Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping an infant in a garment for warmth and security. Worldwide, sleep-deprived parents use this technique in order to keep their babies calm and asleep. If you ask your grandma, she will most probably recommend it. Swaddling was considered to calm and coax newborns into sleep. In some circles, people pay dearly for big squares of muslin or flannel, or special swaddling devices.
But recently, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that swaddling a baby may increase the risk for SIDS—which, according to the CDC, killed about 1,500 children in the U.S. in 2014, and is the leading cause of death in babies younger than 1. Researchers analyzed data from four studies that involved 2,519 infants, including 760 whose deaths were attributed to SIDS. Overall, 323 infants had been swaddled, including 133 who died of SIDS.
The study also revealed that swaddled babies placed on their stomach were twice as likely to have died from SIDS as were babies in the same sleep positions who had not been swaddled. Furthermore, the risk was greater among babies 6 months or older, who had a greater chance of rolling to a prone position. The risk of a SIDS death was somewhat less for all babies sleeping on their backs, but it was still greater among swaddled babies, compared with those who were not swaddled.
Placing infants on their backs to sleep is considered a key element in preventing SIDS deaths. Though medical experts don’t know what causes SIDS, one prominent theory is that a combination of three factors — an undetected genetic abnormality, the development phase the infant is in and environmental stressors such as stomach sleeping, exposure to cigarette smoke and overheating make SIDS far more likely.
Despite the studies, experts do agree that swaddling is indeed beneficial but parents should be aware that newborns are at risk for multiple and simultaneous SIDS risk factors, not just one. Swaddling is helpful but only until a certain point. The best time to stop swaddling your baby would be two months in. After two months, the benefits of swaddling diminish as the startle reflex in newborns goes away, and potential risks such as flat head and plagiocephaly increase.
Here are 10 ways you could get your baby to sleep:
- Make sure your baby sleeps on its back.
- Always use a firm sleep surface.
- Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. No pillows, blankets or bumper pads.
- Do not let your baby get too hot.
- Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep but not in the same bed.
- Keep your baby away from smokers and places where people smoke.
- Breastfeed as much and for as long as you can.
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
- Schedule and go to all well-child visits.
- Do not use products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as wedges, positioners or special mattresses.
- Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them- Victor Hugo