From a Real Mom to All New Moms and Mothers To Be
When my husband and I were expecting our first baby, we naturally couldn’t have been more excited. I had always loved babies, having grown up with a family full of younger siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins. For me, the idea of caring for a newborn wasn’t daunting in the slightest. By the time I was just a few months away from finally holding my daughter, I had changed hundreds upon hundreds of diapers, warmed oodles of baby bottles, soothed and rocked my share of babies and given countless baby baths. Motherhood had always been part of my chemical makeup, and I felt prepared for the adventure that lay ahead. My husband, on the other hand, had never even actually held an infant before. He was obviously thrilled beyond words at our daughter’s impending birth, but he was admittedly quite nervous nonetheless. I did my best to assure him that once our little girl was finally here, everything would become second nature to him. Besides, I’d be there to help him learn along the way, and anything we didn’t yet know we would figure out together.
The day after my birthday, we discovered through ultrasound that our daughter was breech and my amniotic fluid was dangerously low. As a result, we rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section. As I lay there in the operating room, unable to move or feel anything from the neck down, I watched my husband become a father. He gently and carefully took our daughter from the nurse’s arms, and before my eyes, I saw him settle into his new role as Daddy. Once we were settled in our room, a nurse came in to check on us. At that point, I was still restricted to the bed, so I watched as the nurse offered to show my husband how to change and swaddle the baby. Knowing that our daughter was really the first baby my husband had ever come in contact with, you can imagine how surprised I was when he politely declined her offer for help. When the nurse left, I watched in amazement as my husband expertly changed her diaper and wrapped her in the most secure, snug swaddle I’d ever seen (besides my own, of course!). I asked my husband where he’d learned his impressive swaddling skills, and he shyly admitted that he’d spent the last few months watching instructional YouTube videos on how to swaddle a baby and had even practiced on stuffed animals in the nursery. I mean honestly…HOW CUTE IS THAT?! It was the absolute dearest, sweetest thing I’d ever heard, and I instantly fell even more deeply in love with my super swaddling hubby.
It eventually became part of his identity as a father. When it was time to put the baby down for a nap or bedtime, my husband would confidently step in and offer to swaddle. He even taught his sister how to swaddle when her baby was born just a few months later. To this day, his swaddling skills surpass even the most expert of hospital nurses. Needless to say, swaddling has always been an integral part of our newborn routine, beyond just the sweetness of my husband’s YouTube crash courses. It was always our go-to method of baby soothing for both of our children, and my husband’s super swaddling skills will undoubtedly be put to good use when our twins arrive later this spring.
For those of you unfamiliar with swaddling, it’s more than just a cute way to pose your newborn for birth announcements and Instagram pics. Swaddling has been practiced by parents for centuries, with the earliest depictions of swaddled babies found in ancient tombs from over 4000 years ago. Crazy, right? Those ancient folks were definitely on to something because the benefits of swaddling are endless. In fact, having a strong swaddling skillset in your parenting arsenal may very well be the thing that keeps you from losing your sanity during some of those first few sleepless weeks with a newborn.
Like we discovered with our kiddos, swaddling is an excellent way to soothe a fussy, irritated infant. In fact, world renown pediatrician and child behavior expert Dr. Harvey Karp lists swaddling as the first ‘S’ in the 5 S’s of his famous Happiest Baby method. Dr. Karp believes – and millions agree – that recreating the safe and snug environment of the womb is one of the best and most natural ways to calm a crying child. By swaddling your baby securely (arms in) and laying them on their back (back is best!), your baby will feel the same coziness and security he or she became accustomed to during the 9 months spent in your belly. Using a thin muslin or cotton swaddle will prevent Baby from overheating, but also keeps him or her snuggly warm in a womb-like cocoon. Dr. Karp suggests that containing the arms in a secure swaddle not only prevents an infant from getting tangled up in a blanket during sleep, but it also prevents a baby from startling themselves awake with an inadvertent flail of the arms. The flail, known as the Moro reflex, is completely normal, but often results in frequent waking. As a mom to two frequent ‘flailers’, I can say from personal experience that Dr. Karp is right on the money, and safe swaddling is the perfect way to eliminate the flailing reflex during sleep.
Studies also suggest that swaddling lessens Baby’s anxiety, imitates a parent’s touch, encourages self-soothing, and when done correctly (secure swaddle, Baby on back) for the first four or five months of Baby’s life, may even prevent SIDS. It can reduce self-scratching, help regulate Baby’s temperature, reduce colic, and even help Baby focus on latching which makes for more successful breastfeeding. According to a study performed by the Washington University School of Medicine, babies that go to sleep swaddled are shown to wake up less during the night. And we all know that when Baby sleeps well, Mom and Dad can catch up on some desperately needed sleep as well!
You may find yourself saying, ‘Ok, that’s all well and good…but how DOES one actually swaddle?’. There are countless resources available for parents, and when Baby arrives you’ll likely get plenty of instruction from the hospital nurses. But if you’re anything like my hubby and want to get some practice runs in before testing your skills on a real live baby, I recommend you check out some of the many helpful videos available, like this one from BabyCenter. If videos aren’t your thing, there are plenty of step by step swaddling tutorials out there as well! When learning to swaddle, be sure to familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts of this tried and true parenting practice to further reduce the risk of SIDS.
Now that you’ve nailed the art of swaddling, let’s talk about the fun stuff…shopping for swaddles! If you’re at all like me, you get absolutely giddy at the thought of shopping for anything and everything baby related. There are so many amazing swaddling options available for parents these days! From traditional swaddling blankets to Velcro swaddles, there’s a literally a swaddle blanket for every situation and every baby’s specific needs and preferences, not to mention a million and one adorable colors and patterns available to match every mom’s style. So, which style is right for you? That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself, but I recommend trying out a variety of swaddle blanket styles until you settle on what works best for you and your little one. Maybe the art of the swaddle just isn’t your strong suit, but you still want your baby to receive the benefits of swaddling. In that case, a swaddle with super easy to use Velcro tabs or a zipper might be just what you’re looking for! Or maybe you’d like to use the Velcro swaddles only at night, when sleep deprivation may inhibit your ability to wrap a safe and secure swaddle with a traditional swaddle blanket. In that case, a luxurious muslin swaddle blanket is always a great option for daytime naps. Generally large in size and made from super breathable open weave cotton, muslin swaddles are great for most climates and also make excellent car seat covers, nursing covers, and even tummy time blankets! They’re also great for keeping mama and baby warm during those oh-so-important skin to skin sessions.