Is swaddling vital to a newborn's sleep? I find my two week old doesn't particularly like being swaddled but friends, and the mother in law, tell me that a swaddled baby is a happy one. Do you agree or can a newborn sleep well without being swaddled?
“History has recorded that Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Jesus were all swaddled as babies...And now, our nation has also rediscovered that babies like being wrapped as snug as a bug in a rug." Dr Harvey Karp
Swaddling is so common now that just about all hospitals and birthing centres will teach you how to swaddle your baby soon after birth. Swaddling is a very traditional method used with babies across many countries and for generations.
Swaddling has become popular again of late, mostly due to the SIDS recommendations that to keep your baby as safe as you can from sudden infant death syndrome, baby needs to sleep on their back. But the problem with this position is that babies sleeping on their backs are often woken by their ‘startle reflex’ in which their arms and legs jerk randomly. This then wakes them up, as a parent you become not just tired but exhausted with a poorly sleeping baby and you are then tempted to place your baby to sleep on their stomach. Paedtricians recommend swaddling as it certainly minimises the startle reflex. Interestingly enough swaddling also makes your baby feel as though it is being held tightly or cuddled in its mothers arms. We know how important touch is to babies development and swaddling gives your baby the same feeling, it mimics the womb. Once you start swaddling before going to sleep, your baby will soon learn the routine and start to relax, calm and even close their eyes as you are beginning to swaddle, they know they are going to sleep soon. It has then become a sleeping cue for your baby it is a very portable cue for your baby and can be taken everywhere – just make sure you use a nice cotton or muslin wrap light enough or heavy enough for your climate.
Sometimes you give up too quickly as your baby doesn’t seem to like it, of course there is always some babies that don’t get use to it and continue to dislike swaddling, but I would recommend that you persist, it won’t take your baby long to realize that they actually love it. Perhaps try swaddling when your baby is fairly sleepy and will protest less at this point. Also make sure your baby isn’t overtired, a two week old, will only be awake and up for about 50 minutes max, each time. Once your baby is too tired they tend to resist and protest about lots of things. History and traditions have shown swaddling to be highly effective and popular with babies and parents!