The swaddling of infants is a global practice and there are many different methods and techniques that parents around the world use. Research on the whole suggests that swaddling helps babies to settle and sleep better. 1,2,3,4,5.
Swaddling is encouraged by midwives for your new baby, it helps lengthen the period in which babies sleep on their backs, which then follows to reduce the risk of sleeping accidents, especially Sudden Infant Death (SIDS). 6,7,8
Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH) is one of the most common congenital defects, it can lead to degenerative joint disease, chronic pain and it is considered to be one of the leading causes of early arthritis of the hip. 9,10. Swaddling has been recognised as a risk factor for DDH. 11,12.
There is concern that swaddling causes DDH by being too tight around the hips and then putting pressure on the hips pushing the hip joints out of the sockets. There are several ways to swaddle safely and the very recent (March 2012) safe swaddling video provided by the Royal Children’s Hospital is an excellent way to visualise how to swaddle safely.
As soon as a baby can roll, their arms should be free so that if they do roll into the high risk tummy position they can use their arms to push free of anything covering the face or nose or roll back to their tummy.
Once your baby gets developmental control of their legs (from 4 to 6 months) and can kick their blankets off they often get cold at night. This is when you should move to a safe sleeping bag. A safe sleeping bag has arms or armholes in it to prevent your baby burrowing down and to stop the sleeping bag from coming up over their face and nose.
For more information about safe swaddling:
1. Karp, H. (2002). The Happiest Baby on the Block. New York, NY: Bantam.
2. Gerard, M., Harris, K., & Thach, B. (2002), Spontaneous arousals in supine infantswhile swaddled and unswaddled during rapid eye movement and quiet sleep. Pediatrics: 110 (6).
3. Caiola, E. (2007). Swaddling young infants can decrease crying time. J Pediatr: 150:320-321.
4. Franco, P., Seret, N., Van Hees, J., Scallet, S., Groswasser, J., & Kahn, A. (2005 Influence of swaddling on sleep and arousal characteristics of health infants. Pediatrics: 115:1307-1311.
5. Van Sleuwen, B., L’Hoir, M., & Engelberts, A. (2006). Comparison of behaviour modification with and without swaddling as interventions for excessive crying. J pediatr:149:512-517.
6. Gerard CM, Harris KA, Thach BT. (2002) Spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled during rapid eye movement and quiet sleep. Pediatrics. 110 (6): e70.
7. Gerard CM, Harris KA, Thach BT. (2002) Physiologic studies on swaddling: an ancient child care practice, which may promote the supine position for infant sleep. The Journal of Pediatrics: 141 (3): 398-403.
9. Shipman, S., Helfand, M., Moyer, V., & Yawn, B. (2006). Screening for developmental dysplasis of the hip : a systematic literature review for the U.S Preventative Services Taskforce. Pediatrics: 117(3).
10. Harris, W. (1986). Etiology of osteoarthritis of the hip. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1986;(213):20-33.
11. Kutlu, A., Memik, R., Mutlu, M., Kutlu, R., & Arslan, A. (1992). A congenital dislocation of the hip and its relation to swaddling used in Turkey. J PediatrOrthop, 12:598-602.
12. Gerard, C., Harris, K., & Thatch, B. (2002) Physiologic studies on swaddling: an ancient child care practice, which may promote the supine position for infant slepp. J Pediatr.