Swaddling and Development

Updated: Oct 28

As an OT, I am a huge fan of swaddling for various reasons from the newborn state to ~3 months of age. In my work I love to explain the rationale of swaddling and I would like to share why I think it is important for infant development from the mind of an OT.

I look at swaddling as a way to support your infant in the first few weeks of life during the transition to the new world. When your infant is developing, especially in the third trimester, they are getting more and more crammed in the womb, pushing on the barriers of the belly (and bladder!), and enjoying that tightness around them. It is familiar, and comforting to them! After their journey into the world, all of those barriers around them, that familiar “home” is now gone. Newborn infants may demonstrate stress cues (which are normal). Some of those cues, can be soothed by providing both a familiar environment and input to their little bodies. If you think about it, tight surroundings the feeling of being secure is EXACTLY what a swaddle offers! Stay with me here…. Doesn’t it feel good when you get a tight hug, or come home after a long day and wrap yourself tightly in a blanket, or even use a weighted blanket yourself? Deep pressure is soothing to our bodies and our brain, because we have been wired since gestation to respond positively to this input.

When an infant is swaddled properly (easier said than done- more on that below), it provides them that familiar feeling and can help their brain and body to calm. Swaddling also promotes early midline orientation. This occurs simply because when a swaddle is done properly, the hands are towards the infant’s chest or face, and the hips are slightly tucked upwards. An infant’s musculature system develops from the middle of their body and outwards from there. Think in simplest terms for “core strength”. As adults if we do not have good core strength, it inhibits our ability to perform other activities as well. What I am getting at here, is that you can start building foundational blocks for both gross motor and fine motor development right away! Pretty cool huh?