I get asked often, “Is a swaddle a prop? Is it useful? Where do you stand on a swaddle?”
Swaddling a newborn can be an excellent tool. The swaddle mimics the feeling of confinement that they experienced in the womb. It can be very comforting to a lot of newborns.
I used a swaddle on both of my children. Basically, they taught me how in the hospital. Now, there’s a little bit more concern around, “Is the baby getting overheated from a swaddle?”
I would just encourage you to keep an eye on it.
I mean, obviously, if your baby is sweaty under the swaddle, then perhaps you’re wrapping him too tightly or it’s too heavy of a blanket.
Again, I’m asking you to use common sense around it.
But it can be very helpful for a newborn to get calm and ready for sleep.
It also helps with the Moro Reflex, the startle reflex where they throw their arms out uncontrollably, which can wake a sleeping newborn. Having their arms down and being wrapped tightly can help with that. For this alone, we can absolutely use it.
However, the swaddle can become a prop.
If a baby gets used to the idea that they need to be tightly wrapped every time they sleep, then when they kick free, they may wake up and need your help to come back in and re-wrap them.
It becomes a love-hate relationship at a certain age where your baby thinks he needs a swaddle but he doesn’t like it that much anymore.
Because babies become so experimental with their movements and they like to kick and they like to practice and they like to roll around, they’re most likely going to kick free of the swaddle no matter how tightly you wrap it.
You’re going to have to go in and intervene somewhere in the night or through the nap and get them wrapped up again.
A good rule of thumb around the swaddle is, by 8-10 weeks, start working your way out of it.
TRANSITIONING YOUR NEWBORN
By work your way out of it, I mean, wean baby out of the swaddle.
You can do this by leaving an arm out at a nap time for a few days. Then try for one arm out of the swaddle at bedtime as well. Do this for a few days so all sleep is taking place with one arm out of the swaddle. You can alternate arms that are out and inside the swaddle. This will give baby some experience controlling each arm before you go swaddle free.
Bedtime is a great place to start experimenting with no swaddle because it tends to be the easiest time of the day to get a child to fall asleep.
A great transition object is something called the Zipadeezip. It can be a good transitional sleep sac when you’re in the swaddle, and you’re working your way out of it.
It resembles a swaddle, but it’s a little looser with some arm and leg room involved. So, I encourage you to check that out if you want to ease your baby into this a little
But if baby starts rolling, you may have to move to no swaddle sooner rather than later. You may not get the wear out of the transition swaddle you hoped for.
DON'T GET STUCK IN THE SWADDLE
Remember that safe baby sleep guidelines state that if your baby has started to roll on their own, they are no longer safe in any form of a swaddle.
One person sewed together four receiving blankets so that they had a big enough blanket to swaddle their eight-month-old baby. You can see how that can become problematic.
If you’re in that situation and you’re wondering, “How do I get out of this now?” The only thing you can do is to lose the swaddle cold turkey. It's the safest thing to do for baby.
There will be no successful way to wean out of the swaddle because now it has become such a prop and a habit that anything less than being tightly wrapped up in their normal swaddle is going to be a cause of concern for the baby.
You’re going to have to go through it one way or the other. So, let’s get it done and go cold turkey without a swaddle.
The big question I get is how can you help baby cope with the changes? How can you support baby without creating alternative sleep props like rocking, bouncing, feeding to sleep, etc.?
In short, baby requires some form of sleep training to rectify the difficulties he or she is having with independent sleep. There is no way around that once a sleep prop like the swaddle has been set in stone like this.
If you If you’re running into trouble applying these suggestions, please feel free to set up a free sleep evaluation, I’d love to hear more about what’s going on your little one (as sleep can be extremely complex) and tell you how I can help.
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