You may notice that the nurses have your baby tightly wrapped up like a little burrito for nearly her whole hospital stay. This is soothing, warm, and calming. Swaddling also helps confine your baby's limbs, keeping the Moro reflex at bay, which causes your baby to startle and throw her limbs out, often waking her up. Let's face it, once your baby is asleep, you want her to stay that way for a while. Swaddling also mimics the tight, very cozy feeling of being in the womb and reduces the symptoms of colic. Some babies like their little hands or arms free from swaddling, so watch for your baby's cues on what she prefers. Also, be aware of overheating in warm weather. Use all those darling blankets you received at your baby showers. Learn how to swaddle your baby from the pros at the hospital.
A note about swaddling and SIDS: Babies should be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, studies have shown that up to 30 percent of parents abandon the practice of putting babies on their backs to sleep within weeks or months because the baby doesn't sleep well on her back. This is especially disturbing as two to four months is the peak risk period for SIDS. Babies who are swaddled, though, often sleep better on their backs because they're not startled awake by the Moro reflex. Since swaddled babies are more likely to be placed on their backs to sleep, it decreases their chances of SIDS. Ask the nurses at the hospital to show you how to swaddle properly for maximum benefit and safety. Special swaddling blankets are also available.