Have you heard contradicting information on the dangers of swaddling? Are you wondering if it’s a great tool to use or something that will harm your baby? You’re not alone.
Swaddling has been an age-old practice many women swear by, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe. We’re taking a critical look at this practice to see what the pros and cons are.
Discovering the benefits and dangers of swaddling will give you all the information you need to make an educated decision about whether it’s right for your baby.
How Does Swaddling Help?
As many new moms may have been told, swaddling is the saving grace for cranky infants. The benefits for swaddling babies range from better sleeping habits — for you both — to preventing SIDS.
It’s a way to comfort and soothe your baby by creating a familiar environment, one of warmth and safety. By wrapping your baby in a secure swaddle, you’re replicating the womb they came from.
In young babies, swaddling can have many positive results, but it is important to know how to safely practice it and when to stop. When your baby is around 2 months old, or the age where rolling starts to become more possible, you should avoid swaddling (source).
Like anything else concerning your infant, safety should be the first concern when it comes to any decision made. One of the main concerns a new mom has is about sleeping. From restless nights to colicky babies, to nightmares and exhaustion, sleeping is a tricky topic.
Swaddling has become a sworn-by method of soothing a baby and helping them sleep longer. It’s a god-send, right? But before you start practicing your swaddling technique, let’s look at the dangers associated with it.
Do The Dangers Outweigh the Benefits?
There has been some controversy surrounding the practice of swaddling. While some may claim it causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, more commonly called SIDS, others claim the opposite and maintain that it can help prevent this from happening (source).
While it’s been researched, there is no concrete evidence that swaddling can increase the risk for SIDS or other dangers when a baby is put on their back to sleep. Children who are put to sleep in their swaddle on their tummy or sides, however, are at greater risk for fatalities (source).
When my son was small, the only way we could get any peace and quiet was to swaddle him. I faced plenty of conflicting opinions about that, which prompted my own research to understand why swaddling was getting a dangerous reputation.
The dangers associated with swaddling can turn a positive, happy experience for your baby into something life-threatening, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Understanding how to safely swaddle your baby can make all the difference, especially if they are anything like mine was!
Important things to remember when your child is swaddled:
- Temperature: When you swaddle your baby, you’ll want to make sure they aren’t getting too hot. Thicker blankets can affect their temperature too much, so if you see your baby starting to show signs of overheating, unwrap their swaddle.
- Firm surfaces: Your baby can’t move around when swaddled, so putting them on a slick or sloping surface can increase the risk for accidental suffocation. Flat, sturdy surfaces are the best for any baby, especially when swaddled.
- Offer a pacifier: Though it is another area of controversy, giving your baby a pacifier as they fall asleep has been proven to aid in the prevention of SIDS (source).
Every scenario depends on the family, but if you’re taking care while swaddling and you’ve educated yourself on the potential dangers and associated risks, swaddling should be a simple and safe feat for you and baby. Equipping yourself with the facts and understanding the benefits versus the risks can help you make a decision.
How to Safely Swaddle
Here are step-by-step instructions that will show you how to swaddle your baby in the safest manner possible.
- Lay out your baby’s favorite warm blanket and fold down the top corner: This will create a diamond shape, as well as a hole for the infant’s head to poke out of when the blanket is wrapped around their body. Choosing a blanket that isn’t too thick and doesn’t have anything hanging from it can help ensure your baby stays a nice temperature, and it will reduce other risks as well.
- Place your baby on the blanket and hold down one arm: Something to remember when positioning your baby on the blanket is to keep the edge of the fabric away from their face. You should never be rough with your baby when swaddling them. If your baby is too upset to stay still enough for a decent wrap, try to calm them down first before attempting again.
- Tightly tuck the blanket over your baby’s arm and under their body: By pulling the edge of the blanket over the arm held straight along your baby’s side, you can create a snug, tight wrap around your baby. Make sure your child’s arms are straight down. Bent elbows can help them wiggle out of the swaddle.
- Pull the bottom up and over your baby’s feet and tuck it under their shoulder: Keeping the swaddle looser around their feet is a good idea so they can kick and move their legs, which is important for strengthening their muscles. You want to make sure you tuck the bottom corner of the blanket tightly under their back to keep a secure swaddle.
- Bring the last corner over your baby’s body and tuck it under: Finally, you’ll take the last flap of the blanket left untucked and pull it over your baby. Make sure the exposed arm is straight to prevent your baby from escaping. Once pulled tight and secure, tuck the corner under your baby’s back.By following these instructions, you can safely swaddle your child. Before setting them in a crib or on a playmat, remove any objects near your baby. Depending on the size of your child, you may need to roll them to the sides as you tuck under the blanket.
3 Other Tips for Sleeping Safety
These three tips are critical when it comes to providing a safe sleeping environment for your baby.
1. Only Place Your Baby on Their Back
Multiple studies extending for the past two decades have shown that placing a baby on its back reduces the risk for SIDS by over 50 percent in all babies. Swaddling your baby will encourage them to sleep on their back more soundly, which is great for both mom and baby (source).
Babies who roll frequently in their sleep shouldn’t be in a swaddle since it reduces their movement and may make it impossible for them to escape a dangerous situation. Understanding when to swaddle and when to allow tummy sleeping may make all the difference.
2. Keep the Crib Bare
Anything inside of the crib is a danger to your baby while they sleep. One of the leading causes for death in infants is accidental suffocation (source). Keeping the inside of your baby’s crib empty will reduce the risk of your child rolling over or slipping while swaddled.
Things you should remove from a crib or play area before your child sleeps, include:
- Pillows: Any soft, flimsy object can prevent your child from breathing if they accidentally roll into it. Pillows are a big danger for this reason.
- Blankets: Unless swaddled tightly around a baby, loose blankets can cover the mouth and nose of your baby and make breathing too difficult.
- Toys: If your child needs a special toy to fall asleep, make sure you remove it once they’re resting. Pacifiers should be the only item kept in a crib with your baby.
3. Share a Room Together for the First Year
Keeping your baby with you in the same room decreases the chance for SIDS by 50 percent (source). This doesn’t mean sharing the same bed, though. In fact, bed-sharing is a way to increase dangers your baby may face during their slumber.
By being in close proximity to your child while they sleep, your maternal instincts will kick in, and you’re much more likely to notice or wake up if anything changes in your baby’s breathing pattern. Plus, it’s much easier to check on your baby if you’re right there.
The only downside? It’s a little harder to sleep with your angel right there, but the benefit is worth it in the end.
Do You Say Yes to Swaddling?
Every mom faces the swaddle and now you’re aware of the risks and associated factors that contribute to the dangers of swaddling. On its own, a secure swaddle around your baby can provide many benefits, despite the controversy around the topic.
What do you think? Has a swaddled baby been a game-changer for your family? Share with us your own experiences with swaddling and let us in on any special tips or tricks you’ve learned.
And, if you liked this article, please share it so other moms can learn about safe swaddling.