Swaddling, when done correctly, is a wonderful way to soothe an infant. But when the National Resource Center on Child Health and Safety recommended that child-care centers stop using the age-old practice of swaddling, as you can guess, this announcement caused waves in the child-care community and with parents who swear by the swaddle. What inspired the NRC? It pointed specifically to a British study that says there is an increased risk of SIDS with swaddling. However, the researchers in this study failed to distinguish whether the swaddled babies were left to sleep on their backs, or their stomachs, a point made by renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp.
Dr. Karp disagrees with the NRC and strongly believes that swaddling not only helps the infant but the frazzled parent as well. Both new and seasoned parents have heard about the startle-inducing Moro reflex, and swaddling an infant helps babies with this normal but unsettling response by comforting them and helping them sleep. Something everybody needs!
Sure, there’s a wrong way to swaddle – make sure the blanket is not too tight, for one. The Baby Nurse Bible offers a safe diagram on page 226, and Dr. Karp gives guidelines here. With this safe swaddling method, also the most common method taught in U.S. hospitals, baby’s legs are free to kick and move. Hip dysplasia was another concern of the NRC, since wrapping her legs tightly with a blanket is not good for her hip sockets or hip joints.
It’s important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics has not yet taken an official stance on the safety of swaddling in child-care settings. Even the International Hip Dysplasia Institute agrees that with proper technique, swaddling is safe.