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17Jul 13

The Swaddling Basics

The tender act of swaddling has been a tradition in my family for generations. My grandmother swaddled my mum, she swaddled me, I swaddled my infants, and so forth. This simple tender act is a wonderful way for parents to protect their newborns and help them to sleep.

The swaddling basics

The swaddling basics

Here are four things you should know before attempting it yourself:

Swaddling benefits both mothers and children.

Mothers try to imitate the womb for their stressed and colicky newborn infants by wrapping them up in a warm blanket. After being in a tight space their entire lives, albeit only nine months, feeling secure in a place can calm and put to sleep even the fussiest babies. It also helps avoid the Moro reflex that most infants up to four or five months old feel.

When a crying baby sleeps, the mother also has a chance to rest, whether it be with her eyes shut or enjoying the peace of quiet of a baby’s gentle breathing instead of sharp cries. Fatigued mothers are at higher risk for postpartum depression. These moments of respite due to swaddling will help a mother relax and avoid this sadness.

Choose your blanket depending on the season.

A child’s body temperature can be extremely vulnerable, as their internal thermometer doesn’t kick in until a couple days after birth. During the hot summer months, I’d recommend using a light blanket. Wool or heavy cotton can make a baby uncomfortably warm. Also, make sure to leave the head uncovered to let heat escape.

Age does matter.

Swaddling is crucial for newborns up to a month old. This is when they most need to feel support and the comfort of a womb-like atmosphere. When they turn 1 month, it’s probably best not to swaddle them when they are awake, but rather stick to nap times or bedtime. At three months, swaddling will no longer be necessary and will actually limit a child’s growth. Their instinct will tell them to start using their full range of movement, so when they are ready to sleep without a blanket wrapped around them, they will let you know by kicking, screaming or crying. Be aware of the signs and let them sleep in peace.


If you incorrectly swaddle your child, you run the risk of hip dysplasia. Make sure that the baby has enough room to move both his or her legs and hips to avoid joint stiffness and a limited range of movement. You’ll also want to avoid placing a swaddled baby on its stomach. They don’t have the neck muscles to turn their head and breathe, so always place the baby on his or her back.

Any other swaddling tips I missed? Leave a comment below!

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