For 9 months your baby lived in a very, very small house. In utero, they had little freedom of movement, particularly towards the end when, as any woman who has carried to term can confirm, space is at a premium. To get an idea of how it might feel making the transition from uterus to world, imagine for a second you’d lived your whole life in a cosy loft (let's pretend that loft overlooks Central Park in New York City, too, just because we can). All of a sudden, a group of men and women in white clothing whisk you away to a sprawling, 80-room palace. You might be awed and impressed, but you'd also feel a bit intimidated by all that space. You would very likely crave the comfort of the small world you're used to. Wrapping makes your baby feel like they're back in their New York loft, aka your uterus.
Crucially, it also short-circuits the moro reflex. All babies are born with this primitive reflex, which causes them to throw their arms up and out if not securely swaddled. I've seen dads acting as kind of human wrap, holding their baby's arms down while mum feeds in an effort to stop them flailing about and waking themselves up. Needless to say, it is much easier just to use a wrap like the Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddles to wrap the baby. The moro reflex begins to recede at around 4-6 months of age, and until that time, I strongly recommend keeping your baby wrapped for all of their feeds and sleeps. When your baby's arms are secured, they feed better and feel more settled, which naturally helps them sleep better.
Some people mistakenly believe their baby doesn't like being wrapped. Babies who are incorrectly wrapped will often fight the wrap, but if the correct swaddling technique is used, let me assure you, your baby will love being wrapped. Your baby has, until very recently, been encased in a strong layer of muscle and tissue. They have very little control over their movements once they no longer have this protective shell around them
You may now be rolling your eyes and thinking "Great, so there's ANOTHER baby trick I'm not up to speed on?" Fear not—learning the correct swaddling technique does not require a degree in structural engineering!
The key to a good swaddle is to wrap your baby's arms up firmly, while keeping their legs loose and that's why I invented "Cath’s Wrap." Your baby must still be able to make a frog-position with their legs while swaddled. Tightly binding your baby's legs does not allow them to make that frog position, and can increase the risk of hip dysplasia, which often requires treatment with a hip brace. Your baby's arms should not be firmly wrapped by their side—no one would like this!! Babies wrapped with arms down their sides will fight to free themselves. By wrapping their arms up by their face, so that way that they can still move their arms up and down, your baby will benefit both from the security of the wrap, and the freedom to move around a little, without starling himself awake with his moro reflex.
I recommend using a large, soft, light wrap - say around 120cm x 120 cm - for wrapping. You can't really have too many wraps. Babies are beautiful but they do a lot of spitting up, pooing, and dribbling; a good stash of wraps will ensure you're never caught short. As your baby gets older (around four to six months), you can begin to unwrap their arms, one at a time, before transitioning them into a baby sleeping bag.
These are some other wraps that I would recommend if you struggle with ‘Cath’s Wrap’ or a looking for a great swaddle option:
· Ergobaby Lightweight and Comfortable Swaddler
· Aden and Anais Disney Bambi Baby Classic Muslin Swaddles
· The Gro Company Apple of My Eye Groswaddle for Newborns
· Baby Studio All in One Cotton Cloud Swaddle Bag
· Bubba Blue Milk Jersey Wrap
· Summer Infant Original Swaddle