Swaddling is a common practice for parents around the world where they wrap their new-born babies in soft, breathable blankets to help them feel calm just like how they felt in their mother’s womb.
Research proves that swaddling calms infants and promotes better sleep.
There is a growing parenting trend among new parents where they consider the first three months of their baby’s life to be the fourth trimester. This period is a complex transition period as they emerge from the womb into the world. It makes sense for babies to be wrapped gently to ease this transition.
“When done correctly, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep" according to the American Academy of Paediatrics1.
What Does Research Say About Swaddling?
Most eastern cultures have followed swaddling for centuries, but it was widely adopted in the western world in the 90's. Researchers have found2 that infants sleep longer, spend more time in NREM sleep, and awake less spontaneously when they are swaddled under experimental conditions in comparison with non-swaddled infants.
Swaddling restricts motor activity and mimics the comfort of a mother’s womb, which helps a baby to sleep even during the Moro reflex or startle reflex.
|Arousal Stimulus Intensity (Mean)
Source: Influence of Swaddling on Sleep and Arousal Characteristics of Healthy Infants2
Benefits of swaddling your baby
Swaddling has many benefits for babies when done correctly:
1. Swaddling reduces the Moro Reflex
Moro Reflex is a normal neurological response which makes babies feel as though they are falling. Babies experience it most during the first 3-4 months. Although it is not an indicator of the baby having any physiological defects, it can disturb your baby's sleep.
Babies startle more easily in the supine (on their back) position. However, research shows that this is also the safest way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Swaddling has shown to reduce the intensity and number of times that babies wake up. When a swaddled baby’s hands and legs are wrapped gently in a blanket, they are less likely to startle themselves awake.
2. Swaddling helps maintain body temperature
Swaddling a baby can maintain the baby’s body temperature, as it acts as a light blanket. Avoid over swaddling the baby as it can cause the baby to overheat and increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
3. Swaddling eliminates the need of comfort items
When you swaddle your baby, you will not need additional pillows, blankets, bumpers, stuffed toys and more in the baby’s crib, many of which are known to increase the risk of SIDS.
4. Swaddled babies cannot scratch themselves
Swaddling prevents a baby from scratching and hurting themselves. Many babies have jerky startle reflexes in their sleep and have very sharp nails. They tend to scratch their face by mistake.
5. Swaddling maintains baby’s back-sleeping position
Sometimes tired parents do not remember to place the baby on its back to sleep. But swaddling a baby helps to always remind them to keep the babies on their backs and avoid bad posture and accidents like SIDS.
See our page on How to Swaddle.
References Swaddling: Is it Safe?, HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Paediatrics. Link  Influence of Swaddling on Sleep and Arousal Characteristics of Healthy Infants, Patricia Franco, Nicole Seret, Jean-Noël Van Hees, Sonia Scaillet, José Groswasser and André Kahn. Link  Hip-Healthy Swaddling, International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Link