The controversial practice is making a comeback, writes Marchelle Abrahams.
Various studies have been done on the benefits of swaddling. Babycare experts Megan Faure and Ann Richardson advocate the use of it in their bestselling Baby Sense. "Receiving blankets are essential for swaddling which is very important in the early days. Swaddling is the best way for use to imitate the tight hug of the womb environment."
The book then goes on to explain how it provides deep-touch pressure and also prevents baby's limbs from shooting out due to startle reflex – a common cause of night wakings in smaller babies.
"When you swaddle your baby, ensure their hands are near their face for self-soothing."
Previously the practice was shunned by new parents who saw it as restrictive and even barbaric. But it has undergone a renaissance in recent years as the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
In 1992, the Back To Sleep campaign was launched in the US in a bid to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The campaign was based on the outcome of two studies done in Australia and New Zealand that showed babies who sleep on the back – swaddled – have about 33 percent less SIDS than unwrapped back-sleeping babies.
Even though swaddling seems to be a moot issue, some parents swear by it.
"Three years ago I was blessed with twin daughters – which also came as a huge shock as I had no idea of what it would be like to deal with two babies at the same time," says IOL Lifestyle editor Sarene Kloren.
"My saving grace came when another mom of twins told me about Harvey Karp’s swaddling method from his best-selling book called The Happiest Baby On The Block."
Sarene followed Dr Karp’s advice and "found that within 5 – 10 minutes both babies calmed down and fell asleep."
Karp's practises are based on his belief that the first few months after birth is the "fourth trimester" when baby is out of the womb but not ready for the world.
Karp's 5 S's method:
1) Swaddle: – wrap the baby snugly in a thin blanket with arms inside the blanket. They will resist for the first few times but eventually will get used to it. This creates the same kind of pressure that they experienced while in the womb.
2) Stomach or side: – Hold baby on their side.
3) Shush: – Place your lips close to baby’s ear and ‘’shhh” loudly – it will remind them of the sounds of being in the womb. As the baby calms down reduce the level of the “shhh” and place baby in their cradle.
4) Swing: – Do this whilst “shhh”- place baby on your knee and jiggle your leg whilst supporting their head.
5) Suck: – Give baby a dummy to suck on – it relaxes them.
Dr Sarah Karabus, a paediatrician that specialises in children's allergies, says the practise is still a bit controversial: "On one hand swaddling often helps sleeping and seems to be soothing for babies.
"On the other hand, there are some studies that show a possible link between swaddling and SIDS – but this is unclear."
Just last year CNN ran a story with the headline: Swaddling babies may increase risk of SIDS. It caused an flurry among new parents. The story pointed to a study done by medical journal Pediatrics which concluded that: "current advice to avoid front or side positions for sleep especially applies to infants who are swaddled. Consideration should be given to an age after which swaddling should be discouraged."
Long story short: stop swaddling as your baby grows; around the time he or she starts rolling and breaking out of their blanket cocoon.
"There's a time to swaddle and a way to swaddle safely and a time to stop," says Dr. Ari Brown, author of the Baby 411 book series. "All good things must come to an end."
So when is the best time to stop swaddling? Expert advice ranges from three to six months. At this point the benefits of swaddling diminishes as baby's startle reflex disappears.
The Happiest Baby On The Block is available on loot.co.za