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Swaddling My Baby: Is it safe?

newborn Apr 15, 2020

So mamas......lets talk about swaddling!!

Back in the day almost all babies used to be swaddled, and in many cultures this is still universally practiced...however over the past few decades people have been trying to reduce the risks to babies and encouraging safe sleep practice.  The safety of swaddling has been hotly debated over the years…

We are here to give you the evidence around swaddling, benefits and risks so you can make a decision that is right for your baby!! We are going to talk about the effects of swaddling on crying, pain, preterm babies, hip development, risk of SIDs, breastfeeding and the most precious commodity of all......SLEEP! 

If you want more details about what WE did when our babies were wee check out our YouTube video as we talk about our experiences with swaddling but we'll summarize the evidence below: 

Crying: For babies that cry excessively, swaddling is more effective at decreasing crying than massage in infants. 

Pain: Swaddling is seen to be equally or less effective than other non-pharmacological methods in managing pain.

Preterm babies: Preterm infants have shown improved neuromuscular development, less physiologic distress, better motor organization, and more self-regulatory ability when they are swaddled.

Hip development: Swaddling tightly around the hips is strongly associated with developmental dysplasia of the hip. The swaddle sacks linked below allow for a snug upper body swaddle, while allowing full movement of legs and hips

Risk of SIDS: Although swaddling promotes the favourable sleep on the back position, the combination of swaddling with stomach sleeping position increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The baseline risk is 1/10000, so we recommend not swaddling infants who are getting close to being able to role over.  Another factor associated with SIDS is over heating. Signs of overheating: rapid breathing, heat rash, damp hair, or flushed complexion. We recommend dressing baby in 1 more layer than you're wearing; so a light sleeper then the swaddle blanket is often adequate. Recommended room temperature for babies sleep is around 18 degrees Celsius. If you're not sure if your baby is overheating you can feel the back of their neck to gauge if they're overheating or not. 

Breastfeeding: Early skin-to-skin contact supports early breastfeeding, but swaddling does not have a negative impact on breastfeeding over the  long term.

Sleep: In general, swaddled infants arouse less and sleep longer. Swaddling decreased startles in Quiet Sleep and Rapid Eye Movement; decreases full arousal in QS and slows progression of startle to arousal in quiet sleep. It also results in shorter arousal duration during REM sleep and more REM sleep. 

So then comes the important question.....

How do I safely swaddle my baby?

You can use a regular thin blanket, or a blanket sold specifically for swaddling.  There is a great handout here from the Canadian Pediatric Society that we've summarized for you below: 

  • Make sure your baby is flat on its back. - once they start being able to roll over you should stop swaddling, this usually occurs between 2 and 4 months. A baby on their front that is swaddled significantly increases the risk of a SIDs than a baby unswaddled on their belly. 
  • Avoid soft bedding/blankets.
  • Don’t overdress your baby. Use light blankets so your baby doesn’t overheat. Consider the swaddle as one layer, so keep to the rule of what you would wear with one layer...
  • Make sure your baby’s nose and mouth are not covered.
  • Make sure your baby can still move her legs to avoid hip dysplasia (abnormality of the hip joint where the socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion, which can increase the risk for dislocation).
  • Make sure it is not too tight or too loose - you should be able to fit a couple of fingers between your baby and the swaddle. Or use a swaddling product if your baby is a houdini and keeps getting out of their swaddles!

Check out this Aiden and Anais video on swaddling….They have great blankets for this with a bit of stretch and can be used to cover up when feeding, or to block some sun on those bright days!

There are also many products specifically for swaddling, we will link to a few of our favourites. 

Halo swaddle sack

Ergo cocoon transition.

 

So in summary, there is good evidence swaddling can reduce crying and aid in getting you and your baby more sleep. If done correctly it does NOT increase the risk of hip dysplasia and if done safely (baby on back on a firm sleep surface) does NOT increase the risk of SIDs. 

We hope you found this helpful!!! 

Here is more great info on caring for your newborn!

Want to know the 5 mistakes most moms make breastfeeding! and tips to improve them?  Check out our free guide! We hope you will join our community to get updates every Bump Day...Wednesday for our latest free content!  

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