There is more to swaddles other than cute prints and trendy fabrics. It’s a technique that’s been practiced for centuries, and the reason is because it works.
Turns out newborns aren’t thrilled to be in the outside world. They’re used to a warm and snug environment and the world is cold and spacious, which is not comforting to an infant.
One way to deal with their less-than-thrilled attitude about being born is swaddling. Swaddling is key to calming and promoting sleep. Wrapping your baby up helps in a number of ways. First off, it helps recreate their previous residence in their mother’s body. With their arms wrapped close to their sides in the wide open space of the world, an infant feels snug and safe. It’s a great way to soothe an infant that is overstimulated because it helps create an environment that they are familiar and comfortable with.
Babies also have something called a startle reflex that eventually goes away, but in the beginning of their lives happens quite often. When babies are sleeping, they sometimes will all of a sudden have an involuntary jerk movement. If they aren’t folded up in a swaddle blanket, an infant’s arms or legs (or both) will suddenly flail and will usually wake them up if they’re sleeping. Swaddling a newborn helps with this reflex. Babies will still experience the startle reflex, but because they are bundled up in a swaddle blanket, their arms stay at their sides and their legs have less wiggle room to cause too much disturbance. This also promotes sleep continuity, so babies will most likely sleep longer when swaddled.
Because wrapping your baby in a swaddle blanket can help with sleep continuity, it can help your baby stay asleep specifically when sleeping on their back. Some parents have actually attested to swaddling their newborn, or younger baby, encouraging them to place their baby on their back when putting their baby to sleep. Parents are often tempted to place their newborn on their stomach to fall asleep, as some babies prefer this sleeping position. Because sleeping on their tummies can increase their risk of SIDS, it is always good to put practices in place to encourage babies to sleep on their backs. Placing your baby on their back when sleeping helps prevent SIDS, so if you’re disincentivized to put your infant on their stomach when they sleep, that is a great reason to swaddle.
So when you’re questioning whether or not you should swaddle your fussy newborn, know that new parents have practiced swaddling for centuries, and it’s one of the 5 pillars of the 5 S’s. It’s proven to work, and when done correctly, its purpose can give you many hours of much needed and much deserved sleep.