Swaddling Your Baby For Better Sleep

The addition of a new baby often means the arrival of sleepless nights as both parents and child attempt to settle into a night time routine. There are a number of suggested techniques to deal with this. One of these, ‘swaddling’, has been used throughout history to calm babies and many see it as a reliable way to soothe a baby into sleep.

Why Swaddle?

Swaddling, the practice of wrapping a young baby in cloth, is being increasingly encouraged by healthcare practitioners for its perceived benefits to both parent and child. Swaddling is a way of making a baby feel protected; it creates slight pressure around the baby, allowing for a sense of security that some say echoes the pressure of the womb.

Parents are often advised to place sleeping babies on their backs for health and safety reasons. However, this often means that babies are prone to arm and leg ‘startle reflexes’ that make them jerk and are often disturbing and wakeful. Swaddling can help prevent this and as such bring calm for babies. It can also bring relief for sleepless parents, and swaddling promises much more rest all round.

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Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/5465547239/

How to Swaddle your Baby

It is important, should you decide to swaddle your baby, that you do it the right way.

Firstly, spread a cot sheet out flat, with the top corner folded down about 15 centimetres (6 inches). Lay your baby with his/her back on the sheet, so that his/her neck comes to rest against the fold. Then, bring the top left hand corner across the baby’s body and tuck it under his/her left arm. Take the bottom left hand corner up over the baby’s feet, before wrapping the right corner around his/her back. This will leave only the baby’s head and neck exposed and the rest of the body cosily wrapped in the sheet.

Some babies like to have their arms free, in which case wrap the child beneath his/her arms to leave the upper body free for movement.

What to Avoid

If a baby doesn’t like being swaddled (and some don’t) he/she is sure to let you know by increased wriggling and obvious distress. If the baby is calmed by the practice, however, you need to make sure that you are doing it correctly, to avoid it being over tight and suffocating, or too loose, ineffective and a potential hazard.

Allow enough room in the sheet for the baby to move. If a baby is swaddled too tightly around the hip and leg area, he/she is more likely to develop problems, such as hip dysplasia. Additionally, be sure not to cover your baby’s face and make sure the baby does not overheat in the sheet.

Once your baby is about one month old you should stop swaddling while he/she is awake, as it can begin to interfere with development and mobility. A sign that it is time to stop swaddling is when the baby starts to kick off covers, or shows distress when wrapped up. However, if the baby reacts well to it, it is fine to carry on with swaddling when the baby is napping and sleeping.

It can initially be a challenge to learn how to swaddle, but once learnt it is no doubt useful and beneficial. Be patient and you are sure to reap in the benefits. Swaddling can calm and soothe babies, leading to better sleep for both parents and child.

Our guest blogger is Zoe, a keen health blogger with a penchant for topics on sleep and parenting. Presently, Zoe is writing on behalf of Archers Sleep Centre, one of the UK’s leading bed superstores, to help promote their bed products and services.

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