I came across an article in the February issue of Today’s Parent that caught my eye, as it was all about swaddling (“The Right Way To Swaddle” by Lisa Van De Geyn). When our girls were infants, we were all over the swaddle. With Frannie, my husband mastered the blanket burrito, and then with Maggie, we invested in a “Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe” (picture below) and never looked back.

We used it only for nighttime, and found, through our own bleary-eyed research, that our girls would calm immediately once they were swaddled, and stay asleep longer. It was actually nice for me because as early as Frannie’s first weeks of life, swaddling became a “daddy thing”. I kind of helped cement that status with one of those “You swaddle her so much better than I do. Can you please do it?” moves which guaranteed that I would rarely have to do the bedtime routine alone.
At the time, I never considered that there would be any adverse health affects from being swaddled for a few hours a day. I’m totally on board with the pediatrician quoted in the article who asserts that “Swaddling has been shown to increase ‘quiet sleep’ and sleep duration. It can help babies become accustomed to sleeping on their backs, which decreased the risk of SIDS.”  (Babies should not be placed to sleep on their tummies, especially when swaddled, which I would think is obvious but you never know.)
In this article I learned that there are viewpoints opposing swaddling as well, as a pediatric physiotherapist was quoted as saying that “swaddling can be interpreted as a form of restraint” and that it comes with worries about chest pressure which can affect breathing, hip dysplasia, and overheating.
We never wrapped the girls so tightly that they could not turn their heads to the side if spitting up (another concern) but we certainly tried to tuck the arms in (so they wouldn’t fling them and startle themselves awake) which I guess wasn’t advisable either, because then they couldn’t put their hands in their mouths for self-soothing.
I am hardly one to argue when faced with hard research data or official health warnings, but at this point I would still highly recommend the swaddle for anyone who a) wants their child to stay asleep longer and b) is comfortable having their baby swaddled, which is obviously the most important point. If, as a parent, something doesn’t feel right to you, then don’t do it.
How about you? Were/are you a baby swaddler? Did you see benefits? Do these warnings change your thinking?

8 comments on “The Great Swaddle Debate”

  1. We swaddled, but our babies always led the way. By about 2-8weeks they pretty much wanted out. I figured when they fought to release their arms, they were telling me something. I was intruiged by the safety warning in that article also. I confess that I turned my babies on their sides when I swaddled them because I was not confident that they would turn their heads to spit up, then they would aspirate their spit-up.
    I think being a parent is the hardest job in the world because there are somethings we go over-kill on. However when you look at the injuries and risky habits of our parents generation and before, our babies are healthier, bigger, and live longer. We must be doing something right, even if it is causing us ulcers while we wring our hands trying to decide which 'expert's' advice is the right one to follow.

  2. We tried swaddling but our kids never really seemed to be calmed by it, and both of them usually fought their way out of the swaddles before falling asleep. I wasn't very good at swaddling, so I wasn't surprised that they could get out of it when I did it, but my husband was very good at it, so we were surprised when they got out of it then. I nursed both of our babies, so swaddling was something he could do to be involved and help settle them for sleep, but we soon learned that it was making a difference. And the same thing happened for both of our babies, so it was strange. My best friend swore by swaddling with both of hers and they seemed to love it. I think this is another case where you need to see what works for you and your baby.

  3. last year in our prenatal class, the instructor almost refused to show the class how to swaddle, stating that the Canadian pediatric association or something now recommended against swaddling. It's funny that the hospitals still do it, if that's the case. We ended up swaddling but it wasn't long that my son no longer wanted to get swaddled.

  4. I swaddled my son Max for months as a baby – it was the only way he'd settle down and fall asleep. I was never concerned about the confines of the swaddle sack – he always looked comfy and cozy in there! I used to chuckle when I opened it and he'd pop his arms up and do a big stretch after having his arms down by his sides. We called it the Max Pop 🙂

  5. This is interesting…

    My daughter (9) "had" to be swaddled in order to sleep. My son didn't mind one way or the other.

    We never had an official swaddler — just receiving blankets which are probably less tight and less likely to cause overheating.

    To this day my daughter still had problems falling asleep (although I haven't tried swaddling her lately…) 😉

  6. We swaddles – my boys loved to be wrapped up like little tacos. I understand some of the concern, but we felt this was best for them. That said, looking back I can see that this may have prevented self soothing. We used a soother, but in hindsight I'd have preferred we didn't and maybe not swaddling might have helped?

  7. we are talking grandchidren here, but our last little one would not !! sleep if she was not swaddled. And anything that gives the parents a little more sleep, only benifits the baby in the long run

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