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SWADDLE DEPENDENCY

We bring our babies home from hospital tightly swaddled and fast asleep. Swaddling is meant to continue for perhaps another few weeks after which parents will stop tightly wrapping up their babies for each sleep. However for some parents swaddling becomes the most helpful tool to keep their babies asleep. The mother of an 11 month old baby boy contacted me because her baby refused to give up on the swaddle. She tried different tactics but nothing seemed to work. His overall sleep was deficient and his sleep quality was poor with multiple night wake ups.  As he was growing bigger and rolling around in bed his mother found that the swaddle restricted his movements, making him uncomfortable and that 

would wake him up from his sleep. At the same time if  the swaddle became too loose midway through his sleep then that would wake him up too. She knew it was time to get rid of the swaddle. Our little 11 month old baby in this case was also dependent on being patted for several minutes while in the swaddled and was on a schedule that was not fully appropriate for his age.

Other swaddle dependency cases are similar. The ages may differ but the problems caused are very similar. And in an effort to give up the swaddle I have found parents try to introduce other things like patting, rocking, feeding etc and eventually get stuck with multiple dependencies before they contact me.

So after understanding our 11 month old baby's situation in detail, we agreed that we needed to make some scheduling changes immediately. We also had to get rid of the swaddle as it was totally unnecessary given the babys age and the very fact that it was causing more harm than good. And to make all that possible we had to teach our baby to sleep independently without the swaddle or patting. After 3 days of training, our little 11 month old was happily turning to his side when put down in his cot and falling asleep without a swaddle. It took another 4 days to make him a fully independent sleeper. Its now been 3 months since the training, and his mother recently wrote me a thank you note saying that she held on to the swaddle for another month after training because she couldn’t believe that he was permanently off it and then eventually gave his swaddle blankets to a cousin who was expecting a baby.

Swaddling is wonderful when babies are very young as they have the startle reflex in the initial months. It is however best if swaddling is stopped by the 4th month. Most babies will give up on the habit by themselves without any help from the parents. But if your baby hasn’t got there by 4 months of age it is best that you start to proactively teach them to slowly and gradually give up the swaddle habit. Start by keeping their hands out initially and then gradually start making the swaddle looser over a few days and then give it up completely.