Swaddling is a great tool for small babies, angry babies, and all babies in between. In the beginning weeks of life, swaddling is helpful in a number of ways. It helps recreate the infant’s previous home, inside mom, so they can make an easier transition into life earthside. Newborns also are not able to regulate their body temperature in their first few weeks of life.
Wrapping your newborn up in a swaddle blanket will help provide warmth for them, which can be tricky for babies in the beginning. Swaddling is also one of the key elements in the 5 S’s, which is a strategy for calming your baby when they’re upset, crying, or generally fussy. Many parents attest to the fact that folding their baby up in a swaddle blanket has helped calm their baby. Being able to provide a snug, warm environment for a newborn is extremely helpful in a calming process.
Despite swaddling being such a great tool for calming babies and making them feel comfortable, there comes a time when you must take them out of the swaddle.
Generally, when babies start to roll onto their tummy is when parents should stop using swaddle blankets. If you have a baby, or are about to have a baby, you probably know about the “back to sleep” campaign started by the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can greatly reduce your baby’s chance of SIDS by placing your baby to sleep on their back.
You cannot prevent your baby from rolling onto their tummy, especially since a lot of babies prefer to sleep on their stomach, but it’s important that babies have their arms free if they roll onto their stomach at night. When swaddled, babies have one or both arms tucked closely to their sides which greatly reduces their mobility. Being able to have full range of motion of their arms will allow them the chance to roll onto their back more easily, or generally allow them to change their sleeping position.
That all being said, there are other uses for swaddles, so don’t go throwing all your swaddle blankets away once your baby rolls onto their tummy! Swaddles can be used for anything from tummy time to a last minute nursing cover. You can tie two ends of a swaddle together and place around your neck, allowing for an easy cover so you can nurse privately while in public. Swaddles can be used as blankets as well, for stroller walks or as extra reinforcement if you use a carrier when walking with your baby.
As with anything, all good things must come to an end, but those good things can most certainly be repurposed. Once your baby starts rolling onto their tummy, quit the swaddle turning nap and bedtimes, and bring it out for walks, nursing, and tummy time.