Swaddling babies isn't a new concept - in fact, it seems to have been around for about as long as parents and babies have been around! Bundling up your baby in a swaddle blanket has always been one of the most effective ways to soothe your little one to sleep, and is still practiced today all around the world.
However, while plenty of parents to be are aware of swaddling, many don't understand why to swaddle a newborn - that's why we're here to tell you all about the benefits of wrapping up a baby burrito and getting both you and your baby back to sleep!
In this article:
How does swaddling work: How wrapping tightly eases the womb-to-world transition
Though none of us remember it, the transition from womb to world is maybe the most dramatic change of scenery that you have in your lifetime! You go from warmth, peace, and quiet to a new place filled with near-constant stimulation - understandably, it can all be a little much for them sometimes!
That's where swaddling can come in. By recreating the warmth and security your baby experienced in the womb, you can help make their new world less overwhelming, and therefore improve the length and quality of their sleep.
Additionally, swaddling can help lessen the impact of the Moro, or startle, reflex. This is a natural instinct that your baby is born with which causes them to abruptly stretch out their limbs and curl them back in when triggered (usually by a sudden or loud noise). When they're tightly tucked inside the swaddle, they aren't able to flail as much, and run less of a risk of waking themselves - and you - up.
The startle reflex: from the experts
'You may notice your baby’s startle reflex when you’re trying to put them down to sleep. Leaning over to lay them down may give your baby the sensation of falling. It can wake your baby even if they’re sleeping soundly.
If your baby’s Moro reflex is keeping them from sleeping properly, try these tips:
Keep your baby close to your body when laying them down. Keep them close for as long as possible as you lay them down. Gently release your baby only after their back is touching the mattress. This support should be enough to prevent them from experiencing a falling sensation, which can trigger the startle reflex.
Swaddle your baby. This will make them feel safe and secure. Swaddling is a technique that mimics the close, cozy quarters of the womb. It can also help your baby sleep longer.'
- Jessica Timmons, medically reviewed by Karen Gill, M.D., Healthline
The benefits of swaddling your newborn baby
There's a whole world of benefits when it comes to swaddling your baby - let's go through just a handful of them!
Protects against startle reflex, so your baby sleeps for longer
As we went over earlier, your baby's natural startle reflex can be a reason for nighttime wakeups - while some babies can fall asleep after flailing, others fully awaken and struggle to self-soothe back to sleep again.
As well as having their limbs against their body to stop the flailing, swaddled babies have a greater sense of security, which can help them learn how to self-soothe when they wake up in the night without you there. Our gently weighted Zen Sleepwear™ is great for this, as it gives your baby the same safe feeling they get when being held by you.
Mimics your touch to ease the womb-to-world transition
You spend a lot of time holding your baby as a new parent, and that's a great thing; your touch is proven to help your baby develop emotionally and psychologically, and can provide a sense of familiarity and comfort in their big new world. But you can't always be there to hold your baby - you need to make sure your own needs are being met too.
This is where swaddling with sleepwear like our Zen Neo™ swaddle pod can come in handy. The gently weighted pad mimics your touch to remind your little one of you while they soothe themselves to sleep.
Helps to soothe colicky babies
Colic can be a real nightmare for both parent and baby alike. Characterised by your baby crying for long stretches of time for seemingly no reason, not only is all the crying miserable for your baby, sleep feels almost out of the question for you too!
Though it's rarely completely clear what causes colic, doctors and medical experts have found that the light pressure that safe and tight swaddling can provide some relief. For the one in four newborn babies that suffer from colic and their stressed out parents, this can make a world of difference!
Prevents baby from scratching their face
Though you might not give much thought to your baby's fingernails, they're actually super early to grow in the womb, starting to sprout only 12 weeks into pregnancy! But while your little one's even littler nails are cute, they can also cause some damage if your baby accidentally scratches their face in their sleep.
Luckily, this can't happen to a properly swaddled baby! With those pesky fingernails tucked tight next to baby's body, you don't need to worry about nursing any little cuts in the night.
Helps your baby learn how to self soothe
You'll likely spend most of the first few weeks of your baby's life right next to them, watching them begin to explore the exciting new world around them. It can be one of the most valuable times in both baby's life and your own, but there'll definitely be times when someone else - whether it's your partner, parent, or friend - needs to step in and help out while you meet your own needs.
We know how hard it is to leave a baby, particularly a crying baby - but if you swaddle them before you have some me-time, it will help them learn to self soothe even without you there. This is especially useful if your baby is going through a normal phase of separation anxiety a few months down the line, and can set useful foundations for sleep training that can go on into toddlerhood and childhood.
Improves sleep for the whole family
When your baby can sleep, so can you, and we can't emphasize enough the importance of your own physical and mental wellbeing as a new parent.
Swaddling your baby with swaddle blankets like our own Zen Swaddle™ can help you regain a sense of normality if your life has become chaotic - whether you need to tidy, eat, rest, or just have some quiet time while your baby sleeps, a swaddle can help you out.
If you don't want to have to practice achieving the perfect swaddling blanket folding technique, don't worry, we've got you covered! Our new Zen Neo is a swaddle pod that works a little like a sleep sack, meaning that you don't have to wrap your baby up perfectly - just bundle them in and watch them drift off to sleep!
Swaddling benefits: mom hack!
'Baby D has gone from sleeping 2-3 hours at a time to 4 hours. With this blanket, it's also easier for him to soothe himself back to sleep when he wakes up before he is ready due to sudden noise or movement. In a house full of two older sisters and three dogs, this is much appreciated.
In essence, this Zen Swaddle can be a lifesaver for sleep-deprived parents because let's face it, the value of even one or two more hours of sleep during these early months is monumental.'
- Angela, Mommy Diary