Safe Swaddling

Father holding newborn Asian baby girl, inside hospital room

Should I swaddle?
Is it safe to swaddle my baby?
When should we stop swaddling?

Recently, a new study came out about swaddling and SIDS. It affirmed that infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, that there is an increased risk of SIDS associated with swaddled babies being placed on their tummies or their sides, and that risk of harm increases the older the baby gets. This makes sense, however a widely noticed article from the New York Times led many to believe that the study concluded swaddling increases risk of SIDS, period.

Swaddling has long been used to calm crying babies, and ensure less disrupted sleep for infants and their parents. It makes sense that babies after spending nine months nestled in the womb enjoy the soft, warm comfort of being wrapped up in a swaddle blanket. Studies have actually shown that swaddling can reduce crying in infants under eight weeks old by 42%. This is significant!

So if you are a parent or parent-to-be, you want to sleep (like most humans), and therefore you would like to try to implement swaddling into your baby’s early life, how do you do it safely?
Currently the AAP recommends:
  • Babies be placed on their backs to sleep on a firm, flat surface
  • Babies should sleep in a crib or bassinet in the parents’ room, but should not sleep in the parents’ bed
  • Loose objects and soft bedding such as wedges, bumpers, toys, pillows, and loose blankets should be kept out of the sleep environment
  • Nothing cover the baby’s face
  • Keeping area around the hips looser so baby has freedom to bend the hips
  • Pacifier use during naps and bedtime
  • Avoiding overheating
  • Babies should no longer be swaddled once they are capable of rolling over
  • Babies should sleep in a smoke-free area
There are many ways to swaddle your baby, and many swaddling products.  Many of our clients often choose and love Aden and Anais, Miracle Blanket, and Woombies.  Note that many products come in different sizes to fit your baby best as they grow.
Here, Arielle demonstrates an easy variation on the basic swaddle for wiggly babies who are good at getting their arms out:

Parents should also know that premature babies and some full term babies must be swaddled with bent arms and hands touching, rather than with their arms straight at their sides.  Premature babies are often not yet capable of straightening their arms fully.  If you feel resistance in your new baby’s body when trying to straighten their arms, swaddle with arms bent until they are developmentally ready.
Music City Doulas wishes you restful and safe sleep!  In addition to swaddling, our clients see an increase in quantity and quality of sleep with the help of one of our Postpartum Doulas.  Ask us how!