As a maternity nurse, often there are questions from first time parents about swaddling and whether it is the right option. Every family is different, but here are some of the facts we know about the benefits and potential risks of swaddling.

What exactly is swaddling?

It is a practice of wrapping your baby up in a breathable blanket, or traditionally a swaddle cloth. The baby should only ever have the wrap up to their shoulders, leaving their head and neck to remain free.

Swaddling is a technique used by some parents to provide their new-born baby with a feeling of security. It has been long believed by many that the first few months of a baby’s life should be treated as a 4th trimester. The idea of swaddling a baby is to provide a similar safe and snug environment as the womb and can enable the little one to transition into the world more smoothly. Many parents will argue that it helps their baby to sleep more peacefully and not wake as often throughout the night. Whilst this may be true for a lot of people, others feel that the risks are too high and prefer to do without.

It is important, especially for new parents, to understand the benefits but also the potential dangers of swaddling. Every parent will form their own opinion and more significantly every baby is unique and individual, what works for one child may not work for another.

What is the safest way to swaddle a baby?

First and foremost, if you do decide to swaddle your baby, you should do so gently and ensure the wrap is not too tight. You should use thin, breathable materials such as cotton muslin wraps and be careful to not over layer them. Regularly check their temperature to ensure your baby is not overheating and always leave their neck and head free from the swaddle cloth. You should also leave enough room for your baby to move their legs freely.

Most importantly, if you are using a swaddling technique you should always put your baby down to sleep on their back, never on their side or front.

What are the benefits of swaddling?

Some parents believe that swaddling can help to calm their baby, help them to sleep for longer and prevent them from startling themselves awake due to their arms flailing around! None of these beliefs have much in the way of scientific backing and the medical opinion on swaddling is divided.

What are the risks of swaddling?

There are some known risk factors to consider when swaddling your baby and if done incorrectly it could become unsafe. You should allow them to have the freedom to relax their legs into a ‘frog’ position, if they are wrapped too tightly and restricted in movement, they could be at risk of developing hip dysplasia which is where the hip does not form correctly.

Be aware of the potential of your baby overheating, this is even more common whilst breastfeeding, it is not ideal to wrap your baby whilst they are feeding as their temperature raises quickly.

Should I swaddle my baby?

Every parent can choose what suits them and their baby, just be sure to follow safety guidelines if you do decide to use a swaddling method.

One very important note to leave you with; you must stop swaddling your baby as soon as they are displaying signs of rolling over. If their arms are cocooned in the wrap, they will be less able to lift their head to free their airways and avoid suffocation should they roll onto their side or front.

You can read more and get tips here.

If you would like to know more or have any questions, please get in touch.

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