Questions Parents Ask About Swaddling - Woodmam

1. When should I start wrapping my baby?

Babies can be swaddled as soon as they’re born. It makes them feel cozy and warm, like they’re “back home.”

2. Are there babies who don’t need to be swaddled?

Many calm babies do well with no swaddling at all. But the fussier your baby is, the more she’ll need it. Tight bundling is so successful at soothing infants that some even have to be unswaddled in order to wake them up for their feedings.

3. Can swaddling help a baby sleep?

Yes! Even easy babies who don’t need wrapping to keep calm often sleep more when swaddled. Bundling keeps them from startling themselves awake. But make sure the wrapping is tight. It’s not safe to put babies in bed with loose blankets.

When Wendy and Brent swaddled Brandon, their two-month-old increased his night sleeping from a four-hour stretch to five to seven hours!

4. If a baby has never been swaddled, when is it too late to start?

You can start wrapping your baby at any time during her first three months. But be patient. You may have to practice a few times before she gets used to it. Try swaddling when she’s already sleepy and in her most receptive frame of mind.

5. When is a baby too old for swaddling?

The age for weaning off swaddling varies from baby to baby. Many parents think they should stop after a few weeks or when their baby resists wrapping. But that’s actually when bundling becomes the most valuable.

To decide if your infant no longer needs to be wrapped, try this: After she reaches two to three months of age, swaddle her with one arm out. If she gets fussier, she’s telling you to continue wrapping for a few more weeks. However, if she stays happy without the swaddling, she doesn’t need it anymore.

With few exceptions, babies are ready to be weaned off wrapping by three to four months of age, although some sleep better wrapped—even up to one year of age. (For more on using swaddling to prolong sleep, see Chapter 15.)

Twins Ari and Grace benefited from swaddling until they were eight months old. Unwrapped they would wake every three hours, but bundled they slept for a glorious ten hours.

6. How many hours a day should a baby be wrapped?

All babies need some time to stretch, be bathed, and get a massage. But you’ll probably notice your baby is calmer if she’s swaddled twelve to twenty hours a day to start with. (Remember, as a fetus, she was snuggled twenty-four hours a day.) After one to two months, you can reduce the wrap time according to how calm she is without it.

7. How can I tell if I’m swaddling my baby too tightly?

In traditional cultures, parents swaddle their babies tightly because loose wraps invariably pop back open. Although some Americans worry about snug swaddling, I’ve never heard of it being done too tightly. On the other hand, I’ve worked with hundreds of parents whose bundling failed because it was done too loosely. That’s because no matter how snugly you do it initially, your baby’s wiggling will loosen the blanket a little.

However, for your peace of mind, here’s an easy way for you to make sure your wrapping is not too tight: Slide your hand between the blanket and your baby’s chest. It should feel as snug as sneaking your hand between your pregnant belly and your pant’s elastic waistband—at the end of your ninth month.

8. How can I tell if my baby is overheated or overwrapped?

Hillary thought her new son, Rob, needed the room temperature to be the same tropical 98.6°F he loved inside her body! But, she was taking the idea of the fourth trimester a bit too far. In 1994, doctors at UCLA tested babies to see if they could get overheated by heavy bundling. They put thirty-six babies (two to fourteen weeks old) in a room heated to about 74°F and wrapped them in terry coveralls, a cap, a receiving blanket, and a thermal blanket. Unexpectedly, their study showed the babies’ skin got warmer but their rectal temperatures barely increased.

Preemies often need incubators to keep them toasty, but full-term babies just need a little clothing, a blanket, and a 65–70°F room. If the temperature in your home is warmer than that, just skip some clothing and wrap your baby in only her diaper in a light cotton blanket. (Parents living in warm climates often put cornstarch powder on their babies’ skin to absorb sweat and prevent rashes.)

It’s easy to check if your baby is overheated—feel her ears and fingers. If they’re hot, red, and sweaty, she’s overwrapped. However, if they’re only slightly warm and she’s not sweaty, her temperature is probably perfect.

9. How can I tell when my baby needs to be swaddled and when she needs to eat?

Your baby will give you several hints when she’s hungry:

When you touch her lips, her mouth will open like a baby bird waiting for food from the mother bird.

She’ll only suck on a pacifier for a minute or two before getting frustrated with it.

If given the breast or bottle, she’ll suck and swallow vigorously.

Please don’t worry that swaddling might make your baby forget to eat. It may help calm a baby who’s mildly hungry, but it won’t satisfy one who’s famished.

10. My baby often seems jumpy and nervous. Will swaddling help this?

Some babies can sleep through a hurricane, yet others startle every time the phone rings. These babies aren’t nervous; they’re just sensitive. Swaddling helps by muffling their startle reactions and keeping them from upsetting themselves.

11. Is there any risk to putting my baby to sleep wrapped in a blanket?

As mentioned earlier, doctors recommend that babies not sleep with loose bedding, such as pillows, soft toys, etc. Only use a blanket that is securely wrapped around your baby.

12. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to be free and not bound up?

Freedom is wonderful, but as we all know, with freedom comes responsibility. If a baby can calm herself, she has earned the right to be unwrapped. However, many newborns can’t handle the great big world. They still need a few more months of cozy swaddling to keep from thrashing about uncontrollably.

13. What happens if my baby gets an itch when her arms are swaddled?

Luckily, this is never a problem. Young babies don’t get clear messages from their bodies, so they don’t get an itchy feeling. Babies also have short attention spans. Unlike adults who go wild when they can’t reach an itch, infants never give it a second “thought.” (Besides, they couldn’t really control their bodies well enough to scratch themselves even if they did get an itch.)
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