Hey new dads (and moms)! Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some more quick, helpful (I hope) posts on short topics that may make life with your newborn just a bit easier. To be clear, I’m no expert; I’m just a loving dad learning as I go. If we all stick together and share what we learn, we and our kiddos may just make it through this brave new world of parenthood alive and sane.
For those of you who are too impatient to read the following background information (which actually contains a few other tips you might find kind of helpful… but it’s your choice… don’t let me influence you… really… feel free to stop reading this parenthetical aside at any time) simply jump forward to the “WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW” section. Go ahead. It won’t hurt my feelings.
For the rest of you, if you have read my posts for a while, you know I take on subjects you often don’t hear other dads talking about. For example I, a dad, wrote about breastfeeding recently. Yeah, I know that’s a women’s domain, and how dare a guy weigh in, right? Well, I dared, and it certainly started a great conversation in the comments. You can read them here: adaddyblog.com/2011/09/breast-vs-bottle
This post is about a much less sensitive topic, but one I truly believe may help a good number of new parents sooth their newborn children, and just perhaps get everyone a bit more sleep. I’m not promising miracles here, but to parents of a newborn every minute counts, right? The subject of this post is something that I’d never heard of until about a month before our daughter was born: Swaddling.
If you are reading a blog like this then you are probably the sort of person who already has a stack of baby books, and bookmarks to your favorite parenting websites? These resources are a great start, but I strongly recommend attending actual classes about caring for a newborn. Our hospital offered them, and the investment paid us huge dividends when our baby arrived.
And guys, these classes aren’t just for the women. Don’t let me catch you off in the corner browsing the latest sports scores on your cellphone! Pay attention. It was in one of these classes I learned a skill that may well have saved my life… well, my sanity anyway. I learned how to properly swaddle a baby. Don’t know what swaddling is? I strongly recommend you read on.
In these classes they had us practice diaper changes, swaddling and bathing a life-sized (not too creepy) doll. Believe me, reading about these things in a book versus actually doing it physically is a big difference. Another underutilized opportunity to learn is from the nurses at the hospital after your little bundle of joy arrives. Notice how deftly they change diapers and swaddle your child.
Ask them to show you how to change a diaper. Then start changing them yourself, with their help if you need it. There are little tricks you can only learn from an expert. Same goes for the aforementioned swaddling. Doing it on a doll in class wasn’t the same as doing it on my baby girl the first time. The nurses showed me how, and I became a (self-proclaimed) expert.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Spread a cotton cloth out flat, with one corner at the top folded over about 6 inches or so.
- Lay your baby on her back on the cloth, with her neck and shoulders lined up with the fold of the cloth.
Wrap the top-left-hand corner of the sheet across your baby’s body and tuck it under her left arm.
- If this is starting to sound confusing see my tips above about educating yourself. I think you may also find this YouTube video on swaddling a baby really helpful.
- To continue, bring the bottom left-hand corner over her feet, and then wrap the right corner behind her back, leaving only her head and neck exposed.
- Critical: Allow enough room for your baby to move her hips and knees freely, so she can bend her hips up and outwards.
- Put your swaddled baby gently to sleep on her back in her crib (reducing risk of SIDS).
- Now drop silently to the floor, and army crawl to the door praying she doesn’t wake up.
Does this work for every child? Clearly all are different, but it is definitely worth a try, especially with particularly fussy babies. Why does it work? Probably several reasons. It mimics to a degree the warmth and security of the mother’s womb. It also helps reduce the times the baby is wakened by small starts that cause it to wave its arms.
Be careful not wrap the swaddle too tight, especially around the hips which must be allowed room to move and spread. It’s the gentle, soothing comfort around the arms and chest that seemed to help our daughter most. Be sure to keep the room a comfortable temperature and don’t swaddle in heavier fabrics or blankets. The swaddle is not for warmth.
I used some of the 30×30″ light flannel “blankets” at first (those ones with the pastel footprints all over them that hospitals always seem to use), but found larger muslin swaddling clothes worked better as our baby grew; something in the 45×45″ range. Some babies outgrow swaddles in a month or two… some in five or six months. Good luck and sweet dreams.
As always, the information in this post is the opinion of the author, who is neither a doctor nor does he play one on TV. It should not be construed as medical advice. Ask your doctor or other healthcare provider for guidance concerning your unique child.