I am a big advocate of swaddling. In my experience young babies who are swaddled sleep much better than those who are not. Wrapping your baby is one the very first things I’d suggest if your baby has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
However, I do not recommend you buy a swaddle suit. Not only are they an unnecessary expense but can actually do more harm than good, potentially causing damage to your baby’s hips. All you need to swaddle your baby are muslin cloths.
#6 Item you should avoid buying your baby: Swaddle Suits
- Swaddling basically means “wrapping your baby firmly.” The sensation of pressure on their bodies mimics the feeling of being in the womb and provides comfort (like a hug!). This comforting feeling allows them to feel safer and more relaxed when falling asleep.
During the first months of life the Moro Reflex, or Startle Reflex, causes a baby to suddenly fling their arms out from their body. Not only does this physically startle a baby awake, but can be very surprising and upsetting to some babies. At this young age they don’t really understand that these arms are their own, so the feel and sight of them being flung out from their body is quite a shock. This reflex will often wake a baby and disturb what should be restful sleep. Swaddling keeps the arms wrapped firmly against the body and prevents the Moro Reflex from startling your baby awake.
Why shouldn’t I get a Swaddle Suit?
There are many brands and styles of swaddle suits available. I don’t profess to have used and assessed every one, so my recommendation not to use them is equal parts’ anti swaddle suit’ and ‘pro muslin cloth’ for swaddling. Some are wraps with velcro and buttons, others are zip up suits, there are many materials and styles and quirky names. What they all have in common is a price point well above a pack of muslin cloths and a full body constraint*.
Anti Swaddle Suit
Too often swaddle suits are not tight enough across the chest and upper body and too tight across the hips and legs. Many suits have little wings for the arms to sit above the head, directly contravening what I see as integral to the swaddle technique – having the arms tucked up against the body. The zip-up styles in particular are little more than tight sleeping bags and do not, in my opinion, provide enough pressure on the body to provide the comfort traditional swaddling affords.
Conversely, these swaddle suits will usually encase the lower body, pinning the legs into a straightened position. Babies are born with very loose hips, to assist delivery. Over the first few months of life the hips need to flex and move outwards to strengthen the joints. Babies who are wrapped too tightly across the hips when very young can get hip dysplasia, where the hips become dislocated and require weeks of treatment to correct.
* There are some swaddle ‘wings’ available that wrap only the arms. While these do not place unwanted pressure on the hips, I still feel they do not provide enough pressure on the upper body to warrant buying them instead of the muslin cloths.
Pro Muslin Cloth
A large square muslin cloth used for swaddling can (read: should) be wrapped firmly around the upper body with the arms against the chest, leaving the hips and legs only loosely wrapped and reasonably free. I have never noticed that babies are more or less comforted by wrapping that includes the legs; it is the pressure on their stomach, side, and back that provide the secure sensation.
Not only does the muslin cloth the provide a firm secure wrapping on your baby’s upper body without putting pressure on his hips, but they are significantly cheaper than the designed suits. You can usually buy a pack of four or five for less than one suit.
Once your baby no longer sleeps wrapped these cloths can be transformed for many other uses (everyday cloths for spills, light covering when very hot, to drape over pram to darken for naps, blankets for dolls, …. etc etc) whereas the swaddle suit will eventually be another expensive item you no longer have use for.
So, even though your baby would look super cute in a swaddle suit with tiny wings above his head,
I think you’ll find he sleeps better and grows stronger if you use a simple muslin cloth instead.
Swaddling: The Baby Sleep Secret (everydayfamily.com)