I get asked often, “Is a swaddle a prop? Is it useful? Where do you stand on a swaddle?” Swaddling a newborn can be an excellent tool. It mimics the feeling of confinement that they experienced in the womb. It can be very comforting to a lot of newborns. I used a swaddle bag with my Son, now you get a Groswaddle which is fab. . It took away the worry of 'doing it wrong', 'overheating', 'too tight', 'hip dysplasia or dislocation' or any of the worries brought out in the 2011 Study by the National Resource Center on Child and Health Safety (NRC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about swaddles.
Swaddles can be very helpful for a newborn in getting them calm, of course you should use your common sense and any guidelines on how to swaddle safely or use a swaddle bag safely.
A swaddle also helps with the reflex, the startle reflex where they throw their arms out uncontrollably, which can wake a sleeping newborn. Having their arms down and being wrapped tightly can help with that. Absolutely use it.
However, it can become a prop. If a baby gets used to the idea that they need to be tightly wrapped every time they sleep, then when they kick free, they may wake up and need your help to come back in and re-wrap them. It becomes a love-hate relationship at a certain age where your baby thinks he needs a swaddle but he doesn’t like it that much anymore. Because babies become so experimental with their movements and they like to kick and they like to practice and they like to roll around, they’re most likely going to kick free of the swaddle no matter how tightly you wrap it, again why a Groswaddle or similar is recommended.
A good rule of thumb around the swaddle is by the third month, start working your way out of it. By that, I mean, leave an arm out at a nap time. Try for no swaddle at a particular time. Bedtime is a great place to start experimenting with no swaddle because it tends to be the easiest time of the day to get a child to fall asleep. Going swaddle free at bedtime is a great place to start.
One person who had an eight-month old, sewed together four receiving blankets so that they had a big enough blanket to swaddle their eight-month old baby. You can see how that can become problematic. If you’re in that situation and you’re wondering, “How do I get out of this now?” The only thing you can do is to lose a swaddle cold turkey. It is dangerous to swaddle a baby once they get to a stage of rolling over.
There will be no successful way to wean out of the swaddle because now it has become such a prop and a habit that anything less than being securley wrapped up in their normal swaddle is going to be a cause of concern for the baby. You’re going to have to go through it one way or the other. So let’s get it done and go cold turkey with a swaddle.
A great recommendation is something called the Grosnug. It can be a good transitional object when you’re in the swaddle and you’re working way out it into their first Grobag.
It resembles a swaddle but it has the ability to wean arms out over a few days and has nice leg room and is a little looser. So I encourage you to check that out if you want to ease your baby into this a little more gently.
Note: SWADDLES AND SLEEP SACKS should NEVER BE USED WHILE BED SHARING WITH BABY! Many people do not know this. Swaddles and sleep sacks are only for cots