One of the first things you learn at the hospital after your baby is born is how to properly swaddle them. The nurses do it so well — they wrap your baby up like a cute little burrito, and after a few failed attempts, you get the hang of it. While swaddling newborns seems to be the norm, you may choose not to do it, especially when they are sleeping. But if nurses are teaching you to do it before you even leave the hospital, is it safe for a newborn to sleep unswaddled?
Swaddling a newborn in blanket has been thought to be a tool to help calm babies and get them to sleep longer. But according to the Contemporary Pediatrics guide, Swaddling 101, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), many babies can stay calm with no swaddling at all. The guide however, suggested that fussier babies can be calmed with the help of a swaddle.
According to an AAP news report, some child care facilities have banned infant swaddling, while others still utilize it. The report noted that some doctors discourage swaddling because they believe it can lead to overheating, difficulty breathing, or hip mobility issues, but all doctors discourage swaddling a baby after the age of 2 months, or when they start rolling over, because that's when the practice can become dangerous.
The report explained that since the data about the benefits and safety of swaddling conflict, the AAP hasn't taken an official stance on it. So both unswaddling and swaddling can be safe while babies are sleeping, as long as you follow some very important rules.
The AAP has strict and important guidelines for babies' sleep which are imperative to follow, swaddle or not, in order to avoid the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or any other sleep-related infant death risks. The guidelines recommended that you always put babies under the age of 1 to sleep on their backs, for both naps and at night, on a flat, bare surface, and turn them if they roll over to their stomach. The guidelines also suggested you never surround your baby with soft bedding, loose blankets, soft toys, pillows, or anything else that can cover their face and stop them from breathing.
As long as you follow the AAP guidelines, your baby can sleep unswaddled safely, and if you can get some sound sleep with your baby, that would be great, too. Hey, if swaddling is one less thing you have to do before bedtime, why not, right?