Your newborn has just entered the world after spending months in the mother's womb. Swaddling mimics the coziness of the womb and can help calm a fussy baby and increase periods of sleep for your infant by reducing awakenings due to startle reflex. However, there are risks associated with swaddling and it is important to remember that if swaddling is not done properly, it can pose risks for your baby. Learn safety guidelines of swaddling with Boys Town Pediatrics.
Swaddling Your Baby
- Spread out a large, thin blanket and slightly fold over one of the corners.
- Lay your baby face up and place their head just past the edge of the folded-down corner.
- Make sure your baby is staying in place with his arms straight at his sides and hips a little bit bent with legs in a straddle position.
- Pick up one corner and bring the blanket across your baby's upper body and tuck the blanket underneath your baby.
- Fold the bottom point of the blanket up leaving room for your baby's feet to move freely.
- Pick up the final corner and bring the blanket across your baby's body and tuck the blanket underneath your baby. Make sure to leave only the head and neck exposed.
Be sure there is enough room to fit your hand between the blankets and your baby's chest – this ensures that your child will have enough room to breathe. There should also be room for your baby's hips and knees to move as this will help to allow proper hip development. When a baby's legs are straight or unable to move, this puts the infant at risk for developmental hip dysplasia. This is a condition when a baby's hip can be partially or completely dislocated. It is more common in females, breech deliveries and those with a family history of the disorder. Monitor your child's temperature while swaddled – if he or she is getting too warm or sweaty, you may need to remove some clothes or discontinue swaddling.
Monitor for blankets coming loose – there is a risk for them to cover the face, which can cause suffocation and put the infant at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Sleep sacks are one option that may help reduce the risk of blankets becoming loose around the face. Always be sure to place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
Swaddling can be very helpful in the first couple of months of life. Parents should discontinue the practice of swaddling as soon as there is any possibility that an infant can roll over onto the stomach. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not developed a stance on swaddling due to conflicts between the benefits and risks but has stated that infants should generally not be swaddled past 2 months old. If you have questions about whether to swaddle your baby or how to safely swaddle your baby, please discuss with your pediatrician. Bringing a blanket/swaddle sack to your next appointment may help to provide a good demonstration on how to safely swaddle your infant.