At some point in their first pregnancy, new parents will hear about this mysterious practice called “swaddling”.
If you’re not a baby, it seems distressing. When a baby is swaddled, they are basically in a blanket straightjacket that prevents them from flailing their arms or indeed moving their arms around much at all.
But the important distinction to remember is that babies are used to being wrapped up tight, in a sense. They’ve been held and enclosed in their mother’s womb for the last nine or so months. That’s their natural state of being, and that’s where they’re most calm and contented.
That’s why babies love being worn, especially when they’re in the first three months of their life. It’s the closest thing to being in the womb. Close to their mom’s (or dad’s) beating heart, warmth and scent. Shop our baby wraps here.
Swaddling is another way to simulate that womb-like environment. And it works. Newborn babies, and indeed babies up to a year, have been shown to sleep deeper and more soundly when swaddled.
The reason many babies wake up (aside from being hungry) is their startle reflex, and being swaddled prevents that from happening.
Take a look at this beautiful newborn swaddled up all perfectly. Doesn’t she look lovely?
Sawyer at two weeks old - just barely eight pounds.
All of this information, and the swaddling journey is still a tricky one. From any one tutorial you watch you might be tempted to think, “That looks fairly simple. Look at that tiny newborn all swaddled and cozy. He didn’t even wake up. How peaceful and serene.” Do not be deceived.
Swaddling a newborn is fairly straightforward. Once you master the origami of it all, getting your newborn asleep tightly swaddled is a breeze. After all, they pretty much sleep ALL of the time. Then, around two or three months (depending on how strong your baby is), they become a tricky trickster.
Suddenly they start bursting out of the swaddles mom so carefully origami-ed. Blankets askew, tiny fists balled up in frustration, crying after being scared awake from sleep. It’s not a pretty picture.
That’s when I discovered what I unofficial call the “baby straightjacket method”. Sawyer (my baby) was too strong for a single swaddle when she was about eight weeks old. My straightjacket technique uses two swaddles – one small and one large. My favourites to use were the WEstcoast Baby Bamboo Swaddle (for the small one) and an Aden and Anais Linen Swaddle for the large one. You can see the technique I used in the Youtube video here:
That method works great. But it is SUCH A PAIN. In the middle of the night after a feed, it’s a pain and a half. So the next iteration of my swaddling journey was a product called Swaddle Up by Love to Dream. It had one easy zipper up the front and swaddled the baby with her arms up. It was actually quite cute – she looked like a little baby butterfly.
Sawyer at four months old - almost 18 pounds.
Then I wondered if it was doing anything at all. I wondered if she would sleep just as well with no swaddle at all.
So two weeks ago after reading some article on sleep training (and how babies need their arms free to self soothe) I started putting her to sleep unswaddled.
And low and behold – it didn’t make a difference! She slept perfectly well unswaddled.
For one week.
Then, she learned to roll.
Yay right? Developmental milestone. Except that she can currently only roll from her back on to her tummy and not back in the other direction. So in the middle of the night she started rolling to her tummy, getting scared, and waking up many times in the night.
Tired mommy, tired baby, and I felt like all the hard work I’d done getting her to sleep at night was coming undone. Back to square one.
The next swaddle I tried (and the winner so far) is the Halo Sleep Swaddle. Now, this is an incredible product for two reasons. First, it’s incredibly easy to put baby into. Major props. And two, once baby is done with being swaddled (for me that will be either when Sawyer can roll from back to front and front to back, or is comfortable sleeping on her stomach), it can be converted into a sleep sac with one or both arms free. I LOVE that. Anything that reduces the number of baby products I have to buy (that aren’t cute clothes) the better.
So far it’s a winner. I can just picture it in gorgeous custom designed organic cotton. Beluga Baby’s next venture? I can dream.
Later babes, happy swaddling.
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