SWADDLING. A NOT SO SECRET SUPER POWER.
Let's talk about swaddling. For some parents, the swaddle has been a lifesaver, while others report that they find it tricky especially because baby always wriggles out of it. But what does swaddling actually do for our babies?
To understand this a bit better lets look a bit closer at the famous fourth trimester.
Much can be said about these precious first 3 months of baby's life and one thing that is abundantly clear is that it is equally as important to take care of mama's needs as much as bubs and that these two are very much linked together. Happy mama, happy baby. Hopefully this article can assist in meeting some of these needs and make this wonderful time just a little bit calmer.
The journey from womb to world is a big one and for our babies it is a very sudden change of environment. For the past 40 weeks or so they have been comfortable in mamas womb, where it was dark and snug, where food and drink were on tap, the temperature was perfect and they felt tight and safe. It is not hard to understand that their arrival earth-side can feel overwhelming. Feeling air on their skin, the sensations of thirst and hunger, bright lights and being cold are all brand new experiences for newborns.
Understanding this helps greatly in learning why babies respond so well to us offering comforts from the womb.
We can do this by using a range of approaches like motion and patting, breastfeeding and sucking, white noise, dimly lit environments for sleep and last but not least swaddling our babies.
Swaddling has been used by mothers for thousands of years to help newborn babies feel calm and snug and make it easier for them to fall asleep. They often feel safe and and tight in the swaddle the way they did in the womb and it also helps prevent them from waking themselves from the MORO-reflex. This is a normal primitive, infantile reflex also called the startle reflex. Simply explained the MORO-reflex is a response to sudden noises and loss of support or body balance and when it kicks in baby responds by throwing their arms in the air. It can happen from a loud noise or simply from being laid down head first and it also kicks in when baby drifts from a light sleep phase to a deep sleep phase. Which is often why babies end up catnapping and missing out on their deep restorative sleep.
This is why your super power is to swaddle your baby! It helps them feel snug and safe and it is really effective in helping them consolidate a bit more sleep rather than waking after 20 minutes of being put down.
Another hot tip here for those times you want to transfer your sleeping baby from your arms to the bassinet is to always transfer baby so feet hit the mattress first, then the bum, then the back and lastly their head. This will avoid triggering the startle reflex as you transfer them. Making sure baby is swaddled here will seal the deal and you can get that golden little moment to drink a hot cuppa or have a shower.
You might be thinking at this stage "BUT my baby just doesn't like to be swaddled". Many parents report to me that their baby always wriggled them selves out of their swaddle and that they simply gave up on it as they felt baby really didn't like it.
When babies get overtired, which is very likely to happen when they miss a lot of their deep sleep phases throughout the day, their little bodies respond by getting very wriggly. They start kicking and thrashing their arms and legs around and as much as it seems that this isn't the time to try and swaddle them, this is exactly when we need to use this superpower. An overtired newborn is in dire need of comfort and swaddling will assist in bringing the calm. If swaddling alone doesn't help your baby settle then try to add some motion, some sucking/a breastfeed or some white noise. Once they are asleep it is more likely that they will then be able to get through the first light part of their sleep and into the nice deep and restorative sleep.
There are many beautiful and effective ways to swaddle babies but some parents are still not a fan because they find it tricky to get the right technique and baby still manages to wriggle out. This is when a swaddle like the BeSwaddle is perfect, it can easily replace and bring with it all the benefits of the traditional swaddle.
Hopefully some of these tips will serve you well and help your baby settle easier and be more comfortable in these first 12 weeks. Swaddling can be done until baby is showing sign of rolling or the MORO- reflex has gone.
Enjoy this very special time
Baby Sleep Consultant
Marte Rovik believes in positive, gentle, efficient and long lasting solutions to baby sleep that are tailored to each individual family. Contact Marte Rovik for a free 15-minute consultation.