Snuggly wrapping a baby blankie around your little one is a technique that helps soothe a newborn and promote sleep since it mimics the environment of the womb, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Some babies tend to sleep better when they are swaddled and not awakened by their randomly jerking limbs, a reflex that babies have a few months of life,” says Dr. Miko Palo, pediatrician and former columnist in Smart Parenting magazine.
To make sure you’re doing it safely and correctly, here are expert guidelines to follow:
1. Your baby should always be on his back, never on his side.
Whether you’re swaddling or not, always make it a point to lay your baby down to sleep on his back, as advised by the most recent safe sleep recommendations from the AAP. Sleeping in any other position -- on his side or tummy -- increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation, and according to research from the group, swaddling ups these chances even more.
2. The swaddle should be snug -- not tight.
You should be able to get two fingers on your baby's chest and his swaddle. Make sure the wrap is loose around the hips. Studies have found too constricted baby’s legs, and hips can lead to hip dislocation or hip dysplasia, a misalignment of the hip socket and thigh bone which can cause one leg to be longer than the other. A correct swaddle should allow a baby to move his hips and bend his legs up and down. |
3. Discontinue swaddling after two months.
As babies grow older, they’re more likely to move into unsafe sleeping positions when swaddled, says Dr. Anna Pease, lead author of the research on the link between SIDS and swaddling. So, as soon as you notice your baby starting to tip to his side, discontinue swaddling.
Chair of the task force that authored AAP's safe sleep recommendations, Dr. Rachel Moon advises, “I would stop swaddling by age 2 months before the baby intentionally starts to try to roll.” She adds if the babies are wrapped in their blanket, they should be placed only on their back and monitored, so they don’t accidentally roll over.
Above is our how-to guide video for a swaddling technique where your baby's arms are free, which may make him feel secure but less restricting.
The equally important rule as everything above: don’t force swaddling upon a baby who doesn’t like it. Dr. Palo explains that not all babies like being confined and some wrestle free of their blankets. “If your newborn does not like being swaddled, you may do away with it particularly as it is more dangerous to have loose blankets in the crib.”
If you’re worried that your baby is cold (safe sleep recommendations advises against blankets, pillows and anything else other than a fitted sheet and mattress in the crib), go for a sleep sack or wearable blanket, says Dr. Palo.
Sources: AAP 1, AAP 2, Mayo Clinic