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Swaddling and Breastfeeding

I have found swaddling to be an essential skill for surviving the early months of caring for my daughters. Like many mothers, I tried it out, but found the swaddle didn't hold or the baby squirmed out of it. Like many, I assumed that meant that the baby didn't like it, or it didn't work.

Wrong.

Swaddling is a great tool for a new mother who is working to learn or fine tune the breastfeeding process. Many new parents try swaddling at some point but give it up because they either can’t figure it out at all, or because the baby breaks the swaddle, leading parents to think the baby doesn’t like it. Learning how to swaddle properly is essential to making this tool work for you.

In addition to the general benefits of swaddling (see my related article at the Early Childhood Parenting BellaOnline site), there are several ways that swaddling can specifically assist the breastfeeding process.

• Swaddling helps a new baby to be less twitchy and focus on mastering the breastfeeding skill, leading to less painful and more efficient and effective feeds. In the early days and weeks, when an newborn’s nervous system is still underdeveloped, swaddling can help a breastfeeding baby to “organize” in order to latch properly. As the infant reaches 2-6 months old when more actively moving and distractible, swaddling may be essential in helping the baby to focus and be still to get a good feed.

• Swaddling enables the "dream feed" – the ability to pick up a sleeping baby, feed without fully waking them, and easily put them back down to sleep. When swaddled, it is really easy to just support the head and latch the baby on – try cross cradle hold for a newborn, to get the baby’s head properly positioned, moving into cradle after the baby is latched – older babies can cradle right in the arm and latch on. (The big benefit of the dream feed is nursing the baby right before you go to sleep, and as a result maximizing the length of uniterrupted sleep you get before the baby wakes to nurse again.

• Swaddling provides a tool to more easily wake and energize a sleepy baby to nurse by the process of unswaddling. This can be helpful with sleepy babies who in the early days of nursing need to be woken or encouraged to nurse in order to ensure the establishment of a healthy milk supply.

Swaddling can be invaluable to assist in the establishment of successful breastfeeding and healthy sleep. I strongly encourage all breastfeeding mothers to learn and master this skill, and give it a fair chance to see if it works for your baby. As I mentioned, swaddling can be tricky, so see my related article on the Early Childhood Parenting BellaOnline site on How to Swaddle.


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Disclaimer: All material on the BellaOnline.com Breastfeeding website is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information as of the date of publication, the author is neither a medical doctor, health practitioner, nor a Certified Lactation Consultant. If you are concerned about your health, or that of your child, consult with your health care provider regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation. Information obtained from the Internet can never take the place of a personal consultation with a licensed health care provider, and neither the author nor BellaOnline.com assume any legal responsibility to update the information contained on this site or for any inaccurate or incorrect information contained on this site, and do not accept any responsibility for any decisions you may make as a result of the information contained on this site or in any referenced or linked materials written by others.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Nicki Heskin. All rights reserved.
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