It is not unusual to hear debates and concerns regarding different issues that surround parenthood. Issues such as babywearing, baby carriers, vaccination, and weaning have always raised serious debates in parenting over the years. A more recent concern has been about baby swaddling. Although swaddling has been around for decades, it has gained popularity in the recent past. This is probably due to the benefits it presents to both the baby and the parent as explained by the medical community. However, some people feel that swaddling also presents a number of risks to the growing infant; hence, the recent debate. For this reason, we have prepared this article to discuss swaddling a baby pros and cons in order to help you make an informed decision when buying a swaddle.
Swaddling a baby pros and cons
Benefits of swaddling a baby
Swaddling a baby presents several benefits that I honestly believe outweigh the negatives.
Minimizes risk of SIDS
One of the most important benefits of swaddling a baby is that it helps to minimize the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). When babies are swaddled, there is no need to add comfort items like stuffed toys, bumpers and pillows in their cot or crib, which are believed to contribute to SIDS. Also, once the baby is placed on the back to sleep, the swaddle prevents them from moving and changing their positions.
Startle or Moro reflex is an involuntary response that is present in all newborns from birth to around 4 months. When babies hear a loud noise or unexpected movement, they may suddenly feel like they are falling. In response they spread or pull their arms, extend their legs, or cry. Swaddling has been found to prevent this startle reflex because the baby’s arms are tucked in. As a result, they sleep for longer periods.
Keeps babies warm
Newborns need to keep warm and unfortunately, they are not able to regulate their own body temperature. Thus, swaddling recreates a womb-like environment which is warm, comfortable and safe. This is particularly beneficial to newborns who are still trying to adjust to the outside world. The warm feeling inside the swaddle helps them to relax and feel secure; thereby, making them less anxious and cry less.
Less fussy babies
According to a study by Van Sleuwen et al. (2006), swaddling helps to calm infants who cry excessively especially during the witching hour. When a baby is swaddled properly, they feel warm and safe, which helps them to relax and stop crying. They also feel secure when swaddled just like they felt in their mother’s womb. This makes them experience less anxiety and calm down.
Promotes better sleep
Swaddling promotes better and longer sleep in babies. This is actually a benefit for both you and the baby. The number of times you have to wake at night are reduced when you properly swaddle your baby. This is attributed to the cozy, warm, safe, and comfortable feeling that babies experience when swaddled. To encourage babies to sleep even more soundly, you can introduce white noise. This will mimic the real womb environment.
Potential risks of Swaddling a baby
As aforementioned, there are a few risks associated with swaddling. It is important for parents to know these risks so that they can be on the lookout and practice safe swaddling.
Concerns about hip dysplasia
As much as swaddling helps to prevent startle reflex and enable babies to sleep soundly, it presents some health concerns such as hip dysplasia.
It is important to note that in the womb, babies are able to move their hand and legs freely despite being enclosed. Some swaddles, on the other hand, create a womb-like environment but do not allow the baby to move his hand or legs. This restriction of movement can cause the hips joints to loosen from the sockets; thereby, causing a condition called hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia has however been blamed on improper swaddling. International Hip Dysplasia Institute explains that babies are usually in a fetal position when in the womb where their legs are bent up and cross each other. Thus, forcing them to straighten by swaddling too tightly can cause the hip joints to loosen and even destroy the cartilage.
Most cases of hip dysplasia resolve over time without the need for medical intervention. However, it is recommended that parents practice proper swaddling. A good swaddle should have enough room to allow the babies legs to bend up and out at the hips. This will promote good development. Read how to choose a good swaddle here.
Risk of overheating
Another possible risk of swaddling is overheating. If a baby is swaddled too tightly and swaddled while wearing layers of clothes, they may overheat. Overheating has been named as one of the causes of SIDS.
To ensure the baby is not overheating when swaddled, be on the lookout for signs of overheating. These include the baby being extremely fussy, having a high temperature when touched on the forehead, heat rash, and restlessness among others.
Moreover, if it is during summer, get to learn more about how to swaddle a baby in hot weather. For instance, ensure that the swaddle is made from a breathable material such as cotton and avoid swaddling too tightly.
Risk of suffocation
It is important to learn how to swaddle baby the right way to avoid the risk of suffocation. Just as we mentioned earlier that swaddling too tightly can lead to overheating, swaddling too loosely, on the other hand, may cause suffocation.
The loose blanket can come undone and cover the baby’s face thereby causing them to suffocate. Moreover, if the baby is swaddled too tightly around the chest, he or she may have difficulty breathing.
Another way that babies can suffocate when swaddled is when they roll over to their stomach. There is a high possibility that a swaddled baby may not be able to roll back on to their back once they roll on their stomach.
In conclusion, it is clear that swaddling presents both benefits and risks. It is important that you research more about swaddling a baby pros and cons. This will help you can make an informed decision. Weigh the benefits and the risks and decide what is best for both you and the baby.
Van Sleuwen, B.E., L’hoir, M.P., Engelberts, A.C., Busschers, W.B., Westers, P., Blom, M.A., Schulpen, T.W.J. and Kuis, W., 2006. Comparison of behavior modification with and without swaddling as interventions for excessive crying. The Journal of pediatrics, 149(4), pp.512-517.