Creating a Baby Burrito
My first baby entered the world angry. Or so it seemed. He was 10 days late and only made his appearance after 16+ hours of labor, four hours of pushing and a vacuum extraction. Let’s just say he wasn’t too happy to be pulled from his cozy home. And he let us know that. He cried for the first hour of his life. He only stopped crying to breastfeed. Then he resumed crying once again.
We quickly discovered that two things helped soothe him: touch and swaddling. Thankfully I happened upon Dr. Harvey Karp’s book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” In it, I learned all about swaddling, and the other four S’s (side, shhhh, swinging and sucking) to help calm a crying infant. While all five S’s were great, swaddling especially became a lifesaver for us.
It took a bit of practice, but soon enough we were swaddling like pros and once tightly wrapped, our little baby burrito was a much happier camper. When our second and third babies were born, we immediately began swaddling them and continued to do so for months. Swaddling helped soothe our babies and helped them sleep better. As any exhausted parent knows, sleep is a beautiful thing. So, I want to share the whys and hows of swaddling an infant in the hopes of helping other newbie parents discover this ancient art and valuable asset.
1) Swaddling soothes baby’s desire to be touched.
“Swaddling is the cornerstone of calming. It gives nurturing touch, stops flailing and focuses your baby’s attention,” Dr. Karp wrote in his book. He went on to say, “Skin is the body’s largest organ, and touch is the most calming of our senses. Swaddling envelops your baby’s body with a continuous soft caress.”
2) Swaddling creates a sense of security.
Before your baby was born, your uterus held him snuggly. In the outside world, his little arms and legs can flail about, sometimes upsetting him. Swaddling helps your baby feel safe and secure, just as he did in utero.
3) Swaddling controls her frantic movements.
“By restraining your baby’s movements, … she can tune in and focus on all the wonderful things you’re doing to soothe her. Wrapping also prevents new twitches from igniting the crying all over again.” Dr. Karp went on to say, “She looks like she wants her hands free, but the opposite is true. Newborns love being confined, and when they’re frantic and out of control they need your help to restrain their frantic arms and legs.”
4) Swaddling allows him to sleep longer.
“Even easy babies who don’t need wrapping to keep calm often sleep more when swaddled. Bundling keeps them from startling themselves awake. But make sure the wrapping is tight. It’s not safe to put babies in bed with loose blankets,” Dr. Karp warned.
How to Swaddle
For a traditional swaddle, you’ll want a large square. I preferred the Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets. They are large, made of breathable fabric and hold a tight wrap. Follow these steps for a tight, basic swaddle:
Lay the blanket out flat in a diamond position. Fold the top corner down so it touches the center of the blanket. Position the baby so her neck touches the top edge.
Hold your baby’s right arm down straight with your right hand/arm. With your left hand, grab the left corner of the blanket and pull it taut over the baby’s arm and body. Tuck the left corner under the baby’s back.
Grab the bottom corner and pull it up snuggly, tucking it underneath the baby’s back.
Place your left hand on the baby’s left arm and grab the right corner with your right hand. Pull it taut and wrap it underneath the baby’s back.
When you begin swaddling, it’s important to note that it may take your baby a bit of time to adjust to it. And, it will also take you time to get the wrap just right. But don’t give up! If you have a high-needs or colicky baby, as our first little guy was, swaddling could be a valuable asset. And don’t be concerned with worrying that once you swaddle your baby, you will always have to. As she grows and develops, her little body will adjust and at some point she will outgrow the need to be swaddled.
I do have to admit that our guy who felt most secure as a baby burrito still likes to be snuggled tightly from time to time. But now we can wrap him in our arms instead of a blanket. Sometimes we still remind him of those early colicky days, which, along with the swaddle blankets, are thankfully a thing of the past.