To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle: A Loaded Question

To Swaddle or Not to Swaddle: A Loaded Question

I frequently get asked questions about swaddling a baby.  Some of the questions I get asked are:

  • How do I get my baby to like being swaddled?
  • Why do I need to swaddle my baby?
  • When should we stop swaddling?
  • Will it hurt my baby?

There is so much information out there that it even confuses me sometimes.

The internet is a wonderful thing most of the time (especially for reading awesome blogs) and a confusing place other times.  There is so much information that contradicts each other it can be mind-boggling.

When preparing for this blog post, I read information that stated the following: swaddling can cause hip problems, swaddling helps the baby feel like they did in the womb, and babies have a hard time controlling their arms so swaddling helps them.  So should you swaddle or not?

Quick answer: Swaddle as long as it is done properly.  You will get a quick lesson from the staff at the hospital or from your midwife before you are left with your baby on your own.

You can also find plenty of videos on YouTube to teach you how to swaddle effectively.  My favourite technique was from Dr. Karp author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  My little guy escaped from many swaddles, so I tried many swaddle bags. I finally found the one that he could not get out of – that was a happy moment.

Longer answer: When babies are first born they do not have complete control over their limbs, this muscle control takes time to develop.  In the meantime, babies will wave their arms in their sleep which often results in them hitting themselves which wakes them up.  At about 4 months of age, infants gain the control over their limbs and can be moved out of a swaddle.

Some people report that their baby does not like to be swaddled.  If that is your little one, and they seem to be waking up every 20 minutes, I recommend trying to swaddle them again.

Why and when do I remove my infant from the swaddle?  It is hard to find a swaddle blanket that fits a preschooler!  Children can get used to the swaddle and then it becomes a prop they depend on to go to sleep.

Most babies respond well when you remove the swaddle around 4 months of age when it is done in stages.  I recommend removing one arm for a few days, then remove both arms and tighten the swaddle under their arms for a few days, and then move them into a sleep sack. I recommend the sleep sacks because blankets are not recommended in the crib until at least age one.

Happy swaddling and sleeping!