This is the fourth in a series of blog posts this week about products that prepare your newborn for establishing great sleeping habits. Whether you are an expecting parent or know one, this list of "must-have" baby items will be your go-to guide for baby registries and shower gifts.
Tip #4: Use Swaddle Blankets
You may have heard about the many benefits of swaddling your child. Swaddle blankets have been used all over the world for centuries. My father, who was born in Italy, said he remembers the women of his town using incredibly long cloths to wrap the babies and keep them calm. More recently, women buy all sorts of contraptions to give their children that same sense of security, but none that I’ve tried work as well as these.
Why Swaddles Work
What you may not know about babies is that they have several natural reflexes. For example, have you ever placed your finger in a newborn’s hand? The baby will wrap her fingers around yours! One of the reflexes happens when the baby is sleeping and it often startles him awake. The swaddling technique keeps the child “under wraps” (pun intended) so that if he does wake up from the reflex, he will feel safe and comforted enough to lull himself back to sleep.
Option 1: The Miracle Blanket
This genius version of the basic swaddling cloth is essentially a really long cloth that is wrapped around the baby with a pouch at the bottom for the baby’s feet. The miracle is that babies can’t break out of this swaddle, so it keeps them from wriggling their way out and waking themselves up.
The Miracle Blanket (which traditionally came in blue, pink and natural, but now, comes in a variety of patterns as well), can be used from the first day you bring your child home from the hospital until he can roll over on his own. We used the Miracle blanket once my boys were about a month old (see the next section for what we used in the meantime).
Once a child can roll over, you should stop swaddling. Not only will your child not want to be swaddled anymore, but it can actually be dangerous because his feet and hips are essential for rolling backward.
Option 2: Sleep Sacks
For those of you who can’t find the Miracle blanket, I know many moms who use sleep sacks and are very happy with them. They are a zippered cotton sack that covers the child from shoulder to foot and keeps the infant’s arms snug in a hug-position, which is held in place with Velcro. It also helps prevent the child from startling himself awake, but in my experience, not as well as the Miracle Blanket. [Note: there are several styles of sleep sacks; infants need the one that holds the child’s arms in place, not the sleeveless version, meant for older babies.]
Option 3: Muslin blankets
When my boys were in their first few weeks of life, we used muslin blankets to swaddle them. Muslin is a light-weight material, so babies wont overheat in them and they are large enough (typically 40×40 inches) to wrap around the child and tuck the ends into place. There are many diagrams and YouTube videos on the internet that provide step by step directions for swaddling. It takes a little practice, but once you get it down, it will be time very well spent!
As you probably have heard, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies not only be on their backs to sleep, but also that cribs be free of any additional items, such as toys and blankets. But once your baby is out of the swaddling stage, it is a comforting experience for him to snuggle with something soft. So what’s a parent to do?
Why Muslin blankets are a perfect solution
Since Muslin blankets are made of a lightweight, “breathable” cotton fabric that is soft to the touch, it allows the baby to snuggle with out the fear of blocking his airways. I drape it over my son’s shoulder before putting him in his crib before naps and at night. Now, it’s an automatic signal that it’s time to nap whenever he sees me take one out of his dresser drawer. (Note: we don’t let him have the blanket at any other point in the day because, as a toddler, he might trip on it as he’s racing around. There’s enough of that happening without an added obstacle in his way!).
Be sure to purchase several of these swaddle blankets for your crib, diaper bag, grandparents’ homes, “emergency kit” in the car, and laundry days. Many brands are sold in multi-packs of three or four–so get at least two sets! You wont want to be without them!
Be on the lookout for tomorrow’s post on the art of baby carrying!