Benefits, Risks, and When To Stop Swaddling

Dana LaneBaby Care, Online Childbirth Classes for Natural Birth

benefits risks and when to stop swaddling

As a new parent trying to comfort your crying baby, the calming effect of swaddling feels like a tool handed down from heaven.  So what are the benefits of swaddling?  Are there risks?  And how long are we able to wrap up our sweet babies like little burritos?  How do you know when to stop swaddling?

The Benefits of Swaddling

When to stop swaddling - the benefits of swaddling

Swaddling has a wide variety of benefits for your baby.  In addition to providing comfort, swaddling can encourage newborn sleeping and helps babies sleep longer.  It can help regulate baby’s body temperature.  And swaddling can improve neuromuscular and motor development.  Swaddling is a natural way to help transition your precious newborn from the close comfort of the womb to the outside world.

Are There Risks to Swaddling?

Although swaddling can be an amazing help, there are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Hip Dysplasia – This can be caused by wrapping a newborn’s legs too tight.
  2. Hyperthermia – A baby can become overheated if their sleeping environment is too warm, especially when paired with the added warmth of being swaddled.
  3. SIDS – Deeper sleep can make it harder for a baby to awake, which has been linked to SIDS
  4. Impaired Breathing – A safe swaddle must allow room for the baby to breathe adequately, without letting the blanket unravel. (1)

Swaddling and Safe Sleep

when to stop swaddling - safety

Sure, the risks of swaddling sound a little scary.  But swaddling can provide great benefit if some important precautions are taken.  So, let’s talk about how you can make sleep safer if you choose to swaddle your baby.

  1. Safe Environment – Make sure your baby’s sleeping environment is flat and free of loose blankets, pillows or toys.
  2. Safe Temperature – Make sure the temperature is comfortable and your baby isn’t overdressed.
  3. Learn How – Have your pediatrician show you the correct way to swaddle.  Don’t feel silly asking to practice it with them a few times.  It might take a few attempts but soon you’ll become a swaddling pro!
  4. Back to Sleep– Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back, especially when you swaddle.
  5. Pacifier – Consider using a pacifier.  Pacifier use is associated with lighter sleep (2).

how to swaddle

When To Stop Swaddling

when to stop swaddling - grab your camera

One of the biggest challenges of parenting is that once we get the hang of something, it’s usually time to change things up!  Unfortunately, this is true of swaddling, too.  It may surprise you to learn that you should stop swaddling at around 8 weeks.

When to Stop Swaddling – Why So Early?

Why stop swaddling so early?  8 weeks is generally the age right before your baby starts to become more active and self-aware.  Soon he’ll start to wiggle, roll, and turn over.  Turning over while swaddled is dangerous because it places your baby at a risk of smothering.  So, it makes sense to transition out of swaddling well before your baby has the ability to roll.  While 8 weeks is a general guideline, it may be even sooner if your baby shows signs of possibly turning over before then (3).

When to Stop Swaddling – Moro Reflex

The good news is that 8 weeks is just about the same time that babies lose the startle or Moro reflex.  This makes them less jumpy, better able to regulate their bodies, and less likely to wake themselves from a good sleep.  The loss of this reflex decreases the need for swaddling.

When to Stop Swaddling – Nighttime Routine

If you haven’t already, begin to establish a nighttime routine in the weeks before swaddling comes to an end.  One way to help this transition is to put your baby down while they are still awake but drowsy.  Do this as early on in their life as possible.  These types of routines will make it a little easier as you begin to place baby down to sleep without swaddling.

And one last tip.  Make sure to take as many pictures as possible, because seriously, a swaddled baby is just pure adorableness.

 

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References:

1) Van Sleuwen, B. E.,  Engelberts, A, C., Boere-Boonekamp, M. M., Kuis, W.,  Schulpen,T.W.J. L’Hoir, M.P. Swaddling: a Systematic Review.  Retrieved at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/120/4/e1097

2)  Moon, R. Y. (2013). How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained By: Rachel Y. Moon. Retrieved at http://www.aappublications.org/content/34/6/34

3) Kennedy, K.  (2013). Unwrapping the Controversy Over Swaddling. Retrieved at http://www.aappublications.org/content/34/6/34