If there’s one piece of advice experienced parents would give first-time parents, it would probably be this: “mistakes happen."
Though mom's goal may be to be the perfect parent, it’s important to understand that when it comes to parenting, there is no such thing as “perfect”. Moms are going to make mistakes, and you’re going to make a lot of them. But as long as you keep your baby safe and offer unconditional love, you’ll both do great.
However, while mistakes are par for the course when it comes to parenting, there are some that you want to completely avoid making, as they can downright dangerous for the baby. What’s one area where new parents make mishaps? – Believe it or not, it’s swaddling.
The nurses in the hospital make it seem so easy. With a few flicks of the wrist, they wrap up newborns like perfect little burritos, and they look so comfy, cozy, and safe. However, when you try to recreate that swaddle on your own, you quickly realize that it’s not as simple as it appears to be. Inexperienced moms and dads can make some pretty disastrous swaddling mistakes. Not all of them are dangerous but rather ineffective and inconvenient; however, some swaddling errors can be extremely dangerous for little ones.
14 The Tight Burrito
A swaddled baby looks like a neatly wrapped burrito; however, wrapping that baby burrito too tightly can be dangerous.
While you want to swaddle the baby tightly enough to mimic the feeling of being inside the womb, if you swaddle too tightly, some serious problems can arise. If the blanket is wrapped too tightly around the chest, breathing can be restricted as the blanket can confine chest movement. Furthermore, if the blanket is wrapped too tightly around the hips, it can lead to hip dysplasia, a condition that causes the ball of the hip to become dislocated from the hip socket, resulting in abnormal development of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can lead to issues with walking and balance later in life.
To avoid these complications, make sure that the swaddle is wrapped firmly, but that there is enough space for the baby to easily move his chest and pull his knees up.
13 The Loose Burrito
While wrapping a newborn into too tight of a burrito can be dangerous, you also don’t want to wrap that baby burrito too loosely. The goal of swaddling it to recreate an environment that replicates the feeling of being inside mom’s womb (as you can guess, it’s pretty nice and cozy in there). If the swaddle is too loose, you aren’t really going to recreate that safe, secure, comfy-cozy feeling your newborn was so used to feeling in the womb. In other words, if the baby is wrapped too loosely, the swaddle really isn’t going to achieve its goal.
More importantly, if the baby is swaddled too loosely, the blanket you’re using can become a serious hazard. Though newborns don’t really move with purpose, they certainly can move. They thrash their little hands and kick their little feet, and if the blanket that’s being used for swaddling isn’t secure, your baby can easily push it over her face, which can lead to suffocation.
12 Holding The Baby With Bent Arms
When a baby is swaddled, it’s important to make sure that her arms are positioned so that they are straight. Unfortunately, a lot of inexperienced moms make the mistake of wrapping up their little ones while their arms are in a bent position.
One of the goals of swaddling is to prevent a newborn from startling herself. Newborns tend to make really quick, jumpy movements, especially with their arms. They don’t know they’re doing it; in fact, they don’t have any control over it, and that’s exactly why they startle themselves. Think about it: if you are sleeping soundly and your arms suddenly flail, you’re probably going to scare yourself, right? Well, the same thing is true for a newborn. When that happens, not only is she going to disrupt her sleep, but she’s going to start crying, too.
When the arms are bent while swaddled, a newborn is more likely to be able to break free from the blanket, thus increasing the chances that her arms will flail. If that happens, she’s likely to startle herself awake, rendering the swaddle ineffective.
11 Is The Baby Able To Roll Over?
Though swaddling might offer great comfort for a baby and prove to be an effective sleep aide, once he is able to roll over, it’s time to say goodbye to the swaddle. When it comes to swaddling, safety should always come first. If a baby is wrapped in a blanket and is able to roll over, it’s not exactly the safest situation.
Why is swaddling a problem after a baby can roll over? While the little one may be able to transition from back to front, he may not be able to flip back over to his back. If he’s swaddled, it’s going to be even more difficult for him to roll over onto his back. If his swaddled and lying face-down, there’s a chance that he could smother himself. Hence, swaddling once a baby is able to roll over can increase the risk of SIDs.
10 Overdressed Underneath
Swaddling involves wrapping a newborn in an extra layer, and that layer should be securely (but not too tightly) wrapped around the baby. Even if you’re using the thinnest blanket, it will still retain body heat, as there’s nowhere for the extra heat that your baby’s body produced to go. If your little one is dressed heavily underneath or has on too many layers, he’s going to heat up even more.
Heavy clothing or too many layers and swaddling is a bad combination. It can result in hyperthermia, a condition that results in an elevated core body temperature. In other words, your little one can overheat, and there are multiple negative side effects associated with overheating, including dehydration, loss of consciousness, and even brain damage.
To avoid complications, make sure your little one is dressed in light clothing before swaddling.
9 Are The Baby's Legs Straight?
When done safely, swaddling can be a very effective tool for newborns and their mamas; however, when it’s done improperly, it can actually be quite dangerous. This is especially true if a baby is wrapped in a swaddle while his legs are placed in a straight position and the blanket is super tight.
Straight legs in a tight swaddle can increase the risk of hip dysplasia, a condition that causes the bones of the hip joint to become improperly aligned. It can cause the cause the hip joint to become loose and move out of the hip socket, which can lead to development issues; for example, the baby may have difficulties walking and it could increase the risk of arthritis in the hips later on in life.
When you’re swaddling your little one, make sure that her legs are slightly bent (the position that she naturally holds them in) and that she has enough room to move them.
