Swaddling is wrapping a blanket tightly around your baby's body to replicate the snug feeling of a mother's womb.
One study suggested that swaddled babies 2 months or younger startled less often, slept more deeply and fell back asleep more quickly than babies who weren't swaddled. In addition to the sleep benefits, swaddling can soothe a baby by keeping them warm and applying a slight comforting pressure.
For centuries, swaddling has been used to soothe babies and help them sleep. Today, new mothers are often taught how to swaddle by nurses in the hospital after their baby is born.
How to Swaddle
Below is a step by step guide for how to swaddle.
- Spread out a receiving blanket and fold down one corner.
- Lay your baby face up on the blanket, with his head above the folded corner.
- Keep your baby's arms straight down at his sides. Wrap the left corner of the blanket across your baby's body and tuck it underneath your baby's right arm and right side of his body.
- Take the bottom corner of the blanket and lay it on your baby's chest.
- Wrap the right corner of the blanket across your baby's body and tuck it underneath your baby's left side of his body. Tuck the right corner into a fold of the fabric to secure it.
- Your baby's head and neck should always remain uncovered. Also be sure to not wrap the blanket too tightly around your baby's hips. Focus the snugness of the blanket around your baby's arms, with fabric around the legs and hips kept loose. Always keep a swaddled infant on his back.
Risks of Swaddling
It is best to stop swaddling by 2 months of age. Once a baby is 2 months old, he or she may roll over to their stomach. Studies show there is an increased risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation if babies are swaddled and roll onto their stomachs.
Another risk of swaddling is that it may decrease a baby's ability to wake up. While this is a benefit for prolonged sleep, decreased wakedness may increase the risk of SIDS. Make sure your baby's blanket isn't too tight around her chest, and check to see if you can fit two or more fingers between the swaddle and your baby's chest.
One other possible risk of swaddling is the development of hip dislocation or hip dysplasia. This is an abnormal formation of the hip joint, where the top of the thigh bone is not securely positioned in the hip socket. To prevent this, make sure your swaddle allows your baby's legs to bend up and out.
Swaddling at Childcare
Swaddling is not generally recommended at childcare centers because of the increased risk of SIDS or suffocation. Some childcare centers have policies against swaddling infants for this reason.
Studies have shown that babies who are not usually swaddled may react differently if they are swaddled at an older age for the first time. So if a baby is not usually swaddled at home, but is swaddled in a childcare center, they may have a harder time waking up, and have an increased risk of SIDS.
As a result, a new environment, different caregivers and the increased risk of rolling over, all contribute to swaddling at a childcare center being less safe.
If you have questions about safely swaddling your baby, contact your child's health practitioner.