How To Calm Crying If You Don’t Swaddle

Yesterday I taught a Happiest Baby on the Block class, and one mother was adamant that she would not swaddle her 3-week-old daughter.  She thought it would be too restrictive for her.  Although I taught the correct safety principles, how it mimics life in the womb, and the effective techniques for a good swaddle, this mom wasn’t convinced that it was for her.  My action of choice?  Emphasize the techniques she could embrace.  She learned the technique correctly, but she gets to choose what is right for her and her child.

I do not teach a “swaddle class”, I teach THB.  It is so much more than an opportunity to learn how to swaddle.  The class teaches the neurological and behavioral underpinnings for newborn sleep and calming, and that is powerful information for parents.  Understanding what is happening, why it is happening, and how THB capitalizes on the science of development is empowering on it’s own.

There are four other techniques with their own power to soothe and organize a tiny little being.  Using a safe and firm swaddle is considered the foundation of calming in THB, but the other techniques can be effective when used together, especially with a baby that isn’t exceptionally fussy and is easier to calm.  The correct shushing, swing/jiggle movements, sucking, and side/stomach calming positions can be enough for those babies, and she was lucky enough to have a pretty calm infant (for now – plenty of time for a colicky period to erupt).

Swaddling your baby is the bottom layer of calming, and should extend periods of sleep and create a “calming barrier” of deep sleep to prevent noises in the environment, first infant stuffy noses, and other distractions from waking her up.  If you have struggled with the swaddle technique, watch Dr. Karp’s DVD, use my phone consult sessions or trainings, or try a swaddle garment.  Used correctly, they are a quicker way to an easy “A” in swaddling.

We practiced the effective distance and volume for the shush, the different forms of the jiggle/swing in her arms, discussed sucking as a natural soothing approach, and why just turning a baby onto their side or stomach to calm (never for sleep) is like clicking a sleep switch with a newborn.  And her daughter slept through just about all of it.

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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