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The New Parent’s Guide to Swaddling

Making sure that your new baby is sleeping safely and soundly is everything. At Nanit, we specialize in top quality sleep for babies (and parents) through state-of-the-art tracking and monitoring. We believe that great sleep is a big deal, and that swaddling is one of the greatest tools to help your newborn rest easier.

To that end, here’s a how-to guide on swaddling, a practice that our experts believe in, and that The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls an effective technique to calm infants and promote sleep. Proper swaddling may even help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) because it places babies on their backs and helps them stay facing upward during sleep as the AAP recommends.

What is Swaddling?

A simple way to think of swaddling is as a virtual, soothing “hug” for your baby, all night long.

Wrapped snugly, a swaddle gives infants a sense of security, a feeling that they might miss from their months in the womb, or your arms during the day. The virtual cuddle that swaddles provide can be especially soothing for preemies.

After all, babies have spent months feeling safe and secure in their mother’s wombs, before suddenly entering a bright and sometimes overwhelming world, filled with light and movement. Some call this transitional postpartum period, the first few months after birth, the “fourth trimester.” It is often a big adjustment for both babies and parents, especially first timers.

By gently limiting movement, swaddles also help prevent babies from waking themselves up with their own arm movements. It’s important to have a clear sleep area as well that minimizes distractions.

An Ancient Practice, Made Modern.

Swaddling is nothing new. Parents figured this out (literally) ages ago, and have relied on this simple tool to help their babies sleep safely and securely for thousands of years across the globe.

Ancient caesars and Tudor kings were swaddled. Traditional swaddles involved blankets and even animal hides (check out your local natural history museum).

Today’s swaddles are no throwbacks, however. Soft cotton, easy-on-and-off Velcro closures and quick-diaper-change zips and snaps make modern swaddles much more convenient than traditional blankets. They’re easier on both babies and parents.

Most importantly, these updated swaddles allow babies to move their legs freely as their hips grow, while helping their upper bodies stay secure and in the face-up position that pediatricians and the AAP recommend.

A Key Sleep Tool

Once babies begin to have more regular sleep schedules (which often can’t come soon enough), they can begin to associate swaddling with naptime or bedtime, helping them calm down and fall asleep more easily based on a consistent swaddling routine.

Swaddling is safe and even recommended for most babies, though please check in with your pediatrician to make sure that swaddling is the right choice for your baby. Swaddling is usually ideal for babies in the first 3-4 months of life, depending on when they first start to roll over. Once they can roll over, swaddling should stop.

Not sure whether or not swaddling is for you yet? Here is more info on benefits and the latest best practices:

Why Swaddling?

Mimics the Soothing "Hug" of the Womb

  • Provides a comfortable postnatal transition.
  • Prevents overstimulation from the environment and keeps babies comforted.

Moderates the Moro Reflex

  • Since swaddled babies feel secure, they are less likely to wake up due to this “startle” reflex.
  • This can lead to better overall sleep quality and more REM or dream sleep

Can Help Alleviate Discomfort From Colic

  • Happy, secure babies tend to be calmer and less prone to unexplained fussiness.
  • Staying calm avoids tummy trouble and might also aid infants in better digestion.

Helps Baby Fall Asleep Faster and May Help Them Stay Asleep Longer

  • AAP research shows that swaddled babies were less likely to be awakened spontaneously and showed increases in sleep efficiently and in non-REM sleep.
    Click Here to View Article

Keeps Baby at a Comfortable Temperature

  • Babies’ small bodies are not as efficient as adults’ at temperature regulation.
  • Swaddles keep babies warm (but not too warm!)
  • Swaddles are safe versus blankets, which are not for use in cribs anymore based on current AAP recommendations for babies under 1 year of age (save that heirloom baby blanket for photos, not the crib).

Keeps Baby Safely on Their Back Through the Night

  • Putting infants to sleep on their backs is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of SIDS according to the AAP. Studies have shown that swaddling makes it easier for parents to keep their babies sleeping safely on their backs.

Parents are Better Rested

  • More sleep for baby results in more sleep for the entire family. 
  • Swaddling reduces two common parent stressors: inconsolable crying and poor infant sleep.
  • The first year is better if you get enough sleep to remember it. You need sleep too!

