Swaddling—also known as wrapping your baby up in a blanket burrito-style—is one of the oldest techniques in parenting for calming a baby down. The theory is that it helps calm infants by mimicking the security of their experience in the womb. A lot of people rely on swaddling to help fussy babies doze off, but does that mean it’s safe? Read on for answers to important questions about this sleep-tight method.
When is swaddling a good idea?
“I encourage parents to try swaddling if their baby seems fussy or tough-to-calm,” says Christina Gantcher, one of the sleep coaches on Maven and the founder of Good Night Sleep Coaching. “Swaddling often helps babies relax what’s called the ‘startle reflex’ that wakes them up—it’s one of the involuntary reactions newborns are born with.”
“Don't assume that other caregivers will place your baby to sleep in the right position.”
How should I lay my baby down?
The most important thing that parents need to know is that—swaddled or not—babies should always be put down to sleep on their backs until their first birthday. Tummy- or side-sleep has been linked to an increase in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Even if you know this rule, the Mayo Clinic offers this advice: Don't assume that other caregivers will place your baby to sleep in the right position; insist on it. “Once your baby can roll over both ways on his own in the crib, it isn't necessary to return him to his back each time you find him flipped,” says Maven pediatrician Amy Brandon M.D. “Just be sure to follow the rest of the American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep Guidelines, such as making sure your baby is on a firm, flat sleep surface and keeping bedding or soft materials out of the crib.”
When should you stop swaddling?
Once your baby shows signs of being able to roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling. “Most pediatricians feel babies should be weaned from the swaddle by four months, but every infant is different,” says Brandon. “For instance, some babies start to roll over at 2 months, and the day you celebrate this milestone is the day to stop the swaddle.” The good news: During and after the transition from swaddling, you can still suit up your baby for a cozy sleep without wrapping their arms close to their body. Brandon recommends the Halo Sleepsack, Merlin Magic Sleepsuit, or the Zipadee-Zip (all available on Amazon).
Is there such a thing as a too-tight swaddle?
Yes. Researchers who looked into this found that in order for a baby’s hips to develop properly in the first six months, the legs need to be separated instead of held rigidly together. This tight swaddling may leave babies at a higher risk for hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean you need to ditch the method—just avoid wrapping your baby so tight that they don’t have enough room to bend their legs. Bottom line: It’s OK to make your baby snug as a bug—but within reason.
How Maven can you help your baby get to sleep
If your newborn is inconsolable every time you put her down to sleep, and you need some advice, book an appointment with a pediatrician or sleep coach in Maven’s network. They can help you figure out if your baby is going through a normal bout of finickiness, or if something else—like colic or acid reflux—could be to blame.
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