Study Questions Safety of Swaddling Babies

Research analysis in the journal Pediatrics says the risk of SIDS appears to increase in swaddled babies, but not all doctors are buying it

Newly-published research analysis in the June 2016 issue of Pediatrics says the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) appears to increase when infants are swaddled while sleeping on their bellies or on their sides.

The practice of snugly wrapping an infant in a light blanket or cloth, arms inside, head outside, is believed to quiet a restless little one and promote sleep. The article suggests "current advice to avoid placing infants on their stomach or side to sleep may especially apply to infants who are swaddled."

Researchers analyzed four past studies, and did acknowledge that information is limited, so any link between swaddling and SIDS risk remains unclear.

"It raises some questions, but I don't think I'd put a lot of stock in this particular study," said Dr. Amelia Hopkins, a pediatric intensivist at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

Hopkins told necn, in an interview at the UVM Medical Center, that the article relies on different definitions of swaddling and some older findings that may pre-date current safe-sleep recommendations.

"I want every parent of a newborn to remember that their baby should be sleeping in the room with you, but in a separate sleep environment, with a firm mattress," Hopkins said, listing some of those recommendations she sees as top priority. "We often say, 'No blankets, no bumpers, and no bunnies,' meaning no toys."

Hopkins added she believes the authors raised a good point when they suggested the medical community should consider an age range for infants when swaddling should be discouraged.

Hopkins said she tends to tell parents the practice is generally safe for the first two months of life. However, with babies older than two months, Hopkins said she may advise parents it’s time to stop swaddling, because by then, babies may be able to comfort themselves.

Jamie Proctor-Brassard, a mother of a newborn son in Hinesburg, Vermont, said swaddling seems to have helped her baby, who is under three weeks old.

"It definitely makes him feel calmer," she said.

Regarding the topic discussed in the newly-published article, Proctor-Brassard said she plans to keep asking her son's doctor and nurses for guidance on what's best for her family.

Click here to read the full study in Pediatrics:

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