Every mom has some topic of momversation that drives them wild. For me, the topic of swaddling do’s and don’t really gets my blood boiling. Moms hear one person say something about swaddling, and all of a sudden they are the expert telling people what they can and cannot do.
I will never forget when I received my first swaddling don’t tip. Two of my friends gave birth to baby boys within days of my son. One was literally at the hospital laboring while we were loading my son into the car for the first time and driving the six blocks home across the Chicago River (while driving 15 miles an hour).
We took to sharing the news from our monthly doctor’s appointments with each other, usually the stats (98% percentile for height!) and also the information we gleaned in those ten or so minutes. At both of my friend’s two month doctor's appointments, they shared the news with me that I would have to stop swaddling my son by four months of age.
I had a mini-panic attack (the first of many). No swaddling?!?! There was no way under the sun that my little guy would be ready to move past his swaddle in only a few short weeks.
So I asked my physician about this during my appointment, and for the sake of full disclosure, my practice in Chicago included both Dr. Weissbluth (senior and junior). Dr. Weissbluth (junior) asked me where I heard this rule about swaddling. I told him two of my friends shared the tip with me. He said that was absolutely not true, that a long time ago some doctors feared hip dysplasia but this rumor had long since been debunked.
I went home feeling better. And just for fun, I decided to open up Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block (one of the only must-reads that Club MomMe recommends. He also has a DVD and CD to make the process easier for new parents to deal with a colicky baby).
Dr. Karp does not give a "must stop swaddling by” date for babies. Rather, he recommends a common-sense approach and test to determine if your child is ready to lose the swaddle. He says to swaddle your baby with one arm out of the swaddle. If your baby is still fussy, moving around, or unable to sleep, your child is most likely not ready to leave the swaddle.
So how long can you swaddle a baby? Dr. Karp says that some babies need to be swaddled until 8, 9 or 10 months, and in some instances even for a year. However, there is no must stop swaddling date. Each child is unique, and each child grows and progresses differently.
My son is now 9.5 months old. He still goes to sleep with a swaddle at night and for some of his naps. When he gets in the swaddle, he is instantly soothed. My mom calls it his valium. He often loses his swaddle at night within an hour or two, and can sometimes make it through the night without it. However, many nights we put him back in it when he wakes up.
So does this mean that my son is not growing or developing well? No way! He is in the 95% percentile for height, and he started sitting up before he was five months, crawling before seven months, and he is cruising around like crazy and can stand on his own for about a minute now. He sleeps on his side and his stomach in the swaddle, and he is just fine.
We have tried Dr. Karp’s swaddle test four times, as people kept suggesting that he should not longer be swaddled. And guess what? He has not yet been ready. My son is about to lose his swaddle any day now. And he will, as soon as he is ready.
*Club MomMe is not a doctor, and the views expressed in this post are the views of Club MomMe and adapted from Dr. Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block. If you have questions, you should always direct them to your doctor, as every child is unique and different. For tips on how to swaddle, watch Dr. Karp's video here.