• Laura Foster

Swaddling: Is it now dangerous?




Swaddling was once the recommended safe way to put your baby to sleep.  

Swaddling keeps a baby feeling calm and snug; and mimics the security of the womb.  Most babies stay asleep for longer periods when swaddled, as the baby's arousal is decreased.  You may have learnt how to swaddle while watching your nurse in hospital: swaddling your new born baby's arms tightly to his chest but keeping his hips free is a method of soothing that has been practised for many years. 

As a parent, you will be making important decisions for your baby every day.  

Information can be confusing to a new parent.  It seems that as soon as something is recognised as "safe" and the "correct" method; a document comes out to state the opposite!  40 years ago; many babies were slept safely on their stomach; but guidelines now are for back-sleeping only.  I safely slept my baby girl on her tummy regularly; she had BNSM (Benign Neonatal Sleep Myoclonus) and jerked so bad she wouldn't sleep unless swaddled tightly. I think a swaddle must feel like a hug, and what baby doesn't like a hug?! She would often scream from the frustration of wanting to be asleep but kept being jerked awake.  My instinctive intuition was to turn her to her front to get her to sleep; and I would turn her to her back with head to the side if I was planning on leaving her for longer than 10 minutes or so. She like her elbows swaddled by her side and at least one hand up by her face; I guess she could still wriggle her fingers and feel connected to herself.


Use the information available to you, along with your motherly instincts and intuition to make the right decision for your baby. 

Not all babies benefit from swaddling; if your baby does not like being swaddled, he will soon let you know!

Recent studies show that swaddling can harm your baby and increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome)

The New Zealand Sleep Safety Standards board are trying to STOP swaddling babies when they are sleeping. Swaddling actually inhibits all of baby's natural protective reflex's that it has been born with like:

* Startle reflex - resets baby's heart rate, breathing and temperature

* Hand to mouth reflex - helps baby establish breastfeeding and strengthens the suckling reflex.

* Temperature control - babies use the blood vessels in their hands to regulate their temperature if they get hot.

* Push out of danger reflex - If baby gets low on oxygen from having something cover its face it will automatically push out of danger if hands are free.

* Babies also need to be able to kick and move their legs due to being born with weak hip joints


All parents should be aware of the dangers of swaddling and we would prefer if babies are just tucked in tightly but still able to get their hands free at any time. A great way to keep baby feeling snug is to place a long piece of merino under the mattress to that it can be used to envelope baby in bed, by having it come from under the mattress and then tuck over each side.

Sleeping bags are great so long as hands are free.


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Lola J Babywear

Kaiwaka, NZ

+64 9 431 2301

laura@lolaj.co.nz

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