Studies have shown that swaddling your infant can help to soothe her, allowing her to fall asleep more quickly and stay sleeping more soundly. It has also been suggested that, since swaddling helps ensure that infants are laid to sleep on their backs, swaddling of newborns may actually help prevent SIDS.
Swaddling babies is nothing new. For centuries, many cultures have traditionally swaddled their babies. Recent research has shown that this ancient custom actually does help infants to fall asleep better, especially when they are fussy. Some theorize that the snug wrapping simulates the warm, cozy environment inside the womb. If that’s the case, it’s certainly understandable why newborns would find it comforting to be swaddled.
In any case, swaddling an infant restricts the movement of their arms, which helps keep baby from startling himself. When babies aren’t swaddled, they may make sudden, even involuntary arm movements. The baby is then sometimes startled by its own movement, causing it to become fussy or to awaken.
Because swaddling impedes your baby from moving about freely, you should stop swaddling your baby when she is about two months old. If your baby has trouble soothing herself or falling to sleep without swaddling, it’s OK To continue swaddling, but gradually loosen the folds of the blanket to allow baby more movement. Discontinue swaddling when baby can roll over by herself.
To swaddle your baby:
- Start with a receiving blanket. Square shaped, fairly large baby blankets work best. Lay the blanket out on a flat surface in the shape of a diamond.
- Fold the top corner of the blanket down about four inches from the corner.
- Lay your baby on the blanket, with his head where the first fold is. Make sure you are not covering baby’s head.
- Fold the right corner of the receiving blanket over baby, and tuck it in snugly under your baby. This fold should ideally contain baby’s right arm, but leave her left arm free.
- Fold the bottom corner of the receiving blanket onto baby’s chest.
- Fold the left corner of the receiving blanket over the baby, containing the left arm. Tuck this fold in to secure the swaddling.
- Make sure the swaddling is snug, but not overly tight.