Have you ever heard of swaddling? It's a way of keeping your baby warm and cosy... by wrapping him like a burrito!
Yes, you've read right. Mums today are all about burrito-ing their babies, but this isn't just some new, unfounded trend. Swaddling has many benefits for your baby and it makes him feel warm, safe and protected... Almost as if he or she still were inside your womb!
In the following article, we're going to explain what swaddling is, we're going to teach you how to do it right and, of course, provide a comprehensive list of its multiple benefits. If you've never heard about this baby-wrapping technique yet, don't miss the following lines!
What is swaddling?
It may be trending now, but swaddling has been around for a while. It consists in snuggling him or her in a blanket with his o her arms and legs inside it. Not only will he feel nicely surrounded and protected, as well as warm, but this swaddle wrap protects him against his Moro reflex or startle reflex.
The Moro reflex is something completely normal, but it can be annoying as sometimes prevents our little one from sleeping well. As you probably know, babies are born with some reflexes or involuntary movements that help them during their first weeks and months in the world. The Moro reflex, also called startle reflex, pushes the baby to open his little arms with their palms up whenever they feel a lack of support. It's good that they do this, because it means that their development is on point, but it can, as its name says...startle them. Whenever they feel they lack support, for instance, when you're putting them in the crib, they can startle and wake up... And this isn't likely to happen if you're a master in the art of swaddling!
Swaddling is a technique that reproduces the cosiness the baby feels in the womb, so it's perfectly understandable that your munchkin loves it!
The benefits of swaddling... And the risks
We've already discussed the benefits of swaddling, but let's establish them here one by one so they are easier to remember:
- The baby feels warm and safe
- The baby sleeps better, as it is protected from the startling reflex that makes him startle as soon as you try to put him in his crib
- That same benefit applies to the mummy as well, as she will be able to rest better if the baby rests better!
However, swaddling entails certain risks as well. The baby loses mobility, because he's wrapped inside the blanket. Swaddling requires extra precautions in terms of sudden infant death syndrome prevention, because, as you probably know, the safest baby sleeping position to avoid it is him sleeping on his back. Of course, you can swaddle your baby and put him to sleep on his back, but what if he rolls?
Babies usually start rolling over when they are around two months old, which is why many experts recommend swaddling only until they reach this age. The Moro reflex is usually milder at this point, so your baby will be startling less and won't need more swaddling.
Another of the risks of swaddling is overheating. You will need to make sure that your baby is fine in terms of temperature. If you notice that he's sweating, breathing rapidly or he's flushed, remove the swaddle.
You can minimise these swaddling risks by taking into account the general recommendations to mininise the risk of SIDS or cot death, and also by observing your baby closely. There is one last risk that derives from swaddling wrong. If you swaddle your baby too tight, he could develop dysplasia of the hip, which means that his hip could be dislocated, totally or partially. This is why you need to leave him space so he's able to move his feet.
How to swaddle a baby
We're now going to explain how to swaddle a baby step by step, but remember that you can get a practical lesson from the nurses in the hospital, and you can also learn how to do it in your antenatal classes. In fact, it's better to receive a practical lesson even if you've read the following instructions and follow them closely and carefully, because, as we saw in the previous section, swaddling incorrectly entails certain risks that it's better to avoid.
- Spread a thin blanket in a flat surface and fold a corner. Then place your baby so his head is positioned by the folded corner, but at the edge, so you don't end up covering him with the blanket.
- Put the blanket across his body by grabbing it from another corner, and tuck it underneath the baby, leaving one arm inside and the other one outside.
- Now fold the bottom of the blanket and put it over the baby, but leave him plenty of space to move his little feet to avoid the risk of dysplasia.
- Now repeat step 2 with the last part of the blanket, covering his free arm.
And now you have a super cute baby burrito! Put him on his crib or his bassinet (this is safer than your bed), always on his back, and keep the necessary measures so he doesn't end up rolling on his stomach or suffocating - for instance, never leave pillows or loose sheets in the crib. If you notice that your baby starts rolling, stop swaddling immediately.