Is Swaddling Risky?

As new parents, we are always looking for ways to get through the toughest first months with our newborns. How can I get my baby to sleep better? How can I get my baby to stop crying? There are a million answers to these questions: gimmicks, gadgets, and folklore that promise to solve all of these typical baby problems.

The bottom line always comes back to time. Give it time, and your baby will develop the ability to soothe herself. Give it time, and she will learn to fall asleep on her own. In the meantime, how do we, as sleep-deprived parents, manage to get through these months?

When my oldest was five weeks old and in the peak of her crying (and mine) and sleepless nights, we watched The Happiest Baby on the Block.

His tips on soothing a crying baby gave us hope, and swaddling was the one recommendation that proved to be the most effective.

It wasn’t that we could stop her from crying every time; what he gave us was another tool to put in our new baby survival toolbox. It was something to do. It was a glimmer of hope. It was not a cure for her crying every time, but it was a cure for our sanity. But, is swaddling safe?

Is Swaddling Risky?

There have been numerous studies looking into the risks of swaddling. This is what we know today:

  • Swaddling does NOT increase the risk of SIDS when a baby is placed on his back to sleep. Two studies have shown a decreased risk of SIDS in babies swaddled when sleeping on their backs.1,2 It is important to stop swaddling him when he can roll over onto his stomach because a baby swaddled in the prone position (face down) is at greater risk for suffocation or SIDS. Some babies can roll over on to their stomachs by two months of age.
  • Swaddling CAN increase your baby’s risk of hip dislocation or dysplasia IF done incorrectly. If you swaddle your baby correctly, her legs should still bend up and out at the hips. Click here for instructions on how to do a “Hip-Healthy Swaddle.”
  • Swaddling CAN comfort a crying baby, and DOES help babies sleep. The key to swaddling is to keep his upper body secure. This will prevent his Moro or startle reflex from waking him up. It also mimics the snug and safe environment he had in the womb.

The bottom line: swaddling is a safe and incredibly useful way to comfort a baby and help her sleep. Just make sure you do it correctly with right swaddling blankets and keep your baby’s sleep environment free of loose bedding, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, bags, or pillows.

Do you have any tips that helped your baby stop crying or sleep better at night?

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