8 Swaddling Around The Clock
Swaddling is the go-to for many moms when their newborns start fussing and seem unsettled. For good reason, too: It’s been proven that wrapping a baby in a swaddle helps them feel more comfortable and secure, hence it soothes them. That’s because it mimics the security they felt while they were in the womb. It’s kind of like a warm hug, if you think about it. No wonder hospitals swaddle babies right after they are born.
Though swaddling can certainly be beneficial, as with all things in life, there is such a thing as too much swaddling. If you’re wrapping your newborn around the clock, she won’t have a chance to really move her limbs about, as she’ll be confined to a blanket. This can lead to several physical issues, such as hip dysplasia (see above).
7 Putting The Baby Face-Down
Newborns should always be laid flat on their backs. It’s been found that lying on their bellies (unsupervised) dramatically increases the risk of SIDs. For that reason, pediatricians champion the saying “back is best” when it comes to newborns.
It’s always important for moms to make sure that they are putting they always put their newborns down on their backs when they aren’t going to be able to have a constant eye on them; however, it’s even more important when they are swaddled. As mentioned, when a baby is swaddled and lying face-down, her face and noise could press into the surface she is lying on and she could essentially smother herself. For that reason, placing a swaddled baby face-down is strongly frowned upon. Make sure that your little one is always positioned on her back when she’s wrapped up.
6 Swaddling In The Car Seat
It might seem like a good idea to swaddle a baby before putting him in a car seat, especially if he doesn’t particularly enjoy being placed in the car seat and it makes him fussy. To many moms, swaddling their babies before placing them in a car seat may make total sense. It soothes their little ones when they are unsettled out of the car seat, so why not use it to soothe them when they are unsettled in a car seat?
Swaddling in a car seat is actually a really bad idea. Why? – Because you aren’t going to be able to properly secure the 5-point harness. In order to be positioned properly, the bottom portion of the seat belt has to be positioned between the legs. If a baby is swaddled, it’s impossible to position the seat belt between the legs. If the seat belt isn't secured properly, you are placing your baby in serious danger. However, there are pre-made swaddle blankets that are designed to be used in a car seat, so if you need to wrap your baby while he's traveling, make sure you use one of these swaddlers.
5 Forgoing Skin-To-Skin Contact
Wrapping a baby in a neat little package can definitely be beneficial, but even more beneficial is skin-to-skin contact.
Skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their babies has been found to offer numerous benefits for both parties. For babies, it can improve the function of their hearts and lungs, stabilize their body temperature, increase their sense of security, boost mental development, and make it easier for them to latch on to their moms (if they are breastfeeding. For moms, skin-to-skin contact can increase the production of breast milk, promotes bonding, and can even reduce the risk of or completely prevent postpartum depression.
If you are constantly swaddling your little one, you could both be missing out on the numerous benefits that skin-to-skin contact provides. Make sure that you take some time to keep your baby unwrapped and hold him while both of you have a bare chest.
4 Using Heavy Blankets
If blankets are being used to swaddle, moms shouldn’t make the mistake of using one that’s heavy. While one of those thick, super plush, and extremely soft baby blankets might seem like it would make the perfect little cocoon, it’s actually a really bad idea. Like swaddling a baby while he’s wearing heavy clothing can lead to overheating, so can wrapping a baby up in a heavy blanket. A swaddled blanket is meant to sit closely to a little one’s skin. Body heat can get trapped in the blanket, which can increase the little one’s core temperature. Overheating, as mentioned, can lead to a number of serious issues, such as dehydration, coma, and even brain damage.
If you are using a blanket to swaddle your baby, make sure that you are using one that’s made of a lightweight, breathable fabric.
3 Discrediting Manufactured Swaddle Blankets
Baby products have come a long way since the time most moms today were newborns. There are so many innovative products on the market that make caring for a newborn a whole lot easier, and one of those produces is the swaddle blanket.
These blankets are made specifically for swaddling. They kind of resemble little pouches or cocoons that the baby can fit right into and they feature a swaddling piece. Once the baby is placed inside, the swaddling piece is wrapped around the upper part of the body, creating a secure environment. Little ones have plenty of room to move their legs so they aren't constricted, and the swaddling piece offers enough space so that the chest isn’t constricted. These pre-made blankets take the guesswork out of swaddling, making it a much easier and safer practice. However, despite their ease of use and safety, a lot of moms discredit them for some reason. Whether it’s because they feel like these blankets are a way of cheating a real deal swaddle, or because they just don’t think they’ll work, they really are a viable option that moms should consider giving a try.
2 Thinking Swaddling Is Always The Answer
It’s definitely true that swaddling can soothe a crying baby. In fact, for many babies, it’s almost like an instant crying-fix, especially when it’s accompanied by swinging and shushing (making the “shh” sound.) However, while sometimes a baby might be unsettled because she is longing for the comfort and security that swaddling offers, it may not be why she’s crying. There are so many reasons why newborns cry: hunger, gas, or simply wanting to be cuddled by her mama. In other words, swaddling isn’t always the answer.
If you’re relying on swaddling as a way to quiet your newborn every single time she cries, you might be missing the reason why she’s actually crying and could actually end up doing damage. Moreover, wrapping her up probably isn’t going to settle her if there’s another reason for her tears.
1 Not Asking For Help
At first, it might seem like swaddling is really easy. After all, how hard can it be to use a blanket to wrap a baby up into a neat little burrito? But in reality, a lot of new moms find that it’s a lot trickier than they initially thought it would be. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, if you’ve never done it before, it can certainly seem like you do need some advanced degree to nail the perfect swaddle.
The truth is, swaddling really isn’t hard, but it does take some practice. And if you don’t know what you’re doing and insist on doing it anyway, you could run into problems. For example, you could be wrapping your baby too tightly or too loosely, which could lead to any of the above-listed issues, such as hip dysplasia, overheating, and suffocation.