Swaddling Baby – Part I

Swaddling is a hot topic of discussion amongst new parents; we chat about what products we use, whose baby loves it, whose baby hates it, and when we stopped using them all together. I think if all new parents wore badges, similar to Girl/Boy Scouts, we would all wear the swaddling badge with an extra sense of pride. If your newborn will tolerate it, a successful swaddle generally means sleep for baby and you (yay!). My adventures with swaddling have just come to an end at 14 weeks, but I will share with you how we finally arrived at this unfamiliar place.

Let me start by sharing a very brief explanation on why we swaddle in the first place. Swaddling became popular again (the art of swaddling infants has been around for centuries) in 1990’s when the “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched to encourage parents to place newborns on their backs to sleep. Researchers found that switching from stomach to back, and eliminating loose blankets (bumpers, pillows, etc.) decreased the overall SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) rate by a staggering 50 percent.  Once this change was implemented, swaddling re-emerged as the safest way to keep babies warm, content and limit the moro/startle reflex from waking them up.
(The moro reflex is a reaction to a “falling” sensation experienced by all healthy babies from birth to four/five months; this can happen while your child is sleeping, hence the importance of the swaddle. As with all reflexes, some babies experience stronger reactions to some and not others. The picture above illustrates the moro/startle reflex in infants.)
From day one, Alexa has strongly disliked the act of being swaddled, but we continued to try. We began by using the hospital swaddles and my husband quickly emerged as the “swaddle king”, living by the mantra – “the tighter the better”. Well, his reign didn’t last very long as our little Houdini continued to escape and raise her hands above her head in victory. 
a very bad (and dangerous) example of a swaddle
At this point we pretty much threw in the swaddle and figured we were fine without it; that was until we realized that while she fussed, cried, and wiggled while we swaddled, she actually slept remarkably well once she fell asleep (I’m talking 5 hours in a row within a matter of weeks for a breastfed baby). So, we continued to swaddle with the hospital blankets and just made sure they were tight enough so she could not break out. 
Throughout this time, (up until six weeks) we experimented with different swaddles, including sleeps sacks and muslin swaddle blankets, but kept going back to the hospital ones because they seemed to fit our baby the best; the muslin blanket had way too much material and the sleep sack just wasn’t snug enough. Our biggest challenge at this point was trying not to wake the baby while we swaddled her, which turns out to be much harder than the videos care to show. Regardless of our parental mishaps, she was sleeping well, thanks in large part to the swaddle. 
I will leave you at this point in our swaddling adventures and pick back up next time at the six-week mark!
Happy Swaddling! 
A quick word of advice: A bad or loose swaddle that becomes unraveled is dangerous for your baby. If you find yourself struggling to keep your little one contained for whatever reason, it’s safer to stop swaddling than risk the chance of suffocation or strangulation. 

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