As parents prepare for the newborn arrival, there is much information on the importance of quality sleep for the baby. However, many new parents are not aware of the startle reflex, which affects newborns sleep.
If you are in this category, you will be caught by surprise when your peacefully sleeping baby all of a sudden startles, wakes up, and now you are back to step one of getting them to sleep again.
Startle reflex, also called Moro reflex, is an involuntary response to unexpected outside factors or a reaction when the baby feels a free-falling sensation. Doctors say that this response is the first attempt for a baby to protect themselves, and every baby must have it on delivery.
Moro reflex happens mostly when the baby is asleep, but it can also occur when awake. If your baby is going through a startle reflex, they will suddenly extend their arms and legs, curl in, arch their back, take a sharp inhale or cry out. The response is triggered by loud noise, light changes, sudden movements, a change of direction, or a cold touch.
If you ask around or call the doctor to solve the symptoms above, you will most likely get the statement, “Just swaddle the baby.” While it is true that swaddling is an effective solution to the startle reflex, they will not tell you that some babies do not like being swaddled.
Some babies hate the process but sleep better and longer after the swaddle, while others cannot be swaddled at all. After a few attempts, you should be able to tell where your baby falls and either try new swaddling techniques or try other methods to deal with the startle reflex.
What To Do If Baby Hates Swaddle But Startles
Startling is a natural body response, meaning that you cannot stop it entirely. However, swaddling is an effective way to prevent babies from waking up as they experience the startle reflex. As already mentioned, some babies do not like swaddling. Therefore, there have to be other methods to reduce the startle effect on such babies. Some of these methods include:
A parent’s touch and warmth mean everything to a newborn. Therefore, hold the baby close and master the right time to lay them down or pull away. Give the baby enough time to sleep and exercise patience for success.
Favorable Sleep Environment
As mentioned above, the startle reflex is stimulated by outside factors like too much light, noise, or sudden crib movements. Therefore, strive to create a sleep environment that is safe from all these triggers.
Sleep Time Routine
Establish a sleep time routine and stick by it, and you will be surprised at how their sleep time will improve. A warm bath, massage, and dim lights before bedtime would be a fantastic routine to keep.
Your baby will eventually outgrow the startle reflex but in the meantime, adopt calming methods that help them get a night of better sleep. Swaddling is an excellent way to achieve this, but if your baby completely refuses to be swaddled, try soothing, providing a favorable sleeping environment, and creating a bedtime routine for quality sleep time.
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Why Babies Hate Swaddling
When you research the internet and interact with fellow newborn parents, it might seem that all babies enjoy swaddling. If your baby cries a lot or resists swaddling, you might not help but wonder why they hate being swaddled. Here are some reasons why:
Wrong Swaddling Techniques
While swaddling should be a simple process, it is a skill, and you might not get it until a few attempts. Therefore, before you master the skill, your baby might cry a lot during the process.
What’s more, there are different swaddling techniques, and your baby might not like what you are using on them. This calls for a lot of patience as you try to figure out the swaddling technique that works for your newborn.
Wrong Choice of Swaddle Material
The material used to make your swaddle plays a significant role in how the baby responds to swaddling. There are different swaddle materials out there, and choosing the right one for your baby might be a daunting task because every brand claims they are the best.
So what makes the best swaddle material? The fabric should be soft like a mother’s touch and breathable to prevent overheating. The goal is to achieve a warm and gentle womb-like experience for the newborn. What’s more, the fabric should be lightweight, stretchy, and durable.
Your baby might be crying and resisting being swaddled because you are doing it at the wrong time. A tired and fussy baby will cry more and resist swaddling; therefore, wait until they are sleepy and ready to go down.
Also, you can create a routine around swaddling time with soothing music and dim lights. This helps the baby calm down and relax for a good rest.
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The idea behind swaddles is to make the baby feel comforted and soothed, and you can only achieve this if the swaddle is tightly wrapped. Try making it tighter if you have been doing the loose swaddles and the baby won’t stop crying.
The secret is to keep arms snug and keep the knee and hip area loose to allow bending and easy opening.
Swaddling feels too restrictive.
A swaddled baby cannot throw their hands in the air or kick out. Although it helps with startle reflex and helps them attain longer sleeping hours, it might feel restrictive and makes some babies uncomfortable. If you think your baby is crying in response to this restrictive position, try leaving an arm or a leg out and see how it goes.
Swaddle Is Touching the Cheeks
Your baby will resist swaddling if the swaddle is douching their cheeks. You see a newborn associate’s anything around the cheeks with feeding time. Therefore, with the swaddle on the cheeks, they will start looking for the nipple and cry out in frustration because they cannot find it.
Keep the swaddle away from the baby’s face to get rid of this frustration. You should achieve a V-neck sweater shape with the swaddle.
Baby Is Too Old For Swaddling
Last but not least, your baby might not like being swaddled because they are too old for it. At around three months, babies become familiar with their body movements.
They will begin to grab items, bring fists to the mouth for thumb sucking, etc.; wrapping up a baby at this age will make them feel restricted, and it might cause them body pains because there is not enough space for movement. Therefore, keep up with the baby’s milestones and say goodbye to swaddling when it is time.
When Does Startle Reflex Go Away?
Babies are born with several motor responses, also referred to as reflexes, to help them survive the first months in the new environment. You might fail to notice some of these reflexes, but startle reflux is easy to identify.
The startle reflex is present from birth and should last up to six months. Your baby will get startled and cry so many times during the first weeks, but it is nothing to worry about. It is a sign of a healthy baby.
After two to three months, the baby will be calmer, and even though they might wake themselves up, a little pat on the back will send them back to sleep.
By the time your baby hits six months, the startle reflex should be more or less gone. If your baby continues to experience startle reflex after six months, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Retained startle reflex might indicate serious problems like nervous system issues, injury, illness, or trauma.
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If our baby hates swaddle but startles you need to find out why they hate swaddling. There are a number of reasons including wrong swaddle material, swaddling technique they do not enjoy and then adjust accordingly.
Alternatively you could try other methods like using a swaddle sack like the zipadee zip rather than swaddling. Or sit it out because startle reflex goes away at about 2 months of age.