Will Swaddling Affect Newborn Sleep?

The short answer?  It almost always gives them a slightly longer sleep cycle.  The longer answer:  many babies need more than a good swaddle to add that extra hour or so to their sleep cycle.

Interestingly enough, research and the American Academy of Pediatrics have suggested that swaddling makes a newborn’s sleep lighter.  Lighter isn’t necessarily worse.  Stomach sleeping is often deeper sleeping.  The risk for stomach sleeping is that if their nose and mouth are pressed into the mattress, they can’t or won’t turn their heads to breathe. That is why SIDS prevention guidelines say they should never sleep on their stomachs.  As a health professional, you know where I come out on that argument.  Be smart and use effective techniques for good sleep rather than use a risky move in sleep-deprived desperation.  It may be the action you regret for the rest of your life.

So if you swaddle and back-sleep and still have a fussy newborn, what do you do?  You layer on the love; those other moves from The Happiest Baby that soothe newborns and let them sleep.  That means that using the pacifier/soothing nursing, swinging, white noise are more important for sleep.

I just did a consultation with a family whose 6 week-old is already a tribute to his athletic, high-energy mom.  He calms best with movement, lots of it.  That isn’t a problem, or a sign of anything bad, but it means that to get him to sleep on his back they are going to have to give him more movement to lull him almost fully asleep before putting him down. They may even need to use the swing, filly reclined and belted in, at a higher speed for sleep.  There was some chatter about him getting “addicted” to it, but the good news is that the need for speed decreases as brain development increases. I recommended that he get some practice with the pacifier ( see my June 4, 2015 post on how to use and wean pacifiers) and that they use the harsher white noise.  It may be too soft or too far away to have enough of an effect for him.  She should, however, be prepared to sign him up for a travel team in about 10 years!

If you would like more support with your newborn but you don’t live in the NY metro area, visit my website, tranquilbabies.com, and purchase a phone or video consultation session.

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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