To swaddle or not to swaddle? Safe sleeping practices for newborns

Children's Health

by Sanjana Bendi, DO

Apr 27, 2023

There are many things parents of newborns need to keep in mind as they learn how to care for their new bundle of joy. You’re not alone if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the information, opinions, and decisions. But safe sleeping practices are some of the most important of those many facts to remember.

With all the different opinions out there about how a baby should sleep, how can parents know what’s best for their child? Let’s walk through some important tips so you can understand the safest way to put your baby to sleep.

Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a safe sleep environment to reduce the risk of all sleep-related deaths. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is a term used to describe any sudden and unexpected death, whether explained or unexplained, occurring during infancy. While it is not fully known exactly what can cause SUID, unsafe sleeping practices can increase the risk.

Here are some recommendations on how to keep your baby safe and sound while they sleep:

  • Place infants on their backs for sleep, at least till they reach one year old.
  • Use a firm, flat, non-inclined sleep surface.
  • Room sharing without bed sharing is best, ideally for first six months of life.
  • Avoid loose items like soft bedding, blankets, pillows and toys in the sleeping environment.
  • Keep your baby from overheating by clothing them in the proper layers for the temperature of the room.
  • Avoid weighted blankets, weighted sleepers and weighted swaddles.

Additional recommendations for parents outside of the sleeping environment include:

  • Breastfeed your baby if possible.
  • Avoid infant exposure to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids and illicit drugs.
  • Keep up with routine immunizations.
  • Use a pacifier.

To swaddle or not to swaddle?

When it comes to swaddling, it is ultimately up to you, the parent or guardian, to decide if you would like to swaddle your baby to sleep. Swaddling does not reduce the risk of SIDS, but it can make your baby more comfortable—and therefore help everyone get better sleep.

Swaddling is an art form and there are many different ways to test your origami or burrito-making skills, as I like to call it. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you do intend to swaddle, as it is important to remember that swaddling isn’t one size fits all.

  • Always make sure your baby is on their back when swaddled.
  • The swaddle should not be too tight, but just right, to allow your baby to breath and move their hips.
  • When your baby looks like they are trying to roll over (usually around 3-4 months but it can happen earlier), it’s time to stop swaddling.

Make sure to ask your pediatrician if you have questions about swaddling or safe sleeping practices. They are well trained in the art of burrito making but can also provide alternative options to help your baby stay safe and comfortable while they sleep.

About the Author

Sanjana Bendi, DO, is a pediatric resident at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center in Temple.

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