There has been some recent discussion about swaddling and how it relates to reflexes and sensory processing. We wanted to weigh in with our opinion.
We are strong advocates for swaddling (up until 3- 4 months) and here is why:
Restorative sleep is critical to brain growth and development. A body has to be able to rest after a long day of exercise and stimulation. A swaddle provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure) to help calm and organize a baby – exactly when it needs to be calm and organized – during sleep time.
It also helps to start setting the foundation for good sleep routines including structure, self soothing and prolonged sleep cycles. If we take that away, the result is frequent waking, fussiness, and a very tired household.
Our fear is that by making new parents feel bad or even worse – that they are actually HURTING their baby – we are going to cause even more serious issues. What we have found, after working with close to 5,000 babies, is that parents get desperate if their babies aren’t sleeping. They start to make poor choices because they are so desperate to sleep. They start putting babies in containers to sleep – which we now know can be very dangerous. They start co-sleeping with their babies – which is a huge SIDS risk. We also see parental exhaustion, depression, increased anxiety and impaired coping skills. If you have ever been around a new mom that is truly not sleeping – you will never forget it. It is scary and heartbreaking. To say that being exhausted is a “right of passage” for new parents and they should just deal with it is both unfair and irresponsible.
Good sleep is the basis for everything. If not using a swaddle impairs this, then for us, it isn’t worth it. The cost is just too high. Yes, reflex integration is important for developing babies but can be achieved during unrestricted play time during the day, which we promote whole heartedly. There has been no clear, long term research that we can find to support the notion that swaddling, in and of itself, causes Sensory Processing Disorder.
If your baby doesn’t respond well to a swaddle, then don’t use it. If your baby sleeps well in it, use it until they start grabbing their feet while on their back and then start transitioning them out of it. Once your baby starts rolling back to tummy, they should only be in a sleep sack or a basic pajamas. No need to transition to yet another swaddle. If they want to roll, let them roll. The internet is filled with lots of conflicting information, which makes a parent’s job even harder. The key is to get to know your baby. Learn what works for your baby. Take bits and pieces from the experts (not the influencers) and apply them in your home. Trust your gut.