Imagine what a shock the world must be to a newborn baby accustomed to the warmth and comfort of the womb. They need time to adjust to the sudden noise and brightness of strange surroundings. Many parents decide to replicate womb conditions by wrapping their baby in a swaddle blanket. Notably, swaddles have been used throughout the world for thousands of years. In less developed countries this may just be a piece of cloth wrapped tightly around the baby, while in first world countries specially designed blankets can be bought.
There are some benefits of using a swaddle blanket
Help prevent the feeling of insecurity
Most newborn babies exhibit a Moro reflex or startle reflex as it is commonly called. This can happen when the baby is startled by a loud noise or when its head falls backward. The infant reacts by throwing his legs and arms out wide before closing them again with fingers curved as though clutching. Wrapping a baby securely in a swaddle blanket will help prevent the feeling of insecurity that may trigger a startle reflex.
Helps prevent face scratching
Confining the arms and legs but still allowing them to stretch reproduces the conditions of the womb. Some parents like to leave the arms free to allow finger or thumb sucking as would occur in the womb and at a later stage introduce a pacifier. Others prefer to confine the arms as it helps prevent face scratching.
Prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death
Wrapping a baby in a swaddle blanket means that he can be laid on his back to sleep. Research has shown that this position helps prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death. In countries where most babies are wrapped in swaddle clothes, the incidence of SID is much lower than in countries where the blankets are used less frequently. However, some research indicates that starting to swaddle later than at birth may pose a risk and you should always seek medical advice before using a wrap at any age because of the uncertainties regarding the causes of SID.
A swaddle blanket is made of a natural, breathable material such as cotton. Although you want to ensure that the baby is warm, he should not be allowed to overheat. Wrap him snugly, but not so tight that his breathing is restricted.
The swaddle blanket should fit snugly, not tightly. Some maternity hospitals will show you how to wrap a baby, and some brands of blanket also give instructions. If you are considering using a blanket you should consult your doctor or nurse for advice and ask how to wrap if you are unsure. You should also take advice on the length of time you should use the blanket.