Wednesday 5 August 2015

Swaddling... friend or foe?

I have recently had a number of people ask me about swaddling and I shall be upfront and honest with you and tell you .... I LOVE IT! Every baby I've nannied for from newborn, I have swaddled. I swaddled my own son and will undoubtedly swaddled bumpalina (testing out new names... thoughts?!). However, it is something that seems to be very personal and has in the last year or so, received some pretty bad press.

In my opinion if proper swaddling techniques were taught to mothers at ante natal classes, by midwives or health visitors in hospital or on home visits, then we wouldn't have reached the point that many mothers seem to be at. Lots of mothers are afraid of swaddling because they have heard that it can cause damage to babies hips, that babies don't like being tightly wrapped or that its restrictive. Some are afraid their baby will overheat. 

So here are the reasons I love swaddling and a few myth busters too...

The Startle Reflex - babies are born with a reflex that causes them to startle frequently. In the womb they are surrounded by water which allows them to move fluidly, once out in the real world it takes a little time for their tiny bodies to adapt to the way they move in air. This startle action will often wake a baby which can be very frustrating and upsetting for them (imagine that startle awake feeling you get when you are just dozing off to sleep) and can be extremely frustrating for mummy and daddy who seem to have a baby that only sleeps 20minutes at a time! Swaddling keeps their arms close and prevents this startle reflex, therefore preventing the frequent waking. 

It mimics the womb - Swaddling is nothing new. Women have been swaddling or wrapping their babies for centuries, across many different cultures. The first three months are often referred to as the fourth trimester, so swaddling makes perfect sense as a method of creating the cosy, comforting environment of a womb. Just think how little space your little one had before they came into the world, and believe me, they were happy as Larry in there!

It shouldn't be bad for their hips - Swaddling should only ever be tight over a babies arms. Never over their hips. I also always use proper swaddling blankets that have stretch rather than any old blanket, my favourite one was actually a gift for my son from The White Company from a thoughtful family member. You can also now buy shaped swaddle blankets - almost like a cross which makes it even more difficult to accidentally make it too tight over a babies hips. Personally, I prefer the old fashioned method, but I know my sister in law far preferred this type. My husband also became a fan of pushing Seb's legs up towards his stomach after he had finished wrapping him just to check it wasn't tight. 

Don't dress them in too many layers - Overheating is absolutely something you should think about when swaddling a baby. They are going to be wrapped up snuggly in a blanket so they won't need so many layers underneath. Seb was born in a warm August, so he usually was in a thin vest or grow or on hot days just a nappy before being swaddled. As we moved into the cooler months he wore more layers or thicker layers. Think about what you would wear if you were going to bed in the day. Would you go and have a sleep in the day, under the covers in all your clothes? Probably not.

So this is where I stand, what I have learnt through research over the years and how I believe I had a baby that slept well most of the time (he's only human!) from day dot! 

Here are two videos that I find helpful - 

The NCTs advice on swaddling : 

And here is a video on an amazing baby whisperer.... 

Need further help? Want to chat about swaddling or ask more questions? Feel free to get in touch!


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