I am often asked, “Is a swaddle a prop? Is it useful? Where do you stand on swaddling?” Swaddling a newborn can be an excellent tool as it mimics the feeling of confinement that was experienced in the womb. Therefore, it can be incredibly comforting to a lot of newborns. I used a swaddle on both of my children and it certainly helped us survive those early weeks of transition
Provided you keep an eye out for overheating (profuse sweating), swaddling a newborn is an excellent way to help your little one stay calm in a world that can be downright overwhelming at first! In addition, many parents do find that the swaddle helps there baby sleep better, which is often linked with the fact that it contains their arms. In early stages of infancy, the Moro reflex is present, which is the startle reflex where they throw their arms out uncontrollably and as many of you know, can wake a sleeping newborn. Having their arms down and being wrapped tightly can help with that. So I say absolutely use it if your little one responds well to the swaddle!
However, like many good things, it can become a prop. If a baby gets used to the idea that they need to be tightly wrapped every time they sleep, then when they kick free, they may wake up and need your help to come back in and re-wrap them. It becomes a love-hate relationship at a certain age where your baby thinks he needs a swaddle but he doesn’t like it that much anymore. Because babies become so experimental with their movements and they like to kick and they like to practice and they like to roll around, they’re most likely going to kick free of the swaddle no matter how tightly you wrap it.
So, what is a great way to break free of swaddling and when should do it? Once you find that you have to have go to your baby at night or intervene during a nap to get them wrapped up again, means that you are well into the ‘prop’ zone. This reminds me of a story of a baby that was still being swaddled at 8 months and mom had sewn four, FOUR, receiving blankets together to make a swaddle big enough for her baby! At that point, there’s no way around it, you’re going to have to ditch the swaddle and go cold turkey.
It’s best if you can avoid this so that you can minimize the tears down the road. A good rule of thumb around the swaddle is, by the third month, start working your way out of it. By that, I mean, leave an arm out at a nap time. And then try to take the swaddle away completely at bedtime while you’re weaning during naps. Bedtime is the easiest time to try this as baby’s sleep drive is the strongest and tend to fall asleep easier with these changes rather then during the day.
So, if you haven’t entered ‘major prop zone’ in the world of swaddling yet but you’re baby is approaching the 3 month mark, start working your way towards swaddle free sleeping. Remember that our children adapt really quickly if we give them the space to do so. If it feels a little terrifying to do this (which is totally okay to feel that way!) try a transitional swaddle product like that Zipadee-Zip to help you on your way.