Swaddling 101

To swaddle or not to swaddle, that is the question.

There’s been some debate about swaddling techniques and the pros and cons of wrapping up your newborn like a little burrito. Some chiropractic professionals praise the swaddle for it’s ability to soothe a fussy baby and others will warn about the potential dangers for hip and spinal injuries. 

What is the benefit of swaddling anyway?

Well your baby has been wrapped up quite snug for as long as they can remember. Once your baby arrives, the feeling of all of their new found freedom can be a little overwhelming. Swaddling relieves stress in newborns by mimicking the sensation of being in the womb. Being swaddled can also help a baby stay warm and toasty.

Swaddling helps keep your baby feeling secure. When they’re swaddled, they can be laid down in their sleeper safely without the fear that they’ll roll over onto their belly. Typically hospital staff will coach a new mother with safe swaddling strategies to keep their baby securely bundled in their swaddle blanket. 

Swaddled babies can even sleep more soundly and for longer periods of time. It’s not always about the quantity of hours asleep but the quality of sleep your little one is getting. Swaddling can help them feel more secure while nodding off to sleep and swaddled babies usually experience an increase in REM sleep. 

Are there any drawbacks to swaddling?

As with all good things there are a few negatives and swaddling is no exception. Swaddling a newborn too soon makes it difficult to get the important skin-to-skin contact with mom and can inhibit healthy breastfeeding maneuvers. When a newborn can’t move their hands they sometimes have more difficulty latching and even gaining weight if they are constantly wrapped tight. Tight swaddling can also lead to indigestion and gas when swaddled during or shortly after feedings. Tightly wrapping a newborn can also create some serious complications with joints.

Alternatively, if you have a baby suffering from gas pains, swaddling throughout the day could help move trapped gas along their delicate systems. Some mothers use this as a soothing strategy and others don’t find it to be as successful.

If the swaddle is too tight, a baby can be at an increased risk for hip dysplasia, dislocated joints or improper formation of joints and limbs. If a new baby spends too much time swaddled tightly, bones, muscles and joints may begin to develop incorrectly or out of place.

Once the child is about one month old, swaddling can regress their development by restricting their movement throughout this stage. If your baby is at this age point and still enjoys being swaddled, try settling them down for a nap in your arms swaddled loosely, giving them the support they’re craving without the risk of blankets in their crib.

Swaddling isn’t for everyone.

Not every baby will let you swaddle them! If they resist, don’t force it. Experiment with swaddling your newborn in their first few weeks to help keep them feeling relaxed and properly supported.

If you are interested in proper swaddling techniques, inquire with your doula or a care provider that specializes in baby hip and spine health.