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My #1 Babycare Tip: The Magical Swaddle

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This is Jon, holding newborn C in the hospital. Note the fabulous classic nursery nurse swaddle job.

You would think, after having had three babies already and having written a book about caring for babies and young children that I would have known most of the tricks of the trade when baby #4 came around, 9 years after my her next youngest sibling. In fact, however, when C was born in 2007, I’d yet to discover what I now consider my #1 practical tip for new mamas – the wonder of swaddling.

With my first three children, I saw how the nurses bundled them tightly in the hospital, but I never really attempted to imitate what they’d done with the whole baby burrito thing once I brought my babes home.

And as far as I can recall, with my oldest three kids (born in 1991, 1995 and 1998) no one – not my pediatrician, not my mother or grandmother and not a single baby care expert whose book I read – recommended good, old-fashioned swaddling as a standard parenting-an-infant practice. So I never really tried it. And perhaps not coincidentally, none of my three oldest children slept anything approaching to a full night until they were well into toddlerhood. One of the three was bottlefed and two were fully breastfed. One slept in a crib in another room and the other two slept in a bassinet next to our bed and then actually in our bed for the first two years. None of these factors made much of a difference. As babies, my three oldest, non-swaddled babies just never slept at night for stretches longer than 1-3 hours until they were past infancy. Honestly, I didn’t mind too much, especially with my breastfed, co-sleeping babes. I’d just feed them in bed when they woke and go back to sleep. But at that time, I was not working outside the home, so if I got a little sleep deprived after a particularly tiring night of nursing and re-settling a baby, I’d just try to catch a nap in the afternoon.

With babies #4 and now baby #5, however, I do work outside the home at a relatively demanding full time job. I also have a 15 year old and a 12 year old who need my energy and attention for things like homework and ball games. I need all the sleep I can get.

That’s where the magical swaddle comes in.

I can’t remember where I first heard mothers raving about how amazing swaddling was; it was somewhere online, I know, not long after C came home from the hospital in 2007. I think that Dr. Harvey Karp’s now-classic “Happiest Baby on the Block” had come out not long before, and he’s a big advocate of swaddling babies in the way that women in other cultures all over the world have done for all time. So unlike when I had my first babies, American parents had been introduced to swaddling and as more and more of them tried it, they were spreading the word on parenting message boards, email lists and on blogs.

So I read all the rave reviews of this swaddling thing from other moms, and I decided to give it a try when C was 2 or 3 weeks old. First I tried to doit like the hospital nurses did so well, using only a flannel receiving blanket. I failed miserably. Being able to swaddle well with just a regular blanket like that requires mad swaddling skillz that were beyond my pay grade at that point. So then I ordered two of the ridiculously expensive Miracle Blankets, after reading all the rave reviews online.

BINGO! The first night I wrapped C up tightly in her new Miracle Blanket and placed her on her back in the cosleeper next to me, she fell asleep for several hours straight. By 12 weeks old – still happily swaddled – she was routinely sleeping 6 hours stretches at night – something I’d NEVER experienced with my other babies. The swaddle also worked like an on-off switch to instantly calm her when she was fussy or needed to settle for a nap. I’d just roll her up in her swaddle blanky, hold her closely to nurse and rock, and she’d immediately settle contentedly.

C in her Miracle Blanket with Jon

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And napping with big brother E (yes, I was in the room with them the entire time the two of them slept together that day in this bed full of blankets and pillows and other not-baby-approved bedding)

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It became clear to me that she loved the swaddle blanket and it became her signal that it was time to rest. The blanket also helped with some early nursing difficulties she and I had. The swaddle blanket calmed her down and helped her focus on the task at hand. Soon she was nursing like a pro.

Needless to say, G (baby #5) was swaddled from day 1. She also loves being bound up in her Miracle Blanket like a Subway veggie wrap. It helped a lot during her few weeks of colic, and now, at only 12 weeks old (6 weeks adjusted age) she clearly knows it’s bedtime or naptime when she gets swaddled. She happily sleeps 4-6 hour stretches at night in the cosleeper next to me, and sometimes nestled in the crook of my arm in our bed (still very careful with that because she’s tiny and her giant 3 year old sister is also in the bed with us).

I have tried some other swaddling blankets, but I have to say that there really isn’t any comparison for me; the Miracle Blanket is the best. It’s just the right weight of fabric (breathable but cozy). It’s stretchy so you can really wrap the baby tightly, and the design is one that actually keeps the baby in the swaddle quite well instead of letting them come all undone when the baby is trying to sleep. (Let me make it clear that I have never received a free or sample Miracle Blanket from the company and have no affiliation with them of any kind. I am truly just a very satisfied customer.)

So yeah – swaddling. It’s become a remarkable addition to my babycare toolbox with both C and G. I wish I’d learned about it sooner. I also sometimes wish they made an adult Miracle Blanket so I could feel as cozy and content as G is when she’s all bundled up in hers. My Snuggie, even with its many other wonderful qualities, just doesn’t have the same effect on me.

This is G in her Miracle Blanket (she’s wrapped too loosely in this photo, but you get the idea)

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