Summer is here, which means it's time to break out the sunscreen, sand toys, and air conditioners. (As if babies didn't already have enough gear.) Parents of newborns wrapped up like tiny burritos likely have even more questions. Some may be wondering, should I swaddle my baby in summer? Nobody wants a sweaty baby, but nobody wants a baby to wake up with flailing limbs.
As a new member to the outside world, babies aren’t used to all this open space around them. Coming from the cozy and safe cocoon inside the womb, it can feel like a scary free-for-all during what is called the “fourth trimester.” During this transition period, babies experience the moro reflex, a natural involuntary startle response that can jolt them awake. Babies may have a feeling of falling, which is why they might suddenly jerk or wave their arms around from a sound sleep. This is where swaddling comes in — a tried and true method to simulate the womb’s security, allowing baby to sleep longer and more soundly, and to combat their startle reflex.
It makes sense that parents want to continue to swaddle in the summer. But, of course, with raised temperatures, your baby could get too hot. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to make sure babies do not get overheated in their sleep, as it increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So is a summer swaddle safe? Two pediatricians weigh in below.
Should you swaddle your baby in the summer?
Long story short, it is safe to swaddle babies in summer, but you should choose a lightweight, breathable fabric to prevent overheating. Dress the baby lightly, and if you don't have air conditioning, it's OK for baby to wear nothing but a diaper beneath the swaddle. “Also, without the swaddle, a diaper and a cotton (breathable fabric) top should be fine,” Dr. Preeti Parikh, M.D., board-certified pediatrician and executive medical director at GoodRx, tells Romper.
Swaddling is a powerful tool in the newborn-care arsenal, even in summer. It can calm fussiness and help your baby sleep better for longer. However, fabric should always be kept loose around the hips to prevent dysplasia, and you should stop swaddling as soon as baby starts to roll. If swaddling doesn't calm your baby, you might not be swaddling tightly enough. “Babies love to feel tightly wrapped and secure,” says Dr. Rebekah Diamond, M.D., board-certified pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University. “A very loose fitting swaddle is definitely OK to adjust, but you don't have to go crazy. If a swaddle is staying in place as a baby moves, it's likely tight enough,” she tells Romper.
Best summer swaddle blankets
When picking out your summer swaddle lineup, go for breezy, breathable fabrics like cotton or muslin. “Safe sleep is key,” notes Diamond, “so you'll want to dress babies in appropriately fitting clothing and with nothing that covers their face or is loose enough that it could block their face.” She recommends Velcro or zip-up pre-made baby swaddles or sleep sacks like Halo and SwaddleMe, “but it's more than fine to use any lightweight baby swaddle blanket and wrap your little one up like a cozy burrito,” she explains.
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How to avoid overheating
Overheating is especially scary, because not only is it a risk factor in SIDS, but infants tend to sleep when they feel warm. While a baby that's cold will alert you with a cry, a baby that's overheating may simply keep sleeping.
Parikh recommends touching your baby's forehead and neck to check their temperature. If the skin is damp or sweaty, it may mean that baby's too hot. Reddened skin, rapid breathing, or increased heart rate are other signs to watch out for. "They may also be sleepier or not as arousable, or they can be very irritable, and there may be a heat rash developing on their body," she says. Finally, be careful with hats, especially at bedtime, because hats may trap heat inside the body.
A few more tips for navigating the summer heat with your newborn include keeping babies under 6 months old away from direct sunlight as much as possible, taking stroller walks during the coolest part of the day (maybe with a battery-operated stroller fan), and dressing babies accordingly and in single layers at night. Parikh also recommends “keeping the temperature in your home between 68 and 72 degrees [Fahrenheit], which is a comfortable range for a baby. Also, make sure the onesies or clothes your infants wear are breathable fabrics such as cotton.”
Swaddling is a great tool for keep your baby cozy and happy. As long as you have lightweight fabrics and aren’t letting baby overheat, swaddle on.
Dr. Preeti Parikh, M.D., board-certified pediatrician and executive medical director at GoodRx
Dr. Rebekah Diamond, M.D., board-certified pediatrician, assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, and author of Parent Like a Pediatrician
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