Is swaddling no longer safe?

Swaddling is a practice that has been used since ancient times to replicate the comfort & safety of the womb.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that swaddling can be an effective tool for parents to use in soothing their little one. We here at The Baby Academy recommend swaddling your infant as a last resort to settle them.  If swaddling becomes the only means to soothe your baby it will become more challenging for you both once swaddling is no longer safe (when baby shows attempts to turn onto their tummy). We’ve outlines some guidelines set out by the AAP to promote safety should you choose to swaddle:

All infants should be placed on their backs for naps & night time sleep until 1 year of age.  More and more research indicates that infants placed on their backs have a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Swaddled infants placed on their tummies for sleep are at increased risk of SIDS & accidental suffocation as well as increase the likelihood that an infant will re-breath its own exhaled breaths leading to higher amounts of carbon dioxide & lower oxygen levels.  The research also suggests tummy sleeping can potentially increase the chances for obstruction of the upper airway.  Finally, tummy sleep can interfere with the way heat is distributed in your baby’s body which can lead to overheating. As part of our FREE Baby care Workshop, we’ve educated thousands of parents across the country about safe sleep and temperature control.

Our Expert Nurse-Midwives recommend the use of a wearable blanket or sleep sack for swaddling, if you wish to use a blanket for swaddling, the safest blanket to choose are a cellular or a muslin blanket.  These allow babies greater aeration & can decrease the risk of overheating. We also recommend that parents stop swaddling once your infant shows signs of attempting to roll over.  This generally occurs at the 2 month mark.

If you wish to swaddle, we try to recommend hip-healthy swaddling! When swaddles are too tight they may inhibit normal healthy hip development, straightening your baby’s legs and increasing the incidence of hip dysplasia & hip dislocation.  Hip healthy swaddling, allows your baby’s legs to bend in a more natural fashion.

Swaddling decreases a baby’s ability to wake up on their own. It may seem like a blessing if your little one is sleeping straight through the night, but a higher arousal threshold is problematic and points to one of the main reasons why babies die of SIDS.

Here is a quick ‘how-to’ on safe swaddling:

  • To swaddle, spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
  • Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with her head above the folded corner.
  • Straighten her left arm, and wrap the left corner of the blanket over her body and tuck it between her right arm and the right side of her body.
  • Then tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over her body and under her left side.
  • Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
  • Make sure her hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight.

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