Posted by Elizabeth Pantley on March 28, 2017
Each week during our Snooze Series (3/21-4/11), we will be bringing you a new article on sleep by expert Elizabeth Pantley.
Introducing the Baby K'tan Snooze Series: Bringing you expert advice on helping your baby get better sleep.
You probably think that stretching out on a comfortable mattress is the perfect way to sleep, but your newborn would definitely disagree. Your baby has just arrived from a place that he felt was the epitome of comfort – and it was the complete opposite of stretching out on a mattress! Your baby was folded up like a pretzel and squished inside a soft and pliable nest. His arm and leg movements floated through a fluid-filled space, so they were in slow-motion and confined to very tight quarters. This snug place was your baby’s home for nine months. After this close-fitting body-hugging space, your newborn might find it unsettling to be put on his or her back on a flat surface – yet this is the safest way for your newborn to sleep.
There is a solution for helping your baby transition from the confining sleep space of the womb to the outside world. Many parents recreate the womb-like experience for their newborns by wrapping them up securely in a soft, stretchy blanket – this is swaddling. It is a common and popular way to help newborns to stay calm, cry less and sleep better.
Babies are unique individuals and while some love to be snugly swaddled, others reject anything that restricts their movement, so you’ll need to experiment to see if this is a good practice for your own baby.
Swaddling can mean better sleep
Many hospitals, birth centers and midwives swaddle newborns soon after birth, and many parents continue to swaddle their babies through the newborn months. Swaddling can help to soothe fussy babies, and it encourages relaxation and better sleep. Since sleep is one of a newborn’s most important jobs, and promoting and protecting sleep is one of a parent’s most important jobs, swaddling is often praised for its role in encouraging healthy sleep. In addition, swaddling has a number of other benefits. The following list shares more of the reasons swaddling is a common practice.
“Pros” in support of swaddling:
~ A baby’s startle reflex is reduced so that his own flailing limbs don’t wake him, so he has better naps and sleeps longer stretches at night with fewer unnecessary spontaneous awakenings.
~ A swaddled newborn may accept back-sleeping easier than one who is not swaddled, and the baby stays in that safe-sleep position. It prevents a baby from rolling over into the more risky stomach-sleeping position and makes parents more likely to consistently put their baby to sleep in the safe back-sleeping position.
~ Swaddling can help to regulate baby’s temperature when sleeping in a cooler room.
~ It is an effective sleep aid for a baby who only sleeps well when being held in someone’s arms, so it provides an alternative to holding such a baby for every nap.
~ Swaddling can often calm a restless, fussy or crying baby if nothing else works.
~ It can provide comfort to babies who suffer from colic, reflux or special needs. They are soothed and calmed, so they fall asleep easier.
~ Swaddling might reduce the risk of postpartum depression for mothers of very fussy or colicky babies who only sleep well when held or swaddled.
~ It provides parents of twins and higher order multiples a way to keep all of their babies calm at the same time.
As with many baby care practices, swaddling has its specific ‘Dos and Don’ts.’ There are safe and appropriate ways to swaddle, so it’s important to do your homework if you choose to swaddle your newborn baby.
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