At Baby Sleep Science we consider swaddling your newborn baby to be an almost essential component to sleep!
The Science: Newborns have an immature startle reflex. They also spend much of their time in REM sleep and, unlike older children and adults, do NOT have REM sleep paralysis. This means during REM sleep, your baby will essentially act out his dreams by making movements, noises, and even cry outs. Both the startle reflex and the REM sleep movements can be disruptive to sleep, and a swaddle can help – not to mention the cozy snuggle factor for your baby!
The Sleep: Naturally, we’ve heard all the common dilemmas and excuses (“she hated it”, “it was too hard”, “he wanted his fingers”, “my daycare wouldn’t allow it”, etc) and we love to help families work through these roadblocks and find safe, effective ways to swaddle their newborns. Below you will find a brief overview on swaddling and safety and some of our favorite swaddling products.
Swaddling and Safety:
Although a very effective sleep cue and sleep protector, swaddling can carry risks if done improperly. Take a look at the following tips on swaddling and always be sure to use your swaddle product in the way the manufacturer suggests.
The key is to have your baby’s swaddle snugly securing her arms so she won’t be able to wiggle free and pull loose fabric up around his face – which is definitely unsafe! You want the blanket or wrap tight enough to be effective, but not so tight it’s constricting breathing or chest movements. You should be able to easily slide your flat fingers between the swaddle and your baby.
Ideal sleep temperature ranges from the mid sixties to about 72 degrees F, but that’s only half the story because what your baby is wearing matters too! A swaddle will contain some of your baby’s body heat so be careful of over-bundling and overheating your newborn, which can increase the risk of SIDS. Assess your baby’s core temperature by putting a couple of fingers down her clothes to her bare chest or back when she sleeps. She should feel warm and dry at the core, not hot and clammy or sweaty and not cold. Her nose, ears, and fingers may feel cool due to more immature circulation but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s cold. Avoid hats but do keep little feet covered during times of sleep!
Swaddling gets a bad rap when it comes to hip dysplasia and many parents express concerns to us about this topic. When you swaddle your baby, use a blanket or product that allows for hip movements. You want your baby to be able to happily thump those legs up and down against the mattress all she wants, and be able to “frog” her legs up to the side if that’s comfy too. Avoid swaddling legs tightly together and do give plenty of supervised floor and tummy time during the day as well!
Techniques vary! What you see Meg doing in the UTube clips below might be slightly different from what you do and might be slightly different from how Meg does it the next time! The basics are the same though: arms down at the sides but not pinned under your baby’s sides, snug but not too tight, wrap around chest, not neck, no bumpy wrinkles under your baby’s back or bum, and a loose enough pocket for the legs to move and thump!
How Long to Swaddle?
Currently the AAP hasn’t made an official statement but the lead author of the SIDS task force suggests in an online statement not swaddling past 2 months because some babies can roll that early. We always like to bring you current information and encourage you to make an informed decision about your parenting choices. Most parents we work with do decide to swaddle for longer than 2 months, especially if the startle reflex is still pronounced, but do be sure to stop swaddling when your baby is showing signs of learning to roll. A swaddled baby who rolls onto her tummy would be in an unsafe situation.
Our Favorite Swaddle Products (always use products as recommended by the manufacturer):
Miracle Blanket – best for babies about 6-8 weeks and up who are not rolling. Although it seems cumbersome at first, the Miracle Blanket is very effective, especially for strong babies who are known to break out of Velcro style swaddles.
Aden and Anais Muslin Blankets – big, soft, and stretchy – worth the price! Try the A and A “Issie” for older babies as a great first lovey too!
Aden and Anais Easy Swaddle – muslin swaddle bag with arm flaps
Halo Sleep Sack Swaddle – Very easy to use. Downside is that strong babies may be able to break through the Velcro after a few washings
Woombie – allows for more movement, but very easy to use during the day for naps.