New mums are swamped with information and much of it is conflicting. When we were asked recently about swaddling, we thought it was a good opportunity to speak to our night maternity nurses about whether or not they recommend swaddling babies. Here’s what we found out.
What is swaddling?
A newborn baby is wrapped in a specialist wrap (usually slightly elasticated) in a specific position. Arms across upper body and bent at the elbow and legs flexed at hips and knees. This is considered to mimic the position of a baby in the womb. Swaddling is said to reduce the startle reflex that can wake babies from sleep.
Should we swaddle?
Seventeen years experience as a maternity nurse, with special experience of multiple births. “Swaddling definitely has its place. But it’s vitally important that if you want to swaddle with twins or multiples. You really know what you are doing. Swaddling works as long as babies are carefully supervised at all times while swaddled. New parents often have enough difficulty staying on top of the needs of one newborn, let alone several. So while I’m an advocate for swaddling, I do believe you need to have a trained professional on hand both to wrap the baby and to keep an eye on body temperature etc.”
Trained nurse and night maternity nurse for over thirty families. “Part of the issue with swaddling is that certain places. Like premature baby units, do things very differently to the way parents have to do them at home. So, for example, in a premie unit we might put babies down on their tummies because the sensors attached to each baby alert us to any change in their temperature or breathing immediately. Also, tiny babies actually benefit from expanding their lungs against a surface whilst absorbing nutrients. But again, that’s only something that can be done with a full team of specialists on hand. Babies should never be put down on their tummies at home. As far as personal preference is concerned. Once babies are ready to come home I do often teach parents to swaddle. Using a very lightweight swaddling wrap and ensuring that it’s size appropriate so it can’t move over the baby’s mouth and nose.”
Twelve years as a night maternity nurse. “Swaddling is very much a baby-led decision. Some newborns love it, others scream blue murder. The families I work with are always looking for the best results for their new baby. Helping to calm a baby and improve his or her sleeping patterns is definitely a focus. It’s really crucial to let baby contribute to the decision. One very wriggly baby might not have the best response to swaddling and may even work their way free of the swaddle. While another will immediately settle into a deep, relaxed sleep. Some babies actually handle a half-swaddle best. This is where the arms are gently laid across the upper body and wrapped down with a very light cloth while the legs are left free. Whatever a family decides, having a night maternity nurse brings peace of mind. The baby will be constantly monitored to ensure they are having a happy night’s sleep.”
So there you have it! Let baby lead the way, keep your swaddling light and work with a maternity expert to be sure that you have the right swaddling technique to help your baby sleep.