Can you image spending nine months living in a lovely warm, safe bubble and suddenly being expelled into a cold world where even the most loving cuddles can’t replace that feeling of security all of the time.
Many new-born babies struggle to settle happily to sleep on their own and crave their parent’s arms and feeling of safety. This is hardly surprising and one of the reasons that swaddling has been used across the world for hundreds of years and is a tried and tested method of helping babies to adjust to their new environment and gain the feeling of security they crave.
What is swaddling?
Swaddling is the practice of wrapping a baby gently, securing its body in a light breathable blanket or sheet leaving just its head and neck exposed. The idea is to create a cocoon environment that replicates the snug and secure sensation they experienced in the womb.
Does swaddling really help babies to sleep?
Many new parents swear by the swaddling method and claim that it helps to calm their babies, settle more quickly and sleep for longer, but there is little research to support the theory. It is believed that swaddling helps to prevent a baby’s natural startle reflex where sudden flailing arms and legs startle them awake.
There is also a trend to consider the first three months of a baby’s life to be the ‘fourth trimester’ and a complex period of transition as they emerge from the womb to living in the outside world. Therefore, it is understandable that they enjoy being wrapped gently and find comfort in the familiar space restrictions they enjoyed in the womb.
There are divided medical opinions as to whether swaddling is good practice, but if you have a new-born who is struggling to settle happily, you have nothing to lose and everything to possibly gain by trying. According the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) as long as you follow safe sleeping guidelines and hip friendly swaddling guidance (ie always sleep your baby on its back and to stop swaddling as soon as the baby can roll over on its own), then swaddling is perfectly safe.
Are there risks of swaddling?
There are a few risks associated with swaddling, but these can mostly be avoided by using specially designed swaddles. If you try to swaddle your baby using sheets and blankets there is a risk that the covers are too heavy or thick and that you wrap them too tightly causing overheating. It is also not a good idea to swaddle your baby during breastfeeding as it restricts natural movement and positioning.
There is also evidence to suggest that swaddling a baby too tightly may increase the chance of developing hip dysplasia (a developmental problem with the baby’s hip joint). It is important to make sure that the baby is able to move its hips and knees freely to kick – a new born baby’s legs should be able to fall into a natural position frog style.
What type of swaddle is best?
Whilst you can use a sheet or light blanket to create a swaddle yourself, by far the easiest option is to purchase a tried and tested brand which has been designed specifically for the job with a baby’s safety, health and well-being at the forefront. Here are a few of our favourites:
Little Chick London Baby Studio SwaddleWrap (£7.99) – comes in three gorgeous colours –
Ocean Pink, Fruit Blue and Fruit Pink.
· Lightweight all season swaddle – 1 TOG
· Unique wrap design keeps babies’ legs in place without holding them too tight
· Soft and comfortable 100% cotton
Little Chick London Easy Change Sweetheart Swaddle (£14.99) – Kimono style wrap to snuggle baby to sleep with press stud fastenings a the foot for easier nappy changing.
· Simple 3-step swaddling
· Special design is wider at the hips to allow lower body movement for legs to be able to move into the natural ‘frog’ position
· 100% cotton
or grey stars and stripes designs. Provides parents with alternative sleeping positions according to their baby’s preference
· Position arms up, arms down, or arms out
· Soft, lightweight premium active wear fabric providing stretch and compression for a womb-like feel
· Extra wide hip-healthy leg area
· Innovate bottom opening for easy nappy changes and to help keep baby cooler in warm weather
The Active Swaddle Blanket is a versatile, on-the-go solutions to meet your baby's needs from morning until night. Made from soft, lightweight premium active wear fabric which keeps babies dry and comfortable while swaddling them with womb-like compression and can be used as a swaddle, stroller cover, changing pad cover, nursing cover or tummy time blanket.