The main purpose of swaddling your baby while she’s a newborn is to make her feel secure, warm and safe. After night months inside your womb, your baby will feel disoriented in the outside world, and the swaddling will help him remember her previous environment and rest.
After two months, many babies will start kicking and fighting the swaddle, while others are comfortable being ‘wrapped’ until about 4 months. Whenever you see your baby fighting the swaddling while he’s sleep or before falling asleep, it’s your cue to stop swaddling.
Swaddling a baby become a safety hazard once your baby is able to roll over, which usually occurs between 2 and 5 months. Once she has the ability to roll, you should stop the swaddling, as you don’t want her to be all tighly-swaddled and roll onto her tummy, since she could end up suffocating her, and certainly increases the risk of SIDS.
Swaddling also becomes a safety hazard when the temperature is high. Make sure you swaddle your baby on a breathable blanket, that is appropriate for the current weather conditions. As a rule of thumb, remember that babies should wear one more layer than adults, so do not overdress your baby as overheating is a major risk factor for SIDS.
Some babies don’t like being swaddled, though. If your baby doesn’t, you can try swaddling him a bit looser or leaving his arms out of the blanket altogether. To sum up, we recommend swaddling your baby during the first two months of life, if she looks comfortable like that; and read her cues after that as to when to stop swaddling.
There are many things that we, parents, can do to help our children fall asleep easier and sooner, stay asleep and have healthy sleep habits.
These are basic and simple things that will help with this:
- Consistent daily routine – Keep to a regular daily routine— waking time, meal times, nap times, play times, TV time… will help your child to feel secure, relaxed and comfortable, and help with a smooth bedtime. Children like to know what to expect, and not have the stress of wondering what’s going to happen next.
- Exercise and fresh air – Make sure your child has interesting, stimulating and varied activities during the day, including physical activity and fresh air; so she can burn up energy, exercise her body and mind, and be looking forward the wind down time at night.
- Consistent sleep schedule – We have said this many times. It is essential for your child to have a clear and consistent schedule. Her wake up time and bed time should be the same every day, regardless of the circumstances (weekend, holidays…). We don’t expect you to have a set time (ie. 7:14am), but you should have a clear window, 10 minutes up or down and be consistent. Therefore, if your bedtime is 7pm, sometimes your child might go to bed at 6:50pm and others at 7:10pm, but that’s all the wiggle you should allow.
- Loving bedtime routine and wind down time – Plan quiet time before bedtime every night for approximately 30-60 minutes. This means that the activities take place 1 hour before bedtime should be calming, and enjoyable. This might include: taking a bath, getting a massage, listening to quiet music, reading a book, singing lullabies… Try to be consistent with your bedtime routine. This quiet time activity need not all take place in the child’s bedroom but it should culminate there such that the last 10-15 minutes are in the bedroom where the child will sleep. The bedtime routine should be a time for you to interact with your child in a way that is secure and loving, yet firm. Spend some special time with your child, let them know you love her and you are going to be there for her. Please, avoid TV watching, homework, video game playing and other exciting activities. Never use sending your child to bed as a threat. Bedtime needs to be a secure, loving time, not a punishment. Your goal is to teach your kids that bedtime is enjoyable, just as it is for us adults. If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.
- Appropriately full stomach – You should guarantee that your child has a heavy dinner, at least 1 hour before going to bed, so she will not wake up hungry in the middle of the night. You can also provide a light snack or cup of milk right before bedtime (remember to brush their teeth after this). Eating too much right before bedtime or much earlier might interfere with your child’s sleep quality.
- Sleep-friendly bedroom – Your child’s bedroom should be quiet, safe (baby proofed, no cords, hard corners, accessible electric outlets, no loose sheets…), secure (allow for security blankets if your child needs them, display a picture of the family…), adequate temperature (68° F – 75° F), happy (bedroom should not be used for super exciting activities or for time outs, in order to avoid bad sleep associations, however, it should be used for calming, enjoyable activities besides sleeping), and dark (a nightlight is acceptable for children afraid of a dark, but make sure it’s not too bright).
Remember, consistency, calmness, trust and reassurance are essential in helping your child become an independent sleeper.
Sources: Cleveland Clinic research, University of Michigan research