To swaddle or not to swaddle, that is the question. Forget bottle or breast, the debate about whether to snugly wrap your baby in a blanket or cloth has never been such a hot topic.
Fans of the ancient practice hail swaddling as an easy and effective way to soothe babies and help them get a good night’s sleep. Experts believe some infants enjoy being swaddled because the cosiness mimics the close comfort of their mother’s womb.
What’s more, swaddling is also believed to reduce the effects of the Moro reflex, the sudden jerky movement of their arms and legs that babies have until they’re around four months.
But, wrapping your baby up like a burrito isn’t without controversy. In fact, the traditional practice can be pretty divisive, even among parenting experts.
The divide mainly stems from the safety aspects surrounding the technique and whether it could be a contributing factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The science is conflicting. Last year news headlines issued warnings that babies who are swaddled my have an increased risk of SIDS. Unsurprisingly, it caused a flurry among new parents. The news cited a study done by medical journal Pediatrics which noted that the risk of infant death goes up more than tenfold if a swaddled baby is either placed in or rolls to a face-down position, much more so than with a baby who is lying face-down and not swaddled. However, the same study also noted that sudden unexpected death in infants is rare.
But advocates of the practice argued that there is a time and a way to swaddle safely and point to previous studies which have indicated that the parenting method, if performed correctly, could in fact reduce the risk of SIDS.
Despite the conflicting evidence, the practice seems to have witnessed a revival of late, heck even George Clooney claims he’s already got the wrapping technique down in time to welcome twins with wife Amal Clooney.
“I know swaddling. I know what I’m in for,” the actor told Extra while promoting his latest movie ‘Suburbicon’, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week.
Well if it’s good enough for the Clooneys.
If you decide to give swaddling a try here’s our comprehensive guide to getting the technique right.
Do swaddle properly
Doreen Buckley, registered General Nurse and Midwife and parenting expert tells Yahoo Style UK the correct way to swaddle. “Fold the corner of the muslin blanket down into a triangle. Lay your baby on top, positioning the fold level with his neck. Place one of his arms across his chest at a 45-degree angle and bring one corner of the blanket snugly across his body. Do the same with the other side. I suggest swaddling for the first six weeks, but after the seventh week, when baby is first trying to get his hands to his mouth, help him out by bending his arms and leaving his hands exposed and close to his face and swaddle from under his arms.”
Don’t swaddle too tightly
It’s important to ensure baby’s hips and legs have plenty of movement. Limbs being too tightly constricted can lead to health complications, such as hip dysplasia.
“Improper swaddling by tightly wrapping your baby’s legs straight down may loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the hip sockets, leading to hip dysplasia,” explains Doreen Buckley. She also recommends taking care not to cover your baby’s head and face.
Do use an appropriate blanket.
Heavy blankets could cause your baby to overheat. “It’s very easy for babies to overheat when they are wrapped in layers, so it’s important to keep checking their temperature,” advises Izabela Minkiewicz, founder of Blue Almonds. “This is why it’s better to use a muslin; the fabric is much more breathable fabric is much more breathable.”
Raegan Moya-Jones, co-founder of aden + anais and author of Swaddle Love recommends their swaddle blankets as they are made with an open weave, breathable cotton muslin, which is designed to keep babies at the optimum temperature. “Babies will wake if they’re too hot and they will wake if they kick their sheets off in the night and are too cold,” she says. “A swaddled baby will remain at a constant temperature, ensuring a perfect night’s sleep. Using our over-sized swaddles which measure 120cm x 120cm rather than sheets also has the added benefit of being a safer alternative to cot blankets. Overheating or being suffocated by slipping underneath blankets has long been associated with cot death – swaddling blankets offer a far safer alternative, with their open-weave design, providing great peace of mind for parents.”
Do take your cue about swaddling from your baby
While many babies find swaddling relaxing and calming, others may get distressed if they can’t find their hands. If your baby continually seems upset when you’re trying to swaddle, it could be time to consider another practice.
Don’t swaddle while breastfeeding
Experts believe that babies like to naturally explore with their hands when breastfeeding and can latch on more naturally with the aid of their hands.
Do know when to stop swaddling
“This practice is only really for newborn and very young infants,” says Izabela Minkiewicz. “You will soon know when your baby has outgrown it! On average, this is as soon as they start wriggling and becoming more active it is time to move on. If your little one is strong enough, they may even start kicking out of their swaddling!”