Is Swaddling Safe?

Swaddling is safe and can actually improve sleep safety by keeping your baby on his or her back, which might help prevent SIDS according to the AAP as noted. If you are planning on starting to swaddle your baby, there are a few simple steps and precautions you can take to make sure that you are swaddling safely.

Too loose, too tight, just right: it’s important that the swaddle be snug enough to stay on and prevent your baby from rolling around in it, while not being too constricting that it is uncomfortable or restricts breathing. A quick way to test if the swaddle is adjusted just right is if you can slip two fingers in between the swaddle and your baby. Also make sure that the swaddle is the correct fit based on the length and weight of your baby.

Nanit swaddles are designed to make sure that your baby’s hips have freedom of movement. The Nanit Swaddle is a designated hip-healthy swaddle—supporting proper positioning of the infant hip in the hopes of eradicating the global problem of hip dysplasia.

This prevents potential hip injury and and makes sure that growth is not constrained in any way. This is also the type of swaddle that AAP recommends.

 

What Are the different
types of swaddles?

Blanket Swaddle

As its name suggests, a blanket swaddle is a blanket, folded around a baby to keep his or her arms secure. The Blanket Swaddle is the most traditionally used swaddle.

Pros:

  • One size fits all
  • No special blanket required

Cons:

  • Hard to learn
  • Must teach others the technique
  • Can come off easily if not properly wrapped
  • Can easily become loose

Swaddle Sacks

These prefab wraps make swaddling a cinch versus traditional blankets. Just slip the baby into a wrap, zip it up and typically cinch the top with a secure, Velcro band that prevents arm movement.

Pros:

  • Ease of use: these are easier for new parents (or anyone) to use, with Velcro, snaps and zippers to help you get that snug swaddle 1, 2, 3
  • These can be used through multiple developmental stages and grow with the baby

Cons:

  • Some are not hip-healthy: make sure that there is room for those hip and legs to move while giving a snug fit on top
  • Can be hard to find one that fits your baby
  • Velcro can wear out with frequent usage
  • Baby can become strong enough to escape

Swaddle Pods

A simpler version of swaddle sacks, these simply zip up, and, done. Swaddle pods are designed for newborns, to mimic the feeling of being in the womb. They are snug and look like little peapods. Some actually allow for the baby’s arms to be up vs. down. However, they cannot be used long since stronger, older babies can move around too much in the sacks.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Snug and comforting for your new baby
  • Baby is secure and it is hard for them to break out

Cons:

  • Can only be used for a short period
  • Will need to buy different sizes as babies grow rapidly
  • May not have enough room for hip movement

What should I look for when
buying a swaddle?

The swaddle you choose is up to your personal preference. However, here are some key benefits to look for:

Size:
Pick the appropriate size for your baby

Hip Healthy: allows for freedom of lower body movement

Material: look for natural fibers

Thickness: appropriate weight for climate

Stretchiness:
improved comfort and leg mobility

Two-Way Zipper: makes diaper changes easier

Padded Zippers:
no scratching

Tagless Collar:
softer on skin

Ease of Use:
the easier, the better!

How Long should I swaddle
my baby?

Here are 6 signs it’s time to stop swaddling.

Increase in activity and taking arm(s) out mid-sleep.

Growing too strong or too mobile to stay swaddled through the night.

Fighting being swadled and wanting one or both arms out.

Starting to roll over due to increased arm and neck strength.

Frequent wake-ups in the middle of the night after a history of sleeping well.

Decreased or no Moro (startle) reflex.

How do I transition away
from swaddling?

4 Step Swaddle Transition Plan:

Once baby starts rolling and you have noticed the signs that it’s time to stop swaddling, it’s best to gradually transition away from the swaddle. Try a swaddle with one arm out for 2-3 nights then with both arms out for another few nights.

Monitor closely how your baby is adjusting to this change in their regular sleep habits. If your baby is not taking to the change well, try swaddling for an additional week or two.

Transition to a sleeping bag made specifically for the swaddle transition period.

Keep an eye out for when babies start rolling onto their tummies.

Meet the nanit swaddle

  • Secure, Stay-put Flaps
  • Hip-Healthy
  • Machine Washable
  • Feather Soft Edges
  • Two-way Zippers
  • Learn more
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