Swaddling: All About the Position

2016 study looks at the risks of swaddling a baby on the stomach and side

Illustration by Makkuro GL/shutterstock.com

A 2016 study clarified the risks associated with swaddling—placing a swaddled baby on her stomach or side doubles the risk of Sudden-Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Fortunately, standard practice is to lay a baby on his back. Dayton Children’s Hospital’s memorable mantra is the “ABCs of Sleep”: Alone, on her Back, in a Crib.

The study’s authors also recommend reconsidering when to discontinue swaddling. Cradle Cincinnati, an initiative to reduce local infant mortality by offering education and resources, recommends discontinuing once your baby begins to roll over.

Charla Payne, clinical nurse educator at The Christ Hospital and a Cradle Cincinnati board member, says it’s tricky to properly wrap a baby in a blanket. If it’s too tight it could be a hip dysplasia issue; if it’s too loose, it could cause suffocation. Hip dysplasia occurs when the legs are prematurely straightened, preventing proper hip joint development. Area hospitals have been using sleep sacks, some of which have Velcro swaddle flaps that secure baby’s arms while leaving the legs free to move.Once your baby can roll over, it’s time to stop. “Don’t make swaddling a habit,” Payne says. “If you swaddle from birth, babies will get used to sleeping this way. A sleep sack is a great alternative.”

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