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Why Swaddling Makes for a Happier Baby

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This blog is particularly special to me because writing it was a family affair.

Shereen, my oldest daughter, AKA Ya Shoosh, who is a gifted artist and the most compassionate and giving person I know, drew the swaddling illustration for this blog.

Sarah, my youngest, AKA Sweet Pea (but only I can call her that), is an amazing new mother, pro latte maker, and lights up any room with her contagiously happy personality. She lent me her experience learning to swaddle her newborn.

And then there is Laith, my grandson, AKA Lulu who represents everything sweet. He posed as the model for us in his swaddle.


Why Swaddling Makes for a Happier Baby

When Laith was born and Sarah asked me to stay with her for a few weeks, I was so excited— but I must admit a little nervous.  I didn’t let on how I was feeling, but it had been a long time since my daughters were babies and I was afraid that I had lost my touch.  One thing I did remember for certain was the importance of swaddling. Before Laith’s arrival, I made sure we were stocked up with plenty of swaddle blankets and then mustered up my baby knowledge to give my daughter a lesson in the art of the swaddle.

She wasn’t convinced at first that this was the right thing to do.  Sarah thought that swaddling would make Laith too hot and that he would become overheated. So for the first five days, she put him in ultra light clothes. She quickly realized that it was difficult to soothe him and to get him to sleep. I was able to convince her to take out the basket full of swaddle blankets and we wrapped him all up— within seconds he fell asleep. Like magic!  Sarah breathed a huge sigh of relief from the stress she was holding with a constantly crying baby.  Moms should never say “I told you so,” but the sight of a calm baby and mommy was reward enough.

Sarah loves swaddling so much now that she’s an outspoken proponent: "Swaddling improves the quality of my son's sleep immensely. We noticed that he became increasingly frustrated trying to sleep as his startle reflex was so severe, and he couldn't stop hitting himself or stop his arms from making circles. Once we realized that he loved being swaddled very tightly, bedtime routine has become that much smoother!"

The great thing about swaddling is that it cues the baby that they’re about to take a nap or go to sleep for the night.  They’ll begin to naturally calm down and prepare themselves for slumber, and will begin to associate swaddling with resting. For this reason, it’s important to establish swaddling as a part of your daily routine and to only swaddle when preparing your baby for bedtime.

Not only does swaddling calm and soothe your baby, it will also help them sleep longer. Studies have shown that infants are quieter, sleep more, and have a lower and more stable heart rate when swaddled.

I remember when my girls were born, they became startled easily, but had no idea that this actually had a name until Sarah and I had a discussion about this topic.  Turns out it’s called the “Moro Reflex.”

“It's usually caused when your baby’s head changes position or falls back abruptly, or when she hears a loud or unusual noise,” explains Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a family physician and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.

Besides making for happier sleepers,  swaddle blankets are multi-functional.  They can be used to cover a stroller to shade baby from the sun and elements, as extra padding in your baby lounger, or even as a security blanket.

The swaddle blankets we make at Under the Nile come in muslin and knit fabrics, both of which have their benefits.  Muslin swaddles are perfect for regulating baby’s temperature while swaddled.  However, they come in a bigger size (45” x 45”) so they may be too big for a newborn.  I love the muslin swaddles because they get softer and softer every time they’re washed.  Our knit swaddles are my go-to for my grandson.  The stretch is perfect to keep him wrapped up tight, and the weight of the fabric is light enough that he doesn’t get over heated.  Laith is four months old today and the size 34” x 34” still fits him well. 

So when should you stop swaddling?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning out of the swaddle at the first signs of rolling.

Some of those signs might include:

  • Rolling onto their side
  • Kicking their legs up and over to the side
  • Breaking out of the swaddle
  • Spinning in circles within the swaddle

Some other signs that it’s time to get rid of the swaddle include physically outgrowing it and no longer sleeping well while being swaddled. As they say... all good things must come to an end!

Once Laith starts rolling over Sarah will stop swaddling him, but I’m sure she will find other ways to use her swaddles— and they’ll definitely be handed down to the next baby.

1 comment

  • CarolynN: October 29, 2021

    I must say that this is the most satisfying thing I did for my son other than breastfeeding him. Swaddling makes me feel so close to him and I know that that’s the reason why he sleeps so well on my chest. It feels like hugging him all the time.

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