Should newborns be swaddled to sleep? Our pediatricians share the benefits of swaddling and guidelines to swaddle safely.
Sleep (or more accurately a lack there of) is a particularly pertinent topic in my house right now. With a 6-month-old at home, those early sleepless nights aren’t far behind me. Unfortunately, bleary-eyed delirium is often a new parent’s rite of passage. The reality is, new infants seldom sleep well on their own. Luckily, there are a few things parents can do to encourage sleep. Swaddling can be a helpful tool to soothe a baby and encourage sleep. It mimics the mother’s womb and can help extinguish the startle reflex, allowing infants to sleep for longer stretches at a time.
The Importance of Proper Swaddling
Safe swaddling guidelines are important to follow, as improper technique increases the risk of SIDs and developmental hip dysplasia. When swaddling, always put your baby on their back to sleep. In addition, stop swaddling well before the baby is able to roll over and make sure the baby isn’t overdressed. Finally, ensure your baby has room to bend their legs up and out to decrease the risk of hip dysplasia.
For children who have started rolling, a Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit or a Zipadee-Zip allows use of the hands for safety to push up, but gives a similar feeling of being swaddled.
How to Swaddle a Baby Safely
The American Academy of Pediatrics has an easy-to-digest summary of swaddling safety and recommendations on their HealthyChildren.org site.
The AAP’s directions to swaddle correctly are set forth below:
- To swaddle, spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
- Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with their head above the folded corner.
- Straighten their left arm, and wrap the left corner of the blanket over their body and tuck it between their right arm and the right side of their body.
- Tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over their body and under their left side.
- Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
- Make sure their hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight. Check out the following link for a great video on hip healthy swaddling.