The Pros and Cons of Swaddling

by Charlie Fletcher September 21, 2022

baby wrapped in a swaddle blanket

Swaddling isn’t for every parent or the right choice for every baby. Although it’s a widespread practice proven effective, its risks are just as apparent and must be analyzed before taking up swaddling.

If you’re a new parent wondering if swaddling is suitable for you and your baby, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the top pros and cons of swaddling and tips for doing it safely should you adopt the practice.

Three Advantages and Risks of Swaddling

Swaddling can be the solution to several baby-related challenges. However, it isn’t a solely beneficial practice. It comes with its drawbacks too. Let’s look at three of the most notable below.

They miss out on the benefits of movement

Swaddling is the practice of gently wrapping a baby up in a breathable blanket. As a result, their movements are restricted, keeping them secure in one place.

You may be able to breathe a sigh of relief for safety, but constant swaddling causes your baby to miss out on the benefits of movement. The only way to learn how to move and use their bodies is to actually do it.

If they rarely stretch their arms, move their little legs, wiggle their toes, and touch their bodies, their learning and development may be delayed.

Rolling over becomes risky

One of the first acts that moves your baby’s motor skills along is rolling over. However, you must pay attention to when your baby starts rolling over because that’s when swaddling becomes risky. If a baby rolls over while swaddled, the risk of suffocation skyrockets.

So, when your baby starts rolling over, it’s best to stop swaddling altogether.

Can interfere with breastfeeding

Swaddling reduces the time you spend skin-to-skin with your baby. This is a big deal because the more skin-to-skin time a baby has with its mother, the more likely they will take to the breast.

If you swaddle your baby all the time and skin-to-skin time is limited, they may have a hard time taking to your breast, thus interfering with how well they’re fed.

The concerns about swaddling are absolutely legitimate — but the pros of swaddling make it a worthwhile consideration. Let’s look at three of the top benefits below.

Calming effect

One of the most rewarding aspects of swaddling is its calming effect on a baby.

Whether they’re colicky, navigating a temporary illness, experiencing extreme discomfort, suffering from acid reflux, or dealing with another issue altogether, swaddling can soothe them. This is mainly because it mimics the security and comfort they felt in the womb.

Improve sleep

Many babies have a strong “startle” reflex. Because they don’t have strong motor skills yet, they experience jerks and sudden movements. These unexpected movements can be so strong that they wake a baby instantly.

Swaddling can keep these movements and jerks to a minimum, allowing your baby to sleep longer and more peacefully.

A better alternative to blankets

Baby blankets are the go-to for many parents. Laying one over your baby for warmth and comfort is typical. However, a loose blanket can be a severe safety hazard for a baby. It can end up over their face and potentially suffocate them.

Swaddling is a better alternative because it leaves no loose fabric around your baby while still keeping them warm and comforted.

Safe Swaddling Tips

If you weigh the pros and cons of swaddling and decide to try it, here’s how to do so safely.

Lean on your pediatrician for support

If you don’t have a pediatrician yet, you must get one. They can be a great source of support to lean on for help with swaddling and caring for your baby generally.

Choose wisely. Look for a pediatrician near you that you can reach in case of emergency or same-day appointments.

Consider the pediatrician's credentials and experience too. Guiding you through correct swaddling techniques, the best products to use, and when and how to stop swaddling should come easy to them.

Know when to stop swaddling and how often you should do it

It’s also important to know when to stop swaddling and how often you should do it. Two months is the suggested age for stopping swaddling entirely. However, as mentioned above, a baby’s developed ability to roll over is the best indicator that it’s time to stop swaddling. This can happen before two months, so keep a close eye on your baby.

In addition, don’t swaddle your baby all day. Overswaddling can keep them way too warm. They’ll overheat, and that can lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So, keep swaddling to a minimum.

Our last tip is to always ensure your swaddle is secure.

Always ensure your swaddle is secure

The last thing you want is for your baby to get out of their swaddle. The blanket can cover their mouth and nose while sleeping, they can start scratching their face again, or another safety hazard could arise.

Ensure your swaddle is always secure. Use a specialized blanket for swaddling and practice your technique to perfect it.

The Takeaway

Swaddling has its pros and cons. Consider them equally and think about your baby's unique needs before deciding to move forward with the practice. Use the safe swaddling tips above if you do choose to try it with your infant.

Charlie Fletcher


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