Safe Swaddling for Babies
Mar 25, 2015
Swaddling is wonderful for some babies. They feel secure, they don't wake as easily from the startle reflex, and they can't roll on to their stomachs as easily. Swaddling may also decrease the risks of SIDS and cot death. However, there can be some problems with swaddling, and you need to know how to do it correctly. Safe swaddling techniques minimise the chances of developmental hip dysplasia or your baby overheating.
Overheating your baby through swaddling
You’re probably more concerned about keeping your baby nice and warm, but when swaddling your baby, you should also be concerned about your baby overheating. Swaddling itself will not cause overheating, but a range of different factors such as the type of wrap you use, the technique, your baby's clothing and bedding each contribute to the risks of overheating. Summer babies are most at risk, because of your natural instinct to wrap your baby up tight even though the room may be warm. So really it comes down to careful observation, and some common sense.
- Always use a natural fibre swaddle such as a light cotton or bamboo muslin, or a merino wrap. Swaddles made from synthetic fibres aren't a good idea, as they don't allow your baby to sweat or regulate their temperature easily.
- Leaving your baby’s arms exposed to the cooler air will help prevent overheating.
- Dress your baby accordingly in the summer and winter months – merino wool is great for regulating body temperature but in the summer months it may be warm enough for just their nappy under the swaddle.
- Never cover your baby’s face whilst using a swaddle – not with a hat in the summer not a beanie in winter. Keep other blankets and toys out of the crib to avoid any other objects or blankets else covering the face during their sleep.
- Feel your baby’s hands and ears. They should be warm but not hot. Watch for any sweating, rapid breathing or flushed cheeks.
Swaddling and developmental hip dysplasia
If you’re looking at commercial baby swaddles instead of cloth wraps, ensure that there are no synthetic linings, no stretchy fabrics where baby can wriggle down and cover their face, and ensure that they are not tight around the thighs as they must allow the hips to spread apart and bend up. Why?
Developmental hip dysplasia
Your baby has not long entered this world after nine months in the foetal position with their legs bent up. Forcibly straightening the legs can loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket. By allowing the legs to move freely, you’re allowing for natural development of the hip joints. If the ball doesn’t form properly in the socket of the hip joint and is displaced from it, hip dysplasia can develop. Never swaddle your baby whilst breastfeeding. Not only does it prevent their tiny hands from helping them locate the nipple, it’s also a great opportunity for some skin to skin contact with your child. This strengthens the bond between mother and child and helps to regulate their body temperature naturally. It’s also hard work for a baby getting all that milk from the breast!
There’s a chance here that a swaddled baby may overheat during breastfeeding. Keep in mind that although you may have perfected the art of swaddling your baby, some babies simply may not like it. Swaddling is best for your baby in their first few months. You can then start to reduce daytime swaddling after one month and gradually wean your baby off swaddling at around 3 or 4 months. It's definitely time to stop swaddling once they begin to roll over. If you find that your baby sleeps better swaddled, then thank your lucky stars and enjoy your sleep! Most babies will let you know that they're done with swaddling by fussing or kicking when swaddled. If you're interested in swaddling your baby, here's a great video from the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
You may find it easier to swaddle in a shaped swaddle, like the ones from ergoPouch, where all you have to do is pop baby in and not worry about origami. Our swaddles are in natural materials like organic cotton and bamboo. Click to see Hello Charlie's range of baby swaddles. Happy swaddling!