Swaddling and the Moro Reflex
Swaddling has a long history, but in short, it is an age-old practice of snugly wrapping babies in blankets or sheets to restrict their movement.
It’s common for most babies (who are not swaddled to sleep) to wake up frequently during sleep from being disturbed by their own Moro reflex.
The Moro reflex, or startle reflex, is an involuntary motor response that babies develop in the womb between 28-32 weeks of gestation and usually disappears when the baby is around 3-6 months of age. It is usually triggered by sudden movements, loud or unfamiliar sounds, intense light, or sensation of falling (e.g. when a caregiver lays baby down or picks him/her up). Moro reflex involves the baby suddenly extending and spreading out his/her arms (abduction), followed by pulling in his/her arms (adduction) in front of his/her body, and usually followed by crying.
Swaddling can help calm the baby, reduce crying time, shorten periods of distress, and improve sleep. Particularly, swaddling baby’s arms close to the body to restrict arm movements inhibits the Moro reflex, therefore helping the baby sleep better.
It’s easy to see why swaddling techniques and products have for so long mostly been about restricting baby’s movements.
Baby's Changing Swaddle Preferences
Some babies are happy with arms being restricted, but when it's time to wean off the swaddle, they may find it difficult to adjust to the sudden freedom of arm movements.
Some babies prefer the freedom to move their arms, but they may fight being swaddled and break free. Thereby causing them to wake up frequently from the startle reflex, and increasing the risk of suffocation from loose swaddling fabric.
Additionally, as babies grow, their swaddle preferences can often change.
Traditionally babies have been swaddled with a large square or rectangular blankets (or sheets). There are many methods/techniques to swaddling a baby with a blanket – giving caregivers the flexibility of being able to use different techniques depending on baby’s changing needs.
However, there is a degree of skill and learning involved in being able to swaddle correctly with a blanket. Learning to swaddle correctly requires lots of practice and patience and may not always be ideal.
Unfortunately, improper swaddling is not only ineffective, but is also a safety risk. Some of the known risks of improper swaddling include:
- Tight swaddling of the baby’s legs has been associated with an increased incidence of Hip dysplasia or dislocation.
- Tight swaddling of the baby’s chest has been associated with an increased risk for pneumonia.
- On the other hand, the baby can usually break free from the swaddle if wrapped too loosely. The loose blanket becomes a strangulation and suffocation hazard.
- Heavily wrapping the baby, or swaddling the baby with his/her head covered can cause overheating.
What is Safe Swaddling?
Whether you are using a traditional blanket or a swaddling product/garment to swaddle your baby; in order for the swaddle to be comfortable and safe:
- It needs to be wrapped snugly around baby, whilst ensuring there is enough space for some movement, airflow and chest wall expansion, yet it should not be too loose that baby will break free causing risk of suffocation.
- Baby’s hips and legs should be free to move and bend.
- Baby should not be overwrapped in too many layers.
- Preferably, baby should have access to hands to aid development of important midline and self-soothing behaviours as well as neurological and motor development.
Introducing the FX (Fetal Flex) Swaddle
With a new baby, understandably parents have a lot on their hands already. It may not always be possible to become an expert at swaddling like the midwives at the hospital, which can lead to lots of second guessing and sleepless nights.
This is why we’ve created the FX (Fetal Flex) Swaddle, to enable parents to swaddle their babies safely, easily.
The FX Swaddle takes the guesswork out of swaddling. Designed based on the principles of safe swaddling, it comes with built-in 3-in-1 arm positions (Arms-In, Arms-Free, and Hands-Out) to accommodate your baby’s changing needs – providing a gentler way to transition your baby from 'womb to world', and from 'swaddle to sleeping bag'.
The FX Swaddle makes swaddling easy as 1-2-3.
1) Arms-In Position
With one or both arms in, completely inside the swaddle touching body.
This arm position provides a more restrictive and firmer swaddling of baby’s arms, which makes baby feel extra secure. This arm position is ideal for babies who prefer tighter swaddling or has a strong startle reflex, as well as premmie and lower birth weight babies. Also, allows baby to be swaddled more tightly during periods of sleep regressions due to illnesses, teething, growth spurts etc.
2) Arms-Free (Fetal Flex) Position
With one or both arms free to move, placed inside the arm pockets.
This arm position provides the most optimal position for a womb like environment, providing your baby the developmental and self-soothing benefits of having arms free, (similar to how it was in the womb) – while still suppressing the Moro/startle reflex. This is an ideal arm position for most babies.
3) Hands-Out Position
With one or both hands free via opening the fold-over mittens.
This arm position allows baby full skin-to-skin access of hands and fingers, while still maintaining secure feeling of being swaddled and suppressing milder level of startle reflex. This arm position is ideal for babies transitioning out of the swaddle.
More Safe Swaddling Tips
- Always sleep baby on the back, not on the tummy or side.
- Do not use swaddle if head can pass through the neck-hole or if neck-hole is too tight.
- As soon as a baby shows signs of beginning to roll, discontinue swaddling and use a safe infant sleeping bag instead, like our 4-in-1 365 Sleep Bag.
- Always follow safe sleep recommendations.
For further info on the FX (Fetal Flex) Swaddle, visit our product page here https://sleepycompany.com/fxswaddle