You can help your baby develop and grow by the way you swaddle them.
Swaddling a new born is a great way to calm and relax your baby. Swaddling works by controlling the startle reflex which is when their arms and legs “fly out” when they hear a loud noise or experience a sudden movement. This can often wake a baby and make it harder for them to settle back to sleep. Tight prolonged swaddling with their arms and legs wrapped against their bodies can delay the normal development of bringing their hands to mouth and developing deep hip joints. Properly formed hip joints are important to enable your baby to learn to stand and walk on pain-free joints. I often hear parents say “my baby doesn’t like to be swaddled” this is occasionally the case but most babies do like it. It is normally down to how it is done if the arms are tight down at their sides or their arms are pinned across their chest then you are likely to find they do not like this. By swaddling them with their hands up by their faces mimics how they have been in utero. We have seen the ultrasound scans with our babies sucking their thumbs, hands against their faces or tucked under their chin. This is why if we restrict their arms away from their face they are often unhappy. In the first few weeks of life they have so many new experiences that they are learning to adjust to, so let’s try and make it as similar to home (their old familiar place – in utero) as it can be when they are sleeping.
Steps to swaddling
- lay wrap with point at one end – like a diamond
- fold the top corner down around 1/3 of the wrap
- lay baby on the wrap with fold line at the level of their ear lobes
- tuck one hand into the “pocket” created from folding down the corner, pull the end across to the opposite side of their body and tuck under
- repeat with their other hand as in step 5
- fold up the bottom of the wrap
Ensure when wrapping ends across the body that you do not pull it tight around the hips. We want to avoid holding the legs down and together as this prevents them developing strong hip joints. It is also important to wean swaddling when your baby has started to roll, so their hands are free to help them roll back onto their backs.