Helping your baby sleep well is one of the many priorities on a mother’s mind. Most mothers get worked up when their little one isn’t getting enough sleep because if your baby isn’t sleeping, you most likely aren’t sleeping too.
Swadling is a technique dating centuries ago to help a baby feel calm, fall asleep, and stay asleep longer by creating a soothing womb-like experience for the baby. In other words, swaddling makes your baby feel snug and secure. Being a pediatrician, I personally recommend swaddling as a means to calm your fussy baby down and help them get better sleep.
Despite the soothing feel of this technique, some babies don’t like it and refuse to stay put in the swaddle. An alternative to the conventional arms down swaddling is swaddling your baby with their arms up. Here, we will be discussing swaddling, swaddling techniques and a step-by-step procedure on how to swaddle with arms up.
- Is swaddling for me?
- Is it okay to swaddle my baby with arms up?
- Precautions to take when swaddling my baby
Table of Contents
Should I Swaddle My Baby?
You should swaddle your baby if she is having a hard time falling asleep, if she is being excessively fussy or if she likes being swaddled. Swaddling is great, but it’s not for everyone. Some babies may feel uncomfortable in a swaddle, while the majority of babies feel safe and calm in a swaddle. You could take some time to observe your baby’s comfort with and without a swaddle to know if she likes being swaddled or not.
It is important to note that swaddling comes with its own risks such as hip dysplasia, increased risk of SIDS if swaddled baby is laid on their side or belly, and increased risk of suffocation if the material used to swaddle is too loose.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that babies who are able to roll over from their backs to their bellies should not be swaddled due to the increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This milestone is usually reached in 2 to 4 months. Children grow at different rates and may achieve this milestone sooner or later than the average time period. What matters is that you observe your baby to see if they have started rolling over to their bellies so you can cut back on swaddling.
Swaddling comes in several techniques all aimed at giving your baby the highest level of comfort possible. Some techniques used in swaddling include:
Swaddle with Arms Down
Swaddling with arms down is the traditional swaddling technique carried out, where the baby’s arms are securely by their sides and wrapped in the swaddle. This swaddling technique helps the baby to feel warm, secure and snug. Here, there is room for the baby to maintain a hand-to-chest position while still restricting arm movement to avoid the baby waking herself up. This way, your baby gets longer, uninterrupted sleep time.
Additionally, you could swaddle your baby with one arm out. This method helps your baby transition from the classical arms down swaddling technique and also gives your baby a chance to self-soothe by having access to their thumb and fingers.
Swaddle with arms up
Swaddling with arms up is a swaddling technique where your baby’s arms are not restricted within the swaddle blanket. This is a good option for you if your baby won’t stay put and continually struggles with the swaddle, or if your baby does not feel comfortable in the traditional swaddle with arms down technique. It helps your baby feel snug, comfortable and less-restricted. A downside to this, however, is the increased possibility of self-arousal, that is, your baby could accidentally wake herself up with her free and non-restricted hands.
Burrito wrap swaddle
Burrito wrap swaddle is very similar to the swaddle with arms down as the baby’s arms are placed by their sides. This swaddle technique is called burrito wrap because of the steps involved and the final look. In other words, your baby’s going to look like a cute burrito.
This swaddle is great for fussy babies, as it helps to calm them down.
Is it Okay to Swaddle My Baby with Arms Up?
It is completely okay to swaddle your baby with their arms up. This technique is great for babies who prefer to have a little more freedom than the classical arms down swaddling where their arms are tightly tucked away. Swaddling your baby with arms up also helps them wean off or transition from swaddling.
Steps to Swaddle with Arms Up
Swaddling by itself is a tricky procedure to learn and requires constant practice. This is the same for swaddling with arms up. Here are steps to help you successfully swaddle your baby with their arms up:
Step 1: Pick out a suitable swaddle blanket
To correctly swaddle your baby, the first step is picking out a blanket that will be perfect for swaddling. You should look out for a thin and breathable fabric such as cotton to prevent your baby from overheating. A square-shaped blanket is great for swaddling.
Step 2: Lay out your swaddle blanket correctly
Laying out the swaddle blanket is an important step in swaddling and should be correctly done. The blanket should be laid out in the shape of a diamond.
Step 3: Fold the top corner of the diamond shaped blanket up to the middle
Step 4: Lay your baby on the blanket
Your baby should lay face up with her head, neck and shoulders directly above the folded corner of the blanket.
Step 5: Tuck in the left corner of the blanket
While carefully lifting your baby’s arm, you pull the left corner of the blanket through your baby’s left armpit, over your baby’s chest and tucked behind your baby’s right-hand side.
Step 6: Pull the bottom of the blanket
Next, you pull the bottom of the blanket up to reach your baby’s belly, making sure to leave a little room for your baby to kick around.
Step 7: Tuck in the right corner of the blanket
Securely tuck the right side of the blanket by pulling it over your baby’s belly to your baby’s left-hand side, all while holding your baby’s right arm outside the swaddle.
At this point, you are done with the swaddle. All you need to do now is to make sure the swaddle is not too tight around your baby’s hips and is well fastened to prevent it from loosening up.
What Precautions Should I Take When Swaddling My Baby?
Swaddling, if done correctly, is harmless and great for your baby. Here are precautions that I advise mothers to take when swaddling their baby:
- Make sure to use breathable and thin materials for swaddling
- Do not add an extra blanket after swaddling to prevent your baby from overheating
- Make sure the swaddle is not too tight around your baby’s hips to prevent hip dysplasia or dislocation. The swaddle should be loose enough to allow your baby to bend and flex their hip joint
- Make sure your baby lays on their back when swaddled. According to the AAP safe sleep recommendations, your baby is safest on their back in a bassinet or crib than in your own bed.
What Are the Benefits of Swaddling
- Babies arouse less and sleep longer
- Preterm infants have shown improved neuromuscular development, less physiologic distress, better motor organization, and more self-regulatory ability when they are swaddled
- Swaddling helps calm a fussy child and stops them from crying
- Swaddling makes your baby feel more comfortable and secure
- Swaddling helps regulate your baby’s body temperature
- Swaddling helps prevent your baby from accidentally falling into sleeping positions that may increase their risk for SIDS
- Swaddling prevents your baby from scratching their face or waking themselves up while sleeping.
Swaddling is a technique used over the years to calm babies and help them sleep better. It has been proven scientifically that swaddling can improve the quality and duration of a baby’s sleep. Whether you choose to swaddle your baby with their arms up or down solely depends on what your baby feels comfortable in, and if done correctly, can go a long way to help your baby feel less anxious and calmer.
You should know that swaddling is not for every baby and it is completely fine if your baby does not like being in a swaddle.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.