Why Swaddle Your Baby?

How to swaddle a baby correctly

Swaddling can bring parents a lot of joy because babies generally cry less, sleep better, sleep longer, and arouse less when swaddled. It’s the warmth and security they love as it reminds them of being in the womb. If swaddled correctly it is said by scientists that it prevents SIDS On the other hand if swaddled too tight around the hips, too warm, too long or not placed on the back (supine position), it actually increases sudden infant deaths and may lead to hip problems.

If you would like to learn correct swaddling techniques please watch the following video (and fast forward a bit if you like). Otherwise feel free to learn everything about the topic by reading further.



What are the Bennefits of Swaddling?


  • swaddling calms infants, stops them crying and induces sleep 4

-   it increases daytime and overall sleep 5

  • less arousal, less startles 6 and fewer spontaneous awakenings 7
  • firm wrapping contributes to a reduced risk of SIDS 1+8.2


How to Swaddle Safely? 


  • always place baby on his back on a firm surface (i.e. not on a waterbed)
  • no blankets or pillows allowed to prevent suffocating
  • comfortable room temperature
  • leave room for the legs to move freely to prevent hip dysplasia
  • stop swaddling when baby can roll to prone position on the stomach (around 4-5 months)
  • leave arms loose when baby is around two to three months to self-sooth
  • no double swaddling as babies tent to overheat which is thought to lead to SIDS
  • do not swaddle when infant is ill because it may lead to hyperthermia


Fast Facts about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


  • SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age
  • Most SIDS deaths occur in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS deaths before a baby reaches 6 months of age. However SIDS deaths can happen anytime during a baby's first year
  • SIDS is a sudden and silent medical disorder that can happen to an infant who seems healthy
  • It most likely happens when the baby is sleeping due to suffocation, entrapment and other breathing difficulties babies encounter when not handled properly
  • there is no scientific proof on what causes SIDS but it is presumed that infants who die from SIDS are born with brain abnormalities or defects found within a network of nerve cells that send signals to other nerve cells (nih.gov)


More Measures to reduce the risk of SIDS                  

  • room sharing is advised
  • no toys, crib bumpers and pacifiers attached to a string in the crib
  • mothers should not smoke
  • breastfeeding is preferred
  • do not let the baby get too hot during sleep
  • regular health checkups
  • place baby on tummy as often as possible when awake, but only when someone is watching


Facts of Infant Hip Dysplasia


  • tight swaddling around the hips can cause hip dislocation and dysplasia, in fact the hip dislocation rate of American Indians was at 33% until the practice of tight wrapping was stopped
  • loose wrapping around the hips is thus especially important in the first three months
  • always make sure the legs can move up and out as demonstrated in the video


Since the “Safe to Sleep” campaign was introduced in 1994 (formerly known as back to sleep campaign) SIDS rates have steadily dropped thanks to all the measures discussed. Since there is no proven reason on what causes SIDS it cannot be prevented to 100%, but at least incidence of SIDS can be reduced by using correct techniques. Positive effects of swaddling can only come to effect if swaddled correctly. The three swaddle techniques shown in the video (diamond, square and slipcase swaddle) are simply a few methods possible. It is most important to leave enough room for the baby’s legs to move so the hips will grow and develop properly. Please stop swaddling when infants attempt to turn to prone position. One study found that Hopi infants reared on a cradleboard walked as early as unrestrained Hopi infants 9.1-9.3 so there is no reason to worry that swaddled babies will develop slower. Swaddling can be favourable for temperature control, but there is a risk for hyperthermia when misapplied 10.1-10.4 . So when your baby is ill please be careful with swaddling as it might lead to hyperthermia and always check on your baby in general. A good temperature is when you feel comfortable when wearing a t-shirt.


Fascinating Facts about how Swaddling originated


Swaddling has been used for millennia and the first documented child was Jesus Christ himself as we can picture him covered up in his crib. In the bible it says “she brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in swaddling” (Luke 2:7). Swaddling was an almost universal child-care practice up to the 18th century. In areas where humidity and temperature are high, such as Africa, swaddling was not used as it can promote skin infections. As an alternative, children are carried in a sling, often with a minimum of clothing 1 . Swaddling began to disappear in Europe early in the 19th century. More “liberal” ideas concerning child rearing started to dominate and swaddling started to be seen as “unnatural” as Rousseau’s enormously successful book Emile  2 put it. Another influence could be the “swaddling hypothesis.” 3.1 - 3.4 According to the hypothesis, the restraint of swaddling leads to an adult personality structure that inclines people to alternate meek submission and ambivalently regarded authority, with explosive, excessive expression of emotion. Surely the hypothesis was never really defined or tested in those times, but those assumptions lead to a drastic decrease of swaddling during industrialisation until its comeback in Western society today. In the Middle East and South America it has never disappeared because those cultures have been well aware of its benefits. (doc.utwente.nl)




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