Babies love to be swaddled because the confinement reminds them of their first home — your belly. During my baby's first six weeks of life, her hands startled her, and swaddling alone soothed her to sleep. (In fact, swaddling may have saved my marriage.) With summer just around the corner, parents caring for newborns want to know — will a swaddle overheat my baby?
For The Huffington Post, Harvey Karp, MD wrote about the many benefits of swaddling, emphasizing that parents must learn to swaddle safely. According to Karp, never allowing your baby to fall into a prone position while swaddled and preventing overheating are two keys to safe swaddling.
Romper reached out to Emily Edwards, MD, a Board Certified Pediatrician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. She writes in an email interview that it is possible for a baby to overheat in her swaddling, and that overheating increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In its 2016 policy report on safe sleep (a must-read for all new parents), The American Academy of Pediatrics made avoiding overheating an A-Level recommendation — right along with always putting your baby to sleep on her back. So what can parents do to sleep easier on hot summer nights?
Edwards notes that it's important not to overdress your infant, and that a good rule of thumb is to dress infants in one more layer than you would wear. Additionally, infants should be swaddled "in a thin receiving blanket and be monitored for any signs of overheating," such as flushed cheeks, damp hair or sweating, and a possible rash.
According to Edwards, if your baby is behaving abnormally, or has a fever, parents should cool them down and seek immediate medical attention.
Romper also spoke with Marnie Baker, MD, a Board Certified Pediatrician at MemorialCare Medical Group in Irvine, California, who explains that any "red" or "flushed" look is the result of the child's body trying to "transfer heat from the core to the skin via the blood vessels." Baker adds that an overheating child will feel warm to the touch, especially on the head, and that babies who are overheating are often fussy.
Upon noticing any of these signs, parents should strip the baby down to one layer of breathable material, Baker notes. Additionally,
"To cool a baby down, parents can soak a washcloth with cool water, rub it on the baby’s head and body, and gently fan the child. This is a safe and effective way to cool down a baby without worrying about the opposite problem, hypothermia, which can happen with immersion in ice water baths, or using rubbing alcohol, which is not safe, as it can be absorbed through the skin."
Baker writes that parents should also replenish a baby's fluids, and that treating signs of mild heat illness early will keep it from progressing to the most severe heat illness — heat stroke.
Because infants can't regulate their temperatures as well as we do, heat is a real threat. So keep the temperature in your bedroom mild, and swaddle your infant in a light material. Remember to also keep an eye out for redness, flushing, and fussiness, and you'll swaddle safely all summer.