One of the first skills parents-to-be learn in anticipation of the arrival of a new baby is swaddling. Used to calm infants and help them sleep, swaddling — snuggly wrapping an infant in a blanket or wrap designed specifically for swaddling — is thought to have been practiced as early as 2600 B.C.
Recently, though, a paper published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in the journal Pediatrics examined whether swaddling may be related to incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS. The report was an analysis of four different studies from a 20-year period that examined the risk of SIDS for various infant sleep positions.
The results indicated that there was a slight increase in risk when babies were swaddled and placed on their backs to sleep and an even greater risk when swaddled and placed on their sides or stomachs, or if they were age 6 months or older.
"There were some age limitations to the conclusions, essentially saying if the child is old enough to break out of the swaddle or roll to the side or roll over when not swaddled, then they should no longer be swaddled for sleep," she says.
Dr. Batra offers the following tips for safe sleep:
- Follow the NIH's " Safe to Sleep® Campaign" message and always place your baby on his or her back to sleep
- Provide your baby with his or her own firm sleeping surface
- Keep the sleeping area free of any loose bedding, toys, blankets, bumper pads, sleep wedges or positioners
- It is OK to offer your infant a pacifier during sleep
The AAP also recommends placing the baby's crib in a smoke-free area in the same room as the parents; a baby should never sleep in the same bed as parents, according to the AAP.
Additional recommendations include immunizing infants, breastfeeding when possible, not covering an infant's head during sleep, and providing supervised tummy time during a baby's wakeful hours to support development.
If you have questions about safe sleep practices, talk to your child's pediatrician.