I’ve heard a million reasons why people DON’T swaddle their newborn babies:
- My baby fights the swaddle.
- She pops out anyway so why bother.
- I don’t want her to get addicted to it.
- She cries when we try to swaddle her.
- I heard that it’s not good for them.
- I want her to get exercise so her arms should be free.
- I want her to practice getting her hands into her mouth so she can self-soothe.
These are all bunk. You should be swaddling your newborn baby. It will make them and you happier! Older babies may or may not need to be swaddled. Most are done by 3 months but don’t worry if your 6 or 9 month old still needs to be swaddled. There is no rush! I promise you will not be sending your 10-year-old off to summer camp with a giant Star Wars swaddle blanket.
Top 5 Reasons to Swaddle Your Newborn Baby
In 2007 the Journal of Pediatrics did a meta-study of research on swaddling. One of the many positive results was that swaddling reduces the rate of SIDS. The current assumption is that swaddling makes it hard for newborn babies to inadvertently cover their heads or face with bedding and decreases their ability to flip over onto their stomachs, both of which have been linked to higher rates of SIDS in newborn babies.
Safety Note: Never put baby to sleep on their stomach. Never EVER put a swaddled baby to sleep on their stomach. If your baby is able to flip from their back to their stomach WHILE swaddled, then your swaddling days are over. Swaddling is only to be used for babies on their backs. Being swaddled while sleeping on their stomach creates a greater risk of SIDS than sleeping on their stomach alone.
Basis for soothing
Swaddling your baby may not immediately soothe your crying baby or lull them instantly to sleep. In fact the process of being swaddled may make them frustrated and thus (briefly) cry more loudly, convincing some parents that their babies “hate” the swaddle. But swaddling creates the foundation for which other soothing techniques (white noise, motion, etc.) build upon. Start with the swaddle and then layer on additional soothing techniques (pacifier, loud white noise, movement) to calm a crying baby and encourage sleep.
Improved neuromuscular development
Many people feel that a newborn needs to have their hands free so that they can practice using their arms, figure out how to get their hands into their mouths so they can self-soothe by sucking on fingers, etc. However most of the movement of your newborn baby’s limbs is actually unintentional and random. Immobilizing their arms actually helps them to develop better motor skill organization. Swaddling is especially helpful for premature babies.
Babies cry regardless of what level of mastery in baby soothing you have achieved or how easily soothed your baby is. However, in addition to helping other soothing techniques to work more effectively (See #4) – swaddling alone seems to result in a 28% reduction in crying.
Your newborn baby will sleep better and sleep longer if you put them to sleep while swaddled. Swaddling prevents newborn babies from startling themselves awake with random arm movements. And swaddling “stimulates sleep continuity.” This is a quote from the Pediatrics study that is a fancy doctor way of saying that it helps them to sleep longer. While newborns are renowned for their ability to take itty bitty naps all day long, certainly our goal is to help them settle into longer continuous windows of sleep. And swaddling will help them to do that quite effectively!