Swaddling is a practice that’s been around for centuries, but if this technique should or should not be used has always been a question. Swaddling involves using a baby blanket to tightly wrap an infant so that movement of the limbs is restricted. It’s meant to help a baby feel safe and secure by mimicking the embrace and pressure of the womb. While some parents and caregivers place a lot of value in swaddling, others deem it outdated and unnecessary. So what’s the answer? Is it okay to swaddle your newborn? And if so, when should you stop?
Advantages of Swaddling
When you consider the physiological effects of swaddling, it makes a lot of sense. Tightly wrapping babies to provide comfort and security can help soothe, calm, and promote sleep. This is especially true for babies that are colicky or have neurological problems. It can also help babies learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their backs, which is a vital position for infants due to the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Despite these clear benefits, swaddling isn’t for everyone, and parents and caregivers are urged to use caution when using this technique. If swaddling isn’t practiced carefully, there can be some significant risks.
Drawbacks of Swaddling
One of the most notable drawbacks of swaddling is the fact that it can increase the risk of hip dysplasia because it forces the legs to remain straight and prevents them from bending up and out at the hips. Sleep experts and pediatricians also warn against wrapping an infant too tight or too loose. A swaddle that’s too loose can present risks of suffocation if the blanket moves towards the face while babies sleep. A swaddle that’s wrapped too tight can inhibit head control, which can be dangerous if a baby is placed on their side or tummy. You should always avoid putting an infant on their side or belly to sleep, but this can be especially dangerous if a baby is swaddled.
To Swaddle or Not To Swaddle?
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer when it comes to the age-old question –to swaddle or not to swaddle. Again, the aim is to proceed with caution. If you believe your little one could benefit from the soothing sensation of a swaddle, just be sure you’re using the swaddle technique correctly and you’re doing it safely. If your infant seems to be happy without the help of a swaddle, there’s no need to try it if it’s not necessary.
When to Stop Swaddling
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends stopping swaddling at 2 months. Babies tend to begin rolling over around 4 months, so it’s important to stop swaddling well before that happens. Many parents and caregivers begin swaddling their babies because of the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex. This is when newborns are triggered by new stimuli, such as a noise or a bright light, and stretch out their arms and legs, which can prevent a restful sleep for some newborns. However, as the Moro reflex gradually disappears, babies are also learning to self-soothe, making it easier for them to fall asleep without being swaddled.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that swaddling isn’t right or wrong, it’s simply a comforting technique that can be used if desired!