Many parents sing the praises of enveloping newborn babies in a blanket, believing the snug sensation encourages babies to "sleep longer, fuss less, even diminish the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)" according to a Globe and Mail article.
However, the trend of the past decade—endorsed by books like Harvey Karp's bestseller, The Happiest Baby on the Block—is now under scrutiny, with some hospitals questioning the safety of this age-old baby wrapping practice.
“To have [infants] pinned down by a tight blanket doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Mount Sinai clinical nurse specialist in Maternal Newborn Care Susan Guest told the Globe. “You need to know that, developmentally, they need to move, they need to be able to put their hand in their mouth.”
Swaddled infants face various risks: from hip dysplasia and respiratory infections, to overheating, and (ironically) an increased chance of SIDS.
While swaddling encourages parents to place babies on their backs, there is a chance that infants might wind up with a blanket over their faces or struggling to rouse, thereby suppressing a natural startle reflex.
Few organizations have formally discouraged the practice of swaddling. Yet guidelines published by Perinatal Services B.C. warning against swaddling have led to a decline in the practice in that province.
Do the benefits of swaddling outweigh the risks? Former president of the Canadian Paediatric Society Denis Leduc thinks so. "If the swaddling is done properly, there seems to be an additional benefit of better sleep.”
Bottom line: most sleep-deprived parents are reluctant to give up a good thing. Will you continue to swaddle despite the risks?