Bringing Up Baby

Swaddling 101

December 09, 2021 Ashley Season 2 Episode 7
Bringing Up Baby
Swaddling 101
Show Notes

Swaddling infants has been happening for centuries but there has been a growing controversy about its safety.

It’s not that it’s illegal or that it’s one of those things that’s NOT recommended, but it does pose some risks. And we are going to talk about those risks but more importantly, how to MINIMIZE risk - because the last thing anyone needs is to feel guilty for doing something that might be extremely helpful for their baby and how they choose to parent. 

I am going to tell you what the research tells us - what the evidence is when it comes to swaddling and what you should keep in mind should you choose to swaddle. The rest is up to you and I hope this conversation helps! 

What is swaddling?
As mentioned, swaddling has been a long-standing, traditional practice of wrapping a baby up gently in a light blanket. Seems simple enough, but swaddling doesn’t come without its challenges.

How does it work to calm babies and what is the best way to swaddle?
So swaddling really is a tried and true way of calming babies because it helps re-create that womb-like situation which has shown to be very comforting for them. 

And Yes, swaddling is safe when implemented correctly. While swaddling for short periods is generally fine (meaning baby isn’t kept in a swaddle all day long), you might want to consider a swaddling sleep sack - which is basically a pre-wrapped blanket that might have velcros or something that keeps it together. This can actually really help if you find your baby loves a swaddle but breaks free from it easily. 

But regardless if you’re using a blanket to branded swaddle, definitely be sure to at least keep it loose around their hips. Swaddling too tightly here and when legs can barely move can actually lead to developmental dysplasia of the hip.  

The other big risk associated with swaddling infants is overheating, which increases the risk of SIDS. 

All of these recommendations come from the most up-to-date research, with which Health Canada obviously supports. They actually even add that you’ll also might want to consider having their hands free or at least near their face so they can show you hunger cues. 

When should you stop swaddling?

Around 3 months of age or when baby starts rolling, whichever comes first. 

How do you transition them out of a swaddle?

  1. One arm out at a time. 
  2. Both arms out but wrapped with the swaddle with a bit of “gentle pressure” around the abdomen.
  3. Use what’s called a “transitional swaddle” of which there are several that are almost part swaddle, part not. For example, the Zipadee Zip which kind of makes your baby look like a starfish and the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit which actually has a bit of weight to it but can help baby manage that “startle reflex” when being placed on their back.
  4. Cold turkey. Switch to a sleep sack/bag or maybe add a layer under their sleeper and call it a night!

Summary of how to best minimize any risk associated with swaddling:

  • Swaddle securely to minimize risk of unwrapping
  • Not too tightly around the hips, legs still able to move freely
  • Avoid overheating
  • Always place babies on their back to sleep
  • And discontinue swaddling when infants show signs of rolling over or by about 3 months of age, whichever comes first.