How to swad­dle your baby

Now you can give swad­dling a try with our com­pre­hen­sive guide

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

All par­ents would like to help their ba­bies to sleep bet­ter, so there’s a very good rea­son why swad­dling has been pop­u­lar for thou­sands of years. There’s never been a large-scale sci­en­tific investigation to prove that swad­dling new­borns im­proves their sleep, but many par­ents swear it helps. The the­ory is that wrap­ping a baby gives her a feel­ing sim­i­lar to be­ing in the womb, so she feels safe.

Swad­dling also pre­vents the Moro re­flex, when your baby throws her arms and legs out, then re­tracts them. This sur­vival in­stinct, of­ten in re­sponse to noise or move­ment, is thought to be a baby’s in­vol­un­tary at­tempt to stop her­self from fall­ing. If this hap­pens while she’s asleep, it can be enough to star­tle her awake. And she can do it un­til she is four or five months old.

Swad­dling is a simple tech­nique using a square piece of fab­ric or light blan­ket. Shaped swad­dles with Vel­cro fas­ten­ings and zips are also avail­able and in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. These do the same job a lit­tle more quickly and eas­ily.

Whichever you choose, it’s im­por­tant that you know how to swad­dle your baby safely. There are two health con­cerns to be aware of when swad­dling: over­heat­ing, and af­fect­ing the de­vel­op­ment of your baby’s hips by swad­dling too tightly.

Keep your BABY COOL

Over­heat­ing is one of the fac­tors that can put a baby at risk of sud­den in­fant death syn­drome (SIDS), so you need to con­sider the room tem­per­a­ture and dress her ac­cord­ingly. Keep­ing an eye on your baby’s tem­per­a­ture comes down to com­mon sense. “Red Nose does not rec­om­mend a par­tic­u­lar tem­per­a­ture for a baby’s nurs­ery,” says Yvonne Amos from Red Nose. “Con­sider the en­vi­ron­ment and the cur­rent room tem­per­a­ture of the home and dress baby ac­cord­ingly – so don’t dress baby too warm, or too cold.”

First, use a swad­dle made from thin, light, breath­able ma­te­rial to al­low air to cir­cu­late around your baby’s body. Ad­just the cloth­ing your baby is wear­ing un­der the swad­dle to suit the tem­per­a­ture. If it’s cold, you may want your baby to wear a cot­ton body­suit with arms and legs un­der the swad­dle. If it’s very cold, you might want to layer a sin­glet un­der the body­suit too. Don’t use a blan­ket as well, be­cause the swad­dle acts as this thin layer. Ba­bies and houses are all dif­fer­ent, so al­ways check that your baby is at a com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture. The eas­i­est way to do this is to place your hand at the back of her neck to check that she doesn’t feel too warm or cold. She should feel about the same as you. The other prob­lem with swad­dling is that if the swad­dle is wrapped too tightly it can cause prob­lems with your baby’s hips. Ac­cord­ing to Red Nose, for wrap­ping to be ef­fec­tive, the wrap needs to be firm but not too tight. Tech­niques that use tight wrap­ping with legs straight and to­gether in­crease the risk of ab­nor­mal hip de­vel­op­ment, while loose wraps are also haz­ardous as they can cover baby’s head and face. When your baby flexes her legs, and she’ll do this of­ten, she bends

her knees – this move­ment helps the ball joints to prop­erly move into the sock­ets.

So make sure that a swad­dle isn’t so tight around a baby’s lower body that it can stop her legs from flex­ing. And if she’s tightly swad­dled with her legs point­ing down­wards, this can lead to the ball joints ac­tu­ally mov­ing out of the sock­ets.

Stick to THE RULES

To en­sure your baby is safe, don’t swad­dle above her shoul­ders, so there’s no risk of the fab­ric fall­ing across her face and block­ing her air­ways. And while you want your baby’s chest and arms to be wrapped cosily, the swad­dle shouldn’t be too tight. Her chest needs to be able to rise and fall com­fort­ably as she breathes. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can eas­ily in­sert one finger into the top of the swad­dle.

Al­ways put your baby on her back when she is swad­dled. This re­duces the risk of SIDS, and of her rolling onto her tummy, which could make it harder for her to breathe.

Red Nose rec­om­mends dis­con­tin­u­ing wrap­ping as soon as your baby starts show­ing signs that she can be­gin to roll, usu­ally be­tween four to six months of age, but some­times younger.

Her chest needs to be able to rise and fall com­fort­ably as she breathes

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