The benefits of swaddling a newborn
Most adults know the feeling of dropping off to sleep then suddenly jolting awake – well babies have this too (the startle reflex) but at a much more acute level and often wake themselves up with their flailing limbs. Swaddling is said to help prevent this as it keeps their limbs gently wrapped up.
There’s also the idea that the first three months of a baby’s life is the ‘fourth trimester’, where they’re transitioning from life inside to outside the womb. Swaddling is thought to help with this transition, as it creates a warm, snug and secure feel.
How to swaddle a newborn
The National Childbirth Trust has created a list of swaddling safety tips, below:
1. ‘Use thin, breathable materials such as cotton-receiving blankets, cotton muslin wraps’, or specialised cotton-winged baby swaddles. Don’t over layer them.’
2. ‘Don’t swaddle your baby above their shoulders.’
3. ‘Wrap your baby firmly but gently (not too tightly). Tight swaddling that stops your baby's hips and knees moving freely is not recommended as it could cause hip dysplasia.’
4. ‘Make sure your baby is able to move their hips and knees freely to kick. Your baby’s legs should be able to fall into a natural position (like frog legs).’
5. ‘Always put your baby to sleep on their back. Never on their front or side.’
6. ‘Check your baby’s temperature regularly to make sure they don’t get too hot. Check they’re wearing suitable clothes for the weather.’
7. ‘Swaddling should only be introduced when your baby is a newborn, and stopped as soon as they show signs that they’re learning to roll over.’
However, if swaddling isn’t done correctly it can be dangerous, so it is crucial to learn the proper technique from a healthcare professional.
1) NCT, Swaddling a baby: the benefits, risks and seven safety tips, https://www.nct.org.uk, last accessed 6 August 2020