The photos of Prince George of Cambridge, wrapped in a swaddling shawl on his first official appearance, melted our hearts. Adorable! If swaddling is good enough for a future King, then surely it’s good enough for the rest of us, right?
Swaddling is an age-old technique of snugly wrapping a baby in a blanket for warmth and security. New moms probably won’t leave the maternity ward without a little lesson in this technique. Swaddling will make baby feel safe and secure and less likely to be disturbed by the little jerks he does in his sleep, known as his startle reflex. This will help to keep baby warm and toasty for the first few days of his life until his internal thermostat kicks in.
Swaddling creates a slight pressure around the baby’s body, which may give him a sense of security. The sensation mirrors the pressure he once felt in your uterus. The possible benefits include decreased crying, increased periods of sleep, and improved temperature control. Exactly what exhausted new moms want to hear!
But, what are the risks? The risks are generally linked to the use of improper swaddling techniques. As one example, if swaddling layers are excessive, babies may overheat. There is also some concern about an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if, contrary to sleeping on his back, a swaddled infant is put to sleep on his stomach, or if a swaddled child rolls from his back to his stomach. There are also concerns that swaddled babies face an increased risk of developmental dysplasia of the hip.
Childcare consultant and author Rachel Waddilove, who has worked as a maternity nurse for celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, is passionate about the benefits of swaddling. Any sensible mother will take precautions when swaddling her baby. Obviously you have to keep an eye on your baby’s temperature, by feeling the base of his neck, to avoid the risk of overheating. Babies are not being bound, and their legs are not restricted.
Midwives fight back by asking why anyone would wrap their baby up to the extent that it could cause developmental problems? Remember that babies should never be put to sleep on their stomach. Swaddling is only to be used for babies on their backs. Once your baby is about a month old you might want to stop swaddling him while he’s awake, as it can interfere with mobility and development in older babies. It is fine to keep swaddling your baby for naps and night-time if he seems to sleep better that way, but The American
Academy of Paediatrics recommend that you stop swaddling when your baby is around 2 months old – about the time he’ll start to roll over.
So, back to our original question: Is swaddling your little bundle of joy safe? Studies indicate that the advantages of swaddling supine sleeping infants outweigh the risks, if any.