Leading Medical Experts and Researchers Agree
It is Important for Babies to Have Access to their Hands
Hand to Mouth is a Natural Reflex
• The normal infant has been observed post delivery
hands to his mouth within 30 min
• Infants are equipped with the hand-to-mouth reflex
also known as the Babkin reflex
• Many babies suck their thumbs or fingers inutero
Baby able to Self-Soothe
• Sucking is the most organizing behavior of the newborn
• Provides for state (sleep/wake) control
• Enhances the maturity of the baby including hand
movements and gastrointestinal function
•Baby cues caregiver when hungry by rooting (sucking
vigorously) on hands or fingers
An important baby friendly issue – hand position for the baby
when swaddled. Leading researchers agree that it is in baby’s
best interest to have access to his or her hands when swaddled.
Every baby is
unique. Ask your pediatrician about swaddling your baby.
Different techniques work for different babies. If your baby
happens to get his or her arm(s) out of the swaddle and is
unhappy that way (some babies are content with arms out), you
may want to try another technique. You may want to try swaddling
with one hand up by face and the other down across the tummy or
down by leg with elbow flexed, alternating arms each time you
swaddle. The third choice is to swaddle with both arms down,
keeping the elbow joint flexed and allowing more time out of the
researchers state it’s in baby’s best interest to have the
baby’s hands accessible to face, however it is your decision as
a parent to choose how and if to swaddle your baby.
Quotes from the Experts
Infants need access to their hands for self-soothing.
Sucking is the most orientating behavior for a newborn, and the
normal newborn has been observed post delivery to get his hand
to his mouth within thirty minutes of birth. By vigorously
sucking on his hands, a baby can communicate with a caregiver
that he is hungry, and as such, sucking is one of the first baby
cues or early forms of communication."
Dr. Kathryn Barnard, PhD, FAAN,
Winner of the Gustav O. Lienhard award and leading infant researcher
sucking is a healthy self-comforting pattern. A fetus sucks his
thumb. A newborn is equipped with the hand-to-mouth, or Babkin
reflex. When he is upset or trying to settle down, he will
resort to this as a way of controlling himself. The pattern
seems built in. Babies who make use of it are easier to live
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, MD, author
of "Touchpoints – The Essential Reference"
"A new baby’s
natural position is with her arms bent at the elbow and her legs
flexed. Wrap her like this, making no attempt to straighten her
out before you start. Above all, leave her hands where she can
suck them if she wants and is able to do so."
Penelope Leach, PhD, author of
"Your Baby and Child"
"As founder of the Becoming Parents Program, I am a strong
advocate of educating both the practicing medical community and
new parents using the latest research. It is common for the
practicing medical community to be unaware of the recent
research with a lag of 10-15 years. I am a hearty supporter of
SwaddleDesigns because their blanket is helping nurses, doctors,
parents and caregivers learn how to swaddle using the hands up
by face technique. Parents have so much to learn as they make
the transition to parenthood. It can be overwhelming for both
the new mother and the father. Our Becoming Parents Program is
designed to help the hospital education and community service
professionals to deliver effective courses with up-to-date
information to help young men and women become parents – and I
strongly advocate that parents use the SwaddleDesigns blanket
because it is the optimum size and shape for swaddling and as an
educational aid – it truly makes swaddling easy to
Pamela Jordan, RN, PhD,
Founder of Becoming Parents Program
" As an Orthopedic physician, I am happy to see your blanket’s
123 SwaddleTM Tip Tag shows the hands up by face
swaddling technique. Orthopedists have a strong bias that baby’s
hips, knees and elbow joints be in a flexed position when
swaddled for proper joint development. We become concerned with
overextension of the elbow joint when it is straight down by
Dr. Larry Holland,
" I definitely recommend that a baby be swaddled in a natural
position with elbows bent, hips and knees flexed for proper
Dr. Bill Wagner, Orthopedic Physician
Developmentally Supportive Swaddle –
RN, Infant Developmental Nurse Specialist
is the purpose of swaddling?
To assist the infant in achieving and maintaining motor
control, which in turn has a regulatory effect on
autonomic and state function. In other words, breathing,
heart rate, and color will normalize, as well as the
infant's ability to transition from a fussy or crying
state to a quiet awake or sleep state.
How should I swaddle a baby?
The baby should be swaddled with the arms bent, brought to
midline, and accessible to his (or her) face. With this
positioning, the infant is supported in his ability to
self-console by bringing hands to face and mouth. A
caregiver's dual purpose is immediate consoling as well
as long-term support of the infant to achieve his own
goals of self-regulation and self-calming. The palms of
the hands and the area around the mouth are very
sensitive and potent sources of stimulation. Rather than
deprive the infant of this access, support it.
How tight should the developmental swaddle be?
The developmental swaddle is intended to support the
infant's efforts to achieve and maintain regulation. It
is not intended to be a restraint. The blanket wrap
should be snug, but not too snug to allow the infant to
How can I maximize the effects of a developmental swaddle?
Hold the baby. Be attentive to cues of over stimulation and
stress while offering stimulation. These subtle infant
behaviors, such as looking away, sneezing, hiccoughing,
and color changes, are early indicators of an infant
reaching his threshold of sensory stimulation. Reducing
the stimulation at this point may help the infant
maintain regulation. If the threshold has been exceeded,
reduce the stimulation and console the baby (while
swaddled) to restore regulation.
information contained on this website is intended to complement,
not substitute for, the advice of your child’s pediatrician.
Consult with your own pediatrician who can discuss your
individual needs and counsel you.