Is swaddling safe for your baby?

Is swaddling safe for your baby?

The baby burrito…there’s nothing so adorable as a sleeping baby all snuggled in a swaddle. And swaddling is a handy tool in a new parent’s arsenal to help soothe a fussy baby, creating a soothing environment more like the womb. But is it safe? After a new study in the journal Pediatrics and a high-profile article in the New York Times, Is it still safe to swaddle?
many parents are left wondering if they should ditch the swaddle.

So what’s the story?

The new information comes from a meta-analysis of previous studies, trying to determine whether swaddled infants are at a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than infants who are not swaddled. And what did they conclude after looking at the data? Researchers found that the SIDS-risk of swaddled infants was dependent upon the sleep position of the infants. As has been shown in numerous previous studies, infants are safest placed down to sleep on their backs. Limited evidence also suggested that swaddling risk was higher for older infants, so they concluded that we should consider the age at which baby should not longer be swaddled. There were limitations to the study, however: the studies used did not have a clear definition of what was meant by swaddling, so they may not all be using the same methods (so that might mean some babies may have been swaddled with arms in versus out, or other variances, for instance).

So, what do we do with this information?

The study did not clearly demonstrate that we need to stop swaddling infants to keep them safe. But it does suggest we need to be mindful of safety when it comes to swaddling, just as we are with anything else when it comes to keeping baby safe. Here are some tips for safer swaddling:

  1. No loose blankets. Loose blankets are not safe around a sleeping baby, so be sure to wrap a swaddling blanket snugly around baby’s torso without any loose areas that may obstruct baby’s breathing.
  2. Leave baby’s hips loose. Learn proper swaddling technique for hip-healthy swaddling. Here’s a great video showing three different methods.
  3. Always put babies to sleep on their backs on a safe sleep surface.
  4. Wean baby from swaddling by the time baby starts to roll. A swaddled baby who rolls face-down is unable to use her arms to roll herself back into a safe position.
  5. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for safe sleep.

Still need help?

Want more help learning how to soothe your baby or get baby and the whole family better sleep? Contact me now to schedule a visit.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons User Azoreg, Creative Commons 3.0.

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