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Baby swaddling: these mistakes should be avoided
Loved by midwives, hated by many paediatricians: swaddling. At the latest when you find out that some paediatricians advise “to let the baby cry until it falls asleep”, you will want to form your own opinion.
Try out for yourself what your baby is comfortable with. What is good for one baby can frustrate another baby. Speaking of frustrating, the critics actually claim that swaddled babies only calm down because they are frustrated, become passive and "give up".
By the time a baby actually "gives up", it can reach a volume of up to 110 decibels. And this corresponds to a jackhammer. You will definitely notice whether your baby feels comfortable swaddled or is actually frustrated!
Why are babies swaddled?
If you have or are expecting a baby, you may have heard of what is known as the Moro Reflex. This is the backward movement of the baby, which is present from birth and disappears between the 2nd and 4th month. Strictly speaking, it already develops from the 9th week of pregnancy.
The small body tenses up and the arms suddenly jerk upwards. Some babies even gasp for air before exhaling again. This happens when babies are frightened (loud noise, bright light) or when they are placed on their backs from an upright position.
All infants show the Moro reflex in the first few months of life. However, some babies also show the reflex when they sleep. The jerky movement wakes them up, screams and does not come to rest.
By the way, what sometimes looks frightening and can panic the parents is completely harmless: the Moro reflex is a primal instinct and ensures the baby's survival. It is also found in the animal world. It is intended to protect babies from falling out of the mother's arms or back because they cling to the backward movement.
Every newborn must show this reflex and is tested for it after birth (the baby is placed on its back). So there is no need to worry!
Babies feel safe and secure in the womb. Arrived in the cold, scary world, they are confronted with gravity, light, noise and a lot of space.
While some infants are completely relaxed little people, others do not really arrive in our world - and also do not come to rest. Unfortunately, as the mother of a baby boy, I was able to make this experience myself.
And that's exactly where swaddling comes in. Swaddling is a special wrapping technique that has been practiced around the world for thousands of years. The baby's arms and legs are placed against the body and wrapped tightly in a cloth.
The backward movement triggered by the Moro reflex cannot take place in this way. The baby comes to rest, feels safe and secure. So almost like in the womb. But only if you do it right!
This is how you can puck your baby properly and avoid dangerous mistakes
What all paediatricians are right about: If you swaddle the baby incorrectly, it can actually become very dangerous. You should therefore pay attention to the following things:
1. The baby must not overheat
Swaddling is done differently in summer and winter: While you can use a thin, very light muslin or jersey cloth in summer, you can use an elastic, breathable knitted blanket in winter. If you are using the right cloth, you won't have to worry too much about the clothes underneath.
In both cases, only a baby body is sufficient. Even in winter, the knitted blanket will give the baby enough warmth so that it does not freeze. However, if you put a sleep romper over the body of your baby and you also puck it, it will lead to dangerous heat build-up! Please also pay attention to the room temperature and check your baby's neck at regular intervals.
High-quality, elastic knitted blankets for swaddling are available e.g. from Bonjourbébé, Cam Cam Copenhagen or Nobodinoz.
2. Even a swaddled baby needs freedom of movement
If possible, prefer elastic swaddles and blankets. These ensure the baby's freedom of movement, even when the small body is tightly swaddled. Because if you puck your baby too loosely, it will kick itself freely and the swaddling will lose its effect.
If, on the other hand, the baby is swaddled too tightly and does not have enough freedom of movement, the risk of hip dysplasia increases. Thin muslin cloths are e.g. very breathable and also suitable for swaddling, but not elastic. If possible, only use these in summer when temperatures are high.
Important: In the summer, swaddle more loosely so that your baby does not overheat.
Elastic swaddles and swaddles are available from Little Dutch, for example: They are breathable, very comfortable on baby's skin and allow the little body enough freedom of movement. Elastic knitted blankets are used in winter.
In the following photo you can see how thin and loosely woven this elastic jersey swaddle is:
By the way, baby's arms do not necessarily have to be held or crossed on the chest in the swaddle. You can also place the hands so that your baby can suckle on them. Just try out what your baby feels most comfortable with.
3. Babies swaddled are only allowed to lie on their backs
A swaddled baby just lies on its back. Always! Prone position would increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome if the baby is swaddled.
This also answers the question of how long babies should be swaddled: Usually in the first 4 months. Many babies turn on their tummy on their own by the age of 5 months. As soon as a baby can turn, it should no longer be swaddled.
What else you should know about swaddling
- Swaddling is mainly used to help restless babies to relax more. If you have a calm baby who sleeps a lot and looks satisfied, swaddling is not necessary. However, it can also give satisfied babies even more security and well-being.
- Babies can be swaddled during the day and night. From about 4 months you should only swaddle it during the day. Some babies become active very early and the risk is too great that they will turn on their tummies on their own at 4 months. You wouldn't notice at night.
- Pay close attention to your baby's signals: if older babies kick wildly and defend themselves, they don't like swaddling. You should definitely take this seriously! Babies as early as 3 months old can show this reaction. Newborns are usually very happy to be swaddled.
- If you always lay your baby on its back, there is a risk of the back of the head flattening out. This risk always exists, swaddled or unpucked. You can compensate for this by carrying it in a cloth, a baby carrier or, of course, on your arm. Every now and then you should also lay your baby on its side and stomach to sleep, under supervision, of course. Some babies love the prone position and can only sleep peacefully on their stomach. With a lot of sensitivity you will find out what is good for your baby.
- You don't necessarily have to put down your swaddled baby: restless babies calm down quicker on the arm if they are easily swaddled.
- If you don't use knitted blankets for swaddling in winter, multi-layer muslin blankets are also suitable. Please make sure that you have enough freedom of movement and do not wrap the baby too tightly. Trust your midwife: she can show you how to swaddle your baby properly and what to look out for. Multi-layer muslin blankets are also available from Cam Cam Copenhagen, for example.
What if your baby doesn't like swaddling at all? To prevent it from being completely exposed and feeling lost, put a small cheesecloth in his hands. This can be 60 - 80 cm tall. This works wonders for restless babies! They cuddle up in the cloth, shield themselves and usually come to rest in just a few minutes.
Our two kids loved it. Even in kindergarten, they still had their favorite gauze cloth in their hands to help them fall asleep.
In our shop you will find pretty swaddles and swaddles for your baby. Here you will find beautiful knitted blankets for swaddling in winter.
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