Q. My husband and I are expecting our first baby this fall. Were getting mixed messages about swaddling. Friends have recommended it, but a recent birthing class instructor advised against it. What is the current view on swaddling safety?
Swaddling is a common practice for newborns that has been practiced for centuries. When done safely and correctly, it can promote sleep and help soothe a fussy infant.
However, there are risks with swaddling incorrectly, and for this reason many hospitals and health are providers have begun discouraging it. Risks include:
• Overheating: Although people often worry about babies being too cold, overheating is a bigger concern because it can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For this reason, swaddling blankets should be thin and the room temperature should be kept around 72. Preterm infants may need to wear more layers because they have a more difficult time maintaining body temperature.
• Hip dysplasia: In recent years, concerns have surfaced about the possibility that swaddling may disrupt development of the hip joint and increase an infants risk for hip dysplasia. For this reason, it is important that a swaddle is loose enough to allow for leg and hip movement.
• SIDS: Loose bedding and blankets are known SIDS risk factors. A thin swaddling blanket for newborns is safe. However, as a baby becomes more mobile and starts to roll, swaddling blankets can be dangerous. Swaddling should be discontinued between 2 and 3 months of age. Infants should always be placed on their backs for sleep.
With all of the risks, one may ask why any parent would swaddle. Swaddling does improve sleep a rare commodity during the first post-partum weeks.
More information about swaddling: healthychildren.org.