Swaddling is a practice many parents use to help their children sleep better. It involves wrapping your baby in a blanket with their arms and legs tucked in. From what I understand there is a specific technique although I have not mastered this technique (generally because I am working with kids and trying to get them to move!). Many of my friends like to refer to it as the ‘baby burrito’!
I have been asked if swaddling for too long can cause gross motor delay. There is no research out there on this topic that I was able to find but if anyone has any, please share!
When a few of my friends have asked my thoughts on swaddling I’ve tried to look at it like any other issue. Many of them wanted to continue this practice so that their child could get enough sleep at night and not wake themselves up with flailing arms and legs. My only concern was if their mobility was being restricted. By this I mean were they getting time during the day to figure out movement. A lot of times when a child goes down for a nap or for bed they use that time before falling asleep or when they wake up to explore their movement and bodies. A lot of time it can be due to frustration (i.e. they want to get up and so they look for any means to let their parents know this) which can be a key component to movement development. Many times you will hear a parent say that they first rolled over or pulled to stand in the crib.
For children who are swaddled to prevent excessive movement so that they can get a good night sleep (which is also important to growth and development) its important that they are getting plenty of floor time to move and explore. This involves tummy time as well as giving them a chance to figure out how to get to the toys or person they want to play with. Don’t put everything right in their reach, let them figure it out!
If your child is getting plenty of unstructured floor time and tummy time and is hitting their milestones on target then I would use your best judgement as to when you should stop swaddling.
For those of you out there with experience please feel free to share your stories.