Borchardt Consulting

The Wrap on Swaddling

Posted on: July 25, 2012

Newborn babies have been swaddled from birth since ancient times but in the last several years swaddling has become somewhat controversial.  

Let’s look at the positive reasons for swaddling.

  1. Many babies take comfort in being swaddled. Swaddling is an effective technique to help calm infants.
  2. Swaddling helps baby to successfully back sleep by decreasing startling.
  3. It has been suggested (though no research proves it) that  swaddling will delay the back sleeping baby from rolling to tummy.
  4. Swaddling increases baby’s time sleeping.

The negative of swaddling are:

  1. Swaddling incorrectly can cause hip dislocation;
  2. Too tight swaddling can inhibit baby’s ability to expand his lungs;
  3. Risk for SIDS increases significantly for infants swaddled and placed on their tummies. Swaddled infants that are placed on their backs but roll to their tummies are also at greater risk for SIDS.
  4. Swaddling can increase baby’s body temperature causing overheating especially if baby’s head is also covered. Overheating can be avoided by adjusting the clothing underneath as well as avoiding covering baby’s head.
  5. Swaddling decreases baby’s spontaneous waking. While this sounds like a positive, it’s a serious concern with regards to SIDS.

Many cultures and hospital newborn nurseries have traditionally used swaddling as a strategy to soothe infants.  Some experts suggest that if swaddling helps babies get to sleep, parents and childcare providers won’t be so frustrated that they put baby on his or her tummy to sleep.   

Swaddle Arms In or Out

A Halo® Sleep Sack with swaddler is recommended since using a blanket to swaddle baby can result in a loose blanket in the crib.  Halo® Sleep Sacks are sleeveless wearable blankets with an attached “cape” that swaddles baby between shoulders and hips.  This negates the concern for hip dislocation by leaving babies legs free to kick.

Pediatricians generally agree that some babies can benefit from swaddling during the first 6 weeks of life.  For swaddling an infant longer than 6 weeks, talk with your pediatrician.  In Illinois, childcare providers are forbidden to swaddle infants without a doctor’s order.

Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to determine if swaddling is an effective sleep strategy for their baby.  If swaddling, do it consistently and be sure to place baby on his or her back, in a safe crib with no bumpers, pillows or quilts in the crib.

What do you think?  Do you plan to swaddle your baby?

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