Getting your newborn to fall and stay asleep is a challenge for most new parents. As a new mom, I was willing to try almost anything to get my baby to fall asleep. It seemed like everyone had different advice, from white noise to baby wearing to swaddling, also known as wrapping your baby in a light blanket like an adorable burrito. But should you swaddle a baby? Most importantly, does it work and is it safe? According to experts, the answer to these questions is "yes," but there are a few things to consider before giving it a try.
According to a recent research analysis published in Pediatrics, swaddling can help babies fall asleep and stay asleep, and can be an effective way to calm crying babies. Sounds awesome, right? Well, there are some guidelines that all parents need to know before they swaddle their baby. Just like any other aspect of parenting, swaddling is a process that you need to learn about before you give it a shot.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) advises that swaddled babies be placed on their backs to sleep in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. They also recommend you stop swaddling your baby when they are able to roll onto their stomach or side. Because parents can't predict when their baby might begin to roll over, Dr. Rachel Moon, MD, Chair of the SIDS Task Force, recommends that parents stop swaddling babies at 2 months of age.
To swaddle your baby safely, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start with a flat blanket with one corner folded down. Lay your baby face-up on the blanket at shoulder level over the folded corner, wrap one side of the blanket over or under their arms, and tuck it securely under their body on the opposite side, repeat on the second side, and tuck the bottom of the blanket loosely under the baby's feet and legs. You should be able to fit a hand between the blanket and the baby’s chest to not impact or impede your baby's breathing, and in warm climates or hot weather you should unwrap your baby if they appear overheated.
It's also important not to swaddle your baby too tightly, as it can damage their hip joints. The International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommends that you make sure the blanket is loose enough around your babies legs to allow them to bend their legs up and out at the hips, rather than confining them to a straight position.
If you think this all sounds too hard for a sleep-deprived parent to follow, let alone try, there are wearable blankets and sleep sacks available for parents and at rather reasonable price points. These products are fine to use, so long as they are loose enough around the legs to allow for hip movement.
As always, talk to your pediatrician if you have questions about how to swaddle safely or safe sleep guidelines.