When it comes to baby sleep we constantly hear first time parents asking ‘where do I begin?’, ‘what kind of swaddle do I use?’ and ‘when do I need to use a baby sleep bag?’
With so many options, it is hard to know where to begin. Here is a simple guide to understanding swaddling your baby – the basics of the what and when of swaddles/wraps and baby sleep bags.
This is generally a standard square shaped piece of fabric, in a muslin, cotton or jersey cotton fabric composition.
These are the traditional types of swaddles that our parents used with us and are most commonly recommended by maternal health system.
Traditional wrapping should be firm but not too tight. Tight wrapping with legs straight and positioned together increases the risk of abnormal hip development. Loose wraps are hazardous as they can cover baby’s head and face. See here for more on Safe Swaddling.
These are the more complex swaddle options available, ensuring that baby’s arms are tucked in securely so as not to wake themselves and often offering the opportunity to transition baby to arms out when they begin to roll or no longer enjoy being swaddled.
These options are great for evening sleeps:
Swaddling a baby can become a safety issue once your baby is able to roll over. You don’t want a securely swaddled baby to roll over onto his stomach, since that could be a risk factor for SIDS.
Swaddling may prevent an older baby who has rolled onto their tummy during sleep from returning to the back sleeping position.
Most transitioning begins at approximately 3-6months but every baby can be different.
These are some signs that can indicate it’s time to stop swaddling your baby:
A baby sleep bag is designed to replace loose bedding, to ensure that no blankets end up over babies face or eliminate the opportunity for baby to get tangled in bedding. This is the second stage recommended after swaddling to help reduce this SIDs risk.
When your baby begins to roll (normally around 3 to 4months) it is time to start transitioning to a baby sleep bag.
Start with day sleeps as these are generally shorter. Over a few days, start by swaddling your baby with their arms out. Try one arm out first, and then when they are comfortable with that try releasing the second arm, only swaddling from the chest down.
At the same time, you should gradually loosen the tension of the swaddle/wrap. If you feel that your baby misses the feeling of pressure from the swaddle, put them in a baby sleep bag and place your arm gently across their upper body. As they start to settle, you can then take your arm away. For more on How to transition baby from swaddle see here.