Written by: Rachel Norman
When pregnant with my firstborn, my midwives were very clear: it was important to swaddle the baby.
I’ll never forget the moment I walked into my daughter’s room and the blanket was partially over her face. She’d escaped her swaddle!
That took 10 years off my life, I know it.
After that I took great care learning exactly how to snuggly swaddle and eventually purchased a swaddle that zipped up so she couldn’t kick it off in the night. I was tempted to give up the swaddle forever, but I could see the benefits with my daughter.
She slept more soundly and didn’t wake up when she jerked or moved in her sleep.
They showed me painstakingly how to swaddle baby with a receiving blanket, so I practiced and practiced. My baby seemed to escape the blanket with ease, but I persevered. I finally purchased a swaddle with zippers and velcro, and this helped prevent any swaddling escape issues.
Soon I was to learn that swaddling is important for a few reasons:
● Swaddling helps teach babies day/night differences,
● Swaddling helps babies stay asleep during nighttime changes and feeds,
● Swaddling helps to promote sounder sleeping and prevents the startle reflex from waking baby, and
● Swaddling brings comfort and closeness.
Snuggle and Swaddle As A Positive Sleep Association
Swaddling is a positive sleep association. A sleep association is something good your baby will associate with going to bed. Swaddling baby is a great wind-down routine because it helps baby know he’s about to take a nap or go to sleep. When it’s time for baby to go to bed, change his diaper, give him snuggles, and then swaddle.
As you begin swaddling for every nap and bedtime, baby will understand what’s coming next. They’ll begin to naturally calm down and prepare themselves to sleep, and the more they sleep they more they want to sleep.
Unswaddle during “awake” time
Don’t leave the baby swaddled all the time, simply use it as a signal for sleep. Allow some room for free movement when they are awake and you’re playing. By keeping the swaddle for sleepy times you’re creating associations that’ll help your baby sleep better.
When you are going to be playing with baby, feeding him, or showing him off to family, leave the swaddle off. When you want baby to nap, put it back on.
Unswaddle during day feedings
Newborn babies are notorious “snackers.” One way to help them stay awake during day feedings and get a little more awake time is by keeping them unswaddled. By keeping your baby unswaddled during feedings you’ll help him stay awake long enough to get all he needs to rest soundly at his next nap.
Swaddle for night feedings
In contrast, at night, keep babies swaddled at all times if possible. Because I change the diaper pre-feed, the swaddling has signaled “go back to sleep” and then the feed itself helps them get there. This is the #1 way I have babies who are not awake for long periods (or at all) at night, even as newborns. In fact, as soon as my babies have known the difference between day and night, they sleep all through the night only waking to signal they’re hungry.
Keep partially swaddled for night changes
I referenced this above, but by keeping your baby partially swaddled at night time changes – i.e. leaving their arms swaddled – you are preventing baby from waking fully. If you have a baby who is more “alert” at night than you’d like, I highly recommend this. But keeping lights dimmed (or even using the flashlight on your phone) and keeping the baby tucked close, you’re essentially keeping them half asleep all night, even through feeds and changes.
In order for a baby to rest well they need to feel relaxed and secure. Swaddling is one of the most effective ways of helping baby feel safe and tucked in tight. In addition to swaddling as a wind down routine, I recommend using white noise as well. Soothing sounds also help to relax baby and prepare him to sleep. The SoundBub white noise machine is a cute and calming addition to the nursery.
If you want to give your baby an added layer of familiarity and nurture, you can record stories and songs on the app that other caregivers can play while you’re away. Babies are calmed by their parents voices and having an app to bring your voice to your baby while you are away can help baby calm down and get ready for sleep.
This post is part of an 8-post series: