Tauranga mums stand by swaddling

By Ellen Irvine

1 comment

The age-old practice of swaddling has come under scrutiny, but Tauranga mums and baby experts say safely wrapping babies minimises risk while keeping babies - and mums - happy.

In America, swaddling is falling out of favour due to safety guidelines which say when done incorrectly, the practice can increase the risk of hip problems and SIDS, especially if the baby is placed on their stomach.

Some daycares in the US have banned the practice - leaving staff and mums frustrated that babies who slept well swaddled were now unsettled and struggling to sleep.

Plunket told the Bay of Plenty Times the organisation's official line was it did not advise mums to swaddle.

But Tauranga mums told this newspaper that swaddling was common practice and they had been advised to do it by almost every "expert" they came in contact with.

Mothers spoken to were passionate about swaddling, some saying their baby wouldn't sleep without it, yet would sleep almost anywhere if they were wrapped.

Tauranga independent childbirth educator Eden Hersey said swaddling was common practice in New Zealand and led to a calmer baby, improved sleep patterns, and less crying.

That had a positive flow-on effect for the mother and the whole family.

"The main benefit is when you swaddle a baby they feel wrapped and cuddled and they get a lot of comfort from being cocooned.

"We believe it duplicates how cocooned they feel in the womb. If a baby's upset or distressed, swaddling is comforting."

Mrs Hersey said safe sleeping practices meant babies should be placed on their back, with their face clear.

"The key thing is when you swaddle, make sure the swaddle is nice and firm around the shoulders and looser around the hips so babies can relax with their legs in the froggie position, which is what younger babies need."

Katikati-based post-natal consultant Vicki Kirkland, known as the "baby whisperer", said 95 per cent of mothers she came into contact with swaddled their babies, and most were aware of the risks associated with swaddling.

Ms Kirkland said she supported swaddling as long as mothers were shown how to swaddle correctly.

New Zealand children's welfare organisation Change for our Children has written a guideline for midwives about the issues related to the practice of wrapping or swaddling babies.

That document says swaddling can help babies through the vulnerable newborn period, but if used incorrectly "can lead to harm, distress or even death".

Change for our Children says a secure swaddle means a baby stays wrapped, feels held and can easily move their hip joints.

Swaddled babies should be placed in bed on their backs.

Mother unfazed by news of swaddle ban

Without swaddling, Tammy McLaughlin's three-month-old daughter Kaly would sleep for just 20 minutes.

So the Pyes Pa mother of three persevered with wrapping her baby, as she did with older children Ayla, 5, and Cody, 8.

As an early childhood educator, she had always swaddled babies, and when Cody was born premature she found it hard not to be able to wrap him as he was in an incubator.

"With Ayla and Kaly they were full-term, and [swaddling] was automatic - the midwife would dress the baby after birth and swaddle them.

"I didn't really question it. It's what happened, and it worked - they relaxed swaddled."

Mrs McLaughlin has tried different types of swaddles with Kaly, and was not fazed by news that some American daycares were now banning the practice.

She believed safe swaddling practices - keeping the baby's face free and not wrapping too tightly around the hips - eliminated risk.

Sleep deprivation from not swaddling baby was a very real problem for the baby, mother and the whole family, Mrs McLaughlin said.

She also used a breathing monitor on Kaly, which gave her ultimate peace of mind that her baby was safe while sleeping.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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