The number one issue I deal with as a post natal doula is sleep deprivation! Let’s face it, sleep is a most basic human need, and we all, in the least, go a little loopy when we’re low on it. When I was having babies, my husband and I would refer to it as ‘wake torture’. And it was just that.
Experts in sleep, recommend 7-9 hours of it each night. How will I ever get back there?, I hear you ask. Sleep might be felt as a quickly fading sweet memory for you right now. But it will return.
As all parents understand, successful slumberland directly correlates with your baby’s sleep (or perhaps non-sleep) patterns. I do believe, however, that most sleep issues are often solved with one pertinent factor – how we dress our babies for sleep. So, Let’s take a look at why wrapping or using a sleeping bag (for older babies) could help hold the key to more sleep….. for everyone.
When babies are born, they have come from an environment in which they are perfectly homed in the warm, firm confines of the womb. This is our biggest clue when considering how to get baby sleeping well, once she is born. Take a little look below at how swaddling achieves some very startling results!
1. settle your babe
Have you noticed that when you un-dress your baby, that they involuntarily jerk around? their pupils dilate and they start crying? A small infant has very little control over her limbs. These movements are often referred to as the ‘startle reflex’. This startle reflex comes in to play during sleep as well, especially when she is 3-4 months of age. Baby experiences a ‘jerk’ in a way that frightens them. And if asleep – WAKES THEM and YOU from your slumbers.
2. stimulate sleep continuity
Newborns are renowned for taking little bit-sized naps during the day and we seem to spend hours as a parent, fretting over the fact. Swaddling ‘stimulates sleep continuity’ i.e. it helps them to sleep longer and better. And there are many benefits to a long-napping baby – the least of these is brain development, that primarily takes place when baby is asleep.
3. baby cry less
What?! I know! All babies cry regardless of how easily soothed they are. However, it’s reported that babies who are swaddled cry 28% less. In fact, infants who are swaddled have the more self-regulatory ability. Why wouldn’t you?
4. improve neuromuscular development
Many parents believe that babies should have their hands free, so they can practice arm movement and suck their fingers to soothe themselves. However new research is to the contrary, suggesting pre-term infants show an improve of neuromuscular development, less physiological distress and better motor organization when they are swaddled.
5. … Because SIDS says so
In 2007, the Journal of Paediatrics did a meta-study of research into swaddling. It was concluded that swaddling reduces the risk of SIDS. It was noted that swaddling makes it difficult for newborn babies to inadvertently cover their heads with bedding. It was also revealed that swaddling decreases the baby’s ability to turn over on to her tummy. Both of these factors have been linked with SIDS.
But, because our babies aren’t little for long, and we all still need sleep!…
From the 4-6 month mark, consider the use of a sleeping bag.
When an infant is between 4-6 months of age, they start rolling. Once a baby can roll, it’s time to swap that swaddle with a sleeping bag.
There are loads of these to choose from. Features you’ll need and ones you won’t.
1. Temperature regulating
These sleeping bags can be expensive articles. The ‘old school’ way of determining warmth of these bags was the TOG factor. These are outdated now. You’ll need two of them but choose ones that use breathable fabric that regulates the temperature of your baby’s skin. That way, they are suitable all year around and you can be confident that baby won’t over-heat in it.
2. Of premium fabric
Gentle and hypoallergenic are two words you hear a lot in baby-land. But, your baby’s skin is very sensitive, and that’s why these two need to be considered as well. There are specific standards for these premium fabrics. If you can find one that passes REACH SVHC safety tests, you’ve got a winner. Check the tag!
This will allow baby (who is now rolling) to make his appropriate movements in a safe way. Make sure that both sleeve holes and head hole is of a good fit, to avoid baby slipping down into the sleeping bag itself.
4. Accessible by zipper (only)
Zippers should only ever be reversed zippers, to ensure baby doesn’t get her skin caught at the neck. A zipper located down the tummy acts as a reminder too about putting our babies onto their backs for their sleep.
Choose a sleeping bag that ISN’T:
1. Decorated with toggles, buttons or appliqués of ANY KIND
Whilst seemingly beautiful, these additions only act as a choking hazard and are not worth the ‘cute’ factor. Just. Don’t. Bother.
2. Made with a hoodie
Hoodies can get twisted with the baby’s head movements and become a SIDS risk. Hoodies also decrease air-flow and can put the baby at risk of over-heating. Again, super cute, but not worth it. Keep the hoodie for out-door play time.
3. Made with velcro
Do not buy a sleeping bag with velcro on it anywhere. There have been instances of baby’s getting the velcro caught on their mattress as they’ve moved around the cot. A zip is all you need.
Babies need sleep. Solid sleep. And so does the whole family. If you’re not wrapping or using a sleeping bag, perhaps give it a try. The need for sleep isn’t going to change, but your baby’s ability to sleep long and well, just might.
Mum of six fabulous kids and foster-mum to numerous others. Event manager, doula, childbirth educator, lactation counsellor, owner of Sydney Birth Support, Mamaway Advocate and an encourager of all mums out there giving it their best crack!