What Does Swaddling/Wrapping A Baby Mean?

Have you heard of this ancient method where a new-born is snuggled by wrapping up in a soft muslin cloth? Swaddling basically helps the baby to feel safe, warm and secure.

As the outside world is a new place for him, wrapping up a baby helps him feel comfortable. Swaddling is the art of wrapping a baby in a warm cloth or soft blanket. This helps the baby to get the security and keeps him away from feeling uncomfortable by his startle reflex.  Have you heard of this term – startle reflex? An infantile or startle reflex happens in all infants for up to 4 months. It is their response to a threat, lack of support or when the baby feels insecure. Swaddling or wrapping a new-born helps him to stay warm and calm his reflexes.

Most of the hospitals teach this technique to all new moms. After your baby is well-fed, dry and ready to sleep, just settle him in a warm cloth. This gives him the security and tight environment similar to a womb.

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Why Babies Need To Be Swaddled?

In most of the eastern cultures, swaddling babies is a tradition that has been followed for generations. Even in the western countries, this technique was adopted in the 90’s. But researchers, Earle L. Lipton, Alfred Steinschneider and Julius B. Richmond, conducted an experiment way back in 1960’s to prove the advantages of swaddling. They were confident that wrapping an infant like that has a calming effect.  They also found out that swaddling helped babies to remain quieter, have a sound sleep, and also stay calm. The counter advantages were that infants felt the security of their mother’s womb and therefore cried lesser. They showed more stable and better heart rates and slept for longer durations.

The Benefits Of Swaddling

  • As mentioned earlier, swaddling provides a familiar environment to babies. They feel as cozy and secure as in the womb. Moreover, wrapping babies prevents or takes care of reflex movements of babies, which are called startle or more reflex when they suddenly wake up.
  • Swaddling is also said to have magical qualities of a lullaby. No jokes, wrapping a baby gives them a soothing effect when they are crying and lulls them to sleep. Wondering how? It basically triggers a mechanism that relaxes and comforts them. Some pediatricians and touch therapists also say that wrapping helps to develop a new-born’s tactile system. This further helps them to get comfortable when someone touches them.
  • Babies also sleep longer when they are swaddled well. Yes, that’s true? Though as adults, we might find the thought of being tightly wrapped in a blanket claustrophobic, for a new baby, this replicates the environment he just left – his mom’s womb.
  • Infants cry lesser when swaddled. Have you seen an infant move his arms and legs frantically? These movements cause a baby to feel startled or over stimulated. You would have noticed new-borns crying a lot. That’s basically their attempt to block the stimuli. But when they are swaddled, their movements are restricted and they cry lesser.
  • Lesser scratching is another advantage. Infants often tend to scratch themselves as their nails grow fast. But when a baby is swaddled, they cannot scratch themselves and can stay safe.

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How To Swaddle Your Baby

The best bet about this ancient art is that it’s very simple.  What you need is just a soft muslin cloth or a warm and clean blanket and lots of love. Here’s how you can do it.

  • Spread a clean muslin cloth or blanket on a flat surface.
  • Then fold the cloth or swaddle into a triangle shape.
  • Place the infant in the centre of that cloth. Ensure that his shoulders should be below the fold.
  • Fold or wrap the left corner of the swaddle over the arm and body. Then tuck the cloth under the other side of the child’s body.
  • Now, take the bottom corner of the swaddle and bring it over his feet.
  • Then take the right corner of the swaddle and wrap it around the infant’s body. Make sure to bring it around to the back.
  • After you are done, the baby’s head and neck would be exposed.

Tip To Remember:

If you decide to wrap or swaddle your baby, make sure that you learn the technique well. Incorrect swaddling or wrapping the baby too tightly may result in many problems such as loosening the joints, damaging the soft cartilage of the infant’s hip sockets, or in worse cases, it may result in hip dysplasia.

Also remember that, before swaddling, you must check if your baby is not hungry. Check the diaper and keep baby’s face and head in open so that he can be comfortable and can breathe easily. You also won’t need another blanket on top to cover the baby, if you have wrapped him. So learn this art and soothe your little one.