby. Here’s the method that I use:
‘Fold one corner down so it is partly in a triangle. Place the baby with his head outside the folded down edge and his feet pointing to the opposite corner (make sure his shoulders are below the folded edge). Put his right arm straight down by his side and bring the left corner of the triangle over the baby, tucking it firmly under his bottom. Put his left arm down by his side and bring the right corner of the triangle over the baby and tuck it under his bottom again.
‘Swaddling a baby plays an important role in reducing the risk of cot death because it helps to keep your baby in the safe back-sleeping position. I recommend you swaddle your baby until he is at least six months or you notice he is attempting to roll swaddled. Some babies do not attempt to roll swaddled until as late as ten months. Your baby will roll outside bed a lot earlier than this, but you’ll only need to remove the swaddle when he shows signs of trying to roll in bed while swaddled.
‘If you follow my routines your baby will feel safe and secure, so you should not have a problem removing the swaddle. I suggest as soon as you notice your baby is trying to roll swaddled you take the swaddle off him at the next morning sleep.
‘However, if your baby is not in a good routine, I would recommend swaddling him until he is four months old, or when he starts to move more during his up time. This will need to be a slow transition. Because your baby will not feel as safe and secure as a baby in a routine, taking the swaddle away all of a sudden could cause problems. If you are going to take the slow approach to weaning your baby off the swaddle, you need to do it well before there is a risk to his safety. If you wait until your baby is older than four months, he might become tangled in or covered by the swaddle.
‘To wean a baby that is not on my routine off his swaddle start by taking one arm out of the swaddle for three nights, then the second arm out for three nights. Next, just put the swaddle around your baby’s waist for three nights and then take it away altogether. When you remove your baby’s swaddle I recommend you change the ‘tog’ (a measure of thermal resistance) of the safe sleeping bag your baby is sleeping in. I recommend you swaddle your baby over a 1 tog safe sleeping bag and when you remove the swaddle to change to a 2.5 tog safe sleeping bag. This means you will not need to adjust the bedding you are using over your safe sleeping bag.’
You can learn more about Tizzie’s routine in her new book, ‘Save Our Sleep: Helping your baby to sleep through the night’ or read her top sleeping tips at www.saveoursleep.co.uk
TOP TIPS FOR SWADDLING
- Never swaddle your baby too tightly as this can have a detrimental effect on her mobility and/or development later on
- Make sure that your baby doesn’t become too warm. Always use a think blanket or a muslin for swaddling and check her temperature at regular intervals
- Also make sure that she has plenty of room to move her legs up and down. If you swaddle her too tightly, she could potentially develop problems with her hip
- If your baby prefers to have her arms free, follow the instructions for swaddling as above, but tuck each blanket corner under her armpit rather than over her shoulders
- Stop swaddling your baby as soon as she starts to roll over onto her tummy while she’s sleeping, as, if she’s swaddled, she may have difficulty with breathing. Take your cue from your baby as to when it’s time to stop