There are some topics that are instant hot-button issues when it comes to parenting. Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding. Co-sleeping vs. Crib sleeping. Returning to work vs. Staying at home. (And just so you know where we stand on these issues - we stand with you! Doulas of Raleigh will always provide your family with 100% non-judgmental support for whatever works best for you.)
RECENTLY, THERE SEEMS TO BE A NEW HOT BUTTON ISSUE DEVELOPING: SWADDLING VS. NO SWADDLING.
Swaddling, the technique of securely wrapping a baby, most often with a large blanket, is not a new practice. In fact, swaddling has existed for hundreds of years and has been used for generations to help calm a fussy baby. One of the most well-respected pediatricians in the field, Dr. Harvey Karp, recommends swaddling as one of five essential tools for soothing babies in his Happiest Baby on the Block books and DVDs.
SO WHAT IS THE CONTROVERSY?
A recent study released in the journal of Pediatrics had a rather alarming headline linking swaddling to an increased risk of SIDS. (Which is true if a swaddled baby sleeps on its stomach, so be sure to follow the safety guidelines listed below.) In our area and across the country, some hospitals have stopped swaddling newborns and are now advising parents against it.
SO WHAT IS A NEW PARENT TO DO? HOW DO YOU WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS OF SWADDLING?
As postpartum doulas, we are very familiar with swaddling and see over and over the effectiveness of swaddling for a fussy, crying baby. Does this mean that all parents should swaddle their babies? Not necessarily.
Parents should examine the pros and cons of swaddling before deciding what is best for their baby. So what are they?
- Swaddling helps babies sleep longer and sounder, especially by restraining arms and hands that startle easily, often waking baby.
- The secure, snug feeling of a swaddle can recreate the feeling of being in the womb, thus helping to soothe a fussy or over-stimulated baby.
- Too much time swaddled, especially during feeding times, may interfere with breastfeeding, as babies that are placed skin-to-skin and have free access to their hands tend to be more successful with breastfeeding.
- Swaddling can be a tough habit to break. Once a baby begins rolling over, it is no longer safe to swaddle, but some parents find that babies who have always slept swaddled have a tough time sleeping without it at first.
- Swaddling can pose overheating or suffocation risks. It is important to know the safety guidelines for swaddling to avoid these risks.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY WHEN TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO SWADDLE, CONSIDER WHAT YOUR BABY LIKES BEST.
Do you have a fussy baby or a baby that gets overstimulated easily and needs more soothing? Do you find that your baby constantly startles herself awake when put down to sleep unswaddled? Or do you have a baby that consistently resists being restrained and always struggles against the swaddle?
As new parents, you are learning your baby's cues and once you become more familiar with them, your baby may end up being the ultimate decider of this debate.
Once you've weighed the pros and cons and taken note of your baby's own reaction to the swaddle, if you do decide that it's best for your baby, make sure you know how to properly swaddle your newborn. You can find a great, step-by-step tutorial here.
Plus, it is important to always follow these safety guidelines:
- Always make sure that the edges of the swaddling blanket are secured tightly, with no loose corners that could cover baby's face.
- Always place a swaddled baby to sleep on its back - never on its side or stomach, as this can increase the risk of SIDS.
- Once baby begins rolling over, stop swaddling at sleep times.
- Do not swaddle a baby too tightly, as this can cause overheating, difficulty breathing, or over-extension of hips and knees.
- Do not over-dress your newborn prior to swaddling and do not use heavy, fleece blankets for swaddling. A breathable, light blanket is best. And if you notice your baby is sweating, clammy, or flushed while swaddled, unwrap him immediately as he is too hot.
- Allow your baby plenty of time to be unswaddled. Babies should not be swaddled while feeding, but instead only during sleep times or when being used to soothe a fussy baby.
So, there it is. Like any hot-button parenting issue, there will be pros and cons. But once you've researched and thought about what works best for your family and your baby, just follow that parenting intuition. Done safely, swaddling is still a great tool for calming fussy babies and helping them sleep.