Posted on April 04, 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.
Swaddling newborn babies is common worldwide, but there are some key factors that make it safe to use with your baby. It’s important to learn the right ways and times to swaddle, and then to be patient as you learn. In addition, some babies take a week or so to adapt to swaddling, so if your baby resists the first few times it doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea.
At first, swaddle your baby when both you and your newborn are calm and relaxed. Don’t try your first swaddles when your baby is fussing or crying, as likely your initial attempts won’t be quite right. This is something new for both of you, so relax as you learn. Keep these important things in mind as you master your swaddling technique:
~ Swaddle only a full-term, healthy baby.
~ Begin swaddling well before 3 months of age.
~ Swaddle only when Baby sleeps in the same room as you.
~ Balance swaddled time with unwrapped time.
~ Don’t overuse swaddling – save it for sleep or colicky times only.
~ ALWAYS put your swaddled baby down to sleep on his or her back.
NEVER leave a swaddled baby sleeping on the side or stomach. (This goes for an unswaddled baby too, unless your doctor specifically advises otherwise.) Studies show that swaddled babies who are placed on their stomachs are at a high risk of having their breathing impaired and that it may increase the risk of SIDS – so always remember “Back to Sleep.”
~ Leave ample chest-area room for breathing.
There should be space for two or three or your fingers to slide between baby’s chest and the fabric – plenty of room to breathe, cough or sneeze. It should be snug enough so that it doesn’t come loose, but not so tight that it affects circulation or breathing.
~ Keep the swaddle snug around Baby’s arms to prevent unwrapping, but loose around the legs and hips.
Your baby should be able to move his or her legs into the “frog” position – up and out – while swaddled. This allows important mobility for hip development. Swaddling legs and hips too tightly can cause hip dislocation or hip dysplasia (abnormal development of the hip joint.) In the womb your baby’s legs were folded and overlapped, so bent legs are their default position. Binding your newborn’s legs fully straightened can damage the joint and soft cartilage of the hip socket. And furthermore, babies usually prefer this froggy-style position and may get irritated if they can’t pull their legs up comfortably.
~ Consider using a pacifier for naps and bedtime.
Allowing a newborn to fall asleep with a pacifier when he is swaddled has been found to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no need to replace the pacifier once it falls out of your baby’s mouth, and actually that’s what you want. Ideally a pacifier should be used to help the baby drift off to sleep rather than something to suck on all night long.
~ Don’t put your swaddled baby in a hat.
Immediately after birth your baby might be given a hat to help regulate body temperature. However, after that first day it’s like your baby’s head should be uncovered. There are a few exceptions and your health care provider will tell you if your baby can use a hat during sleep. A hat could add to overheating, or it could slip down and cover your baby’s face. Skip the hat during sleep times unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
~ Don’t put anything else in the crib.
Don’t add extra blankets, bumper pads, crib wedges, stuffed animals, toys, positioners or pillows. Any extra item placed in your baby’s bed could present a safety risk.
~ Keep your baby’s sleeping room smoke-free.
Exposure to second-hand smoke can create breathing issues and is a SIDS risk. Whether swaddled or not, your baby’s sleeping room should always be smoke-free.
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