Swaddling of infants has been around a very long time, but is it safe? A retrospective study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at deaths and injuries in infants from swaddling from the Consumer Product Safety Commissions reports over 7 years. There were 36 reported problems with swaddling. These occurred in children 3 days to 15 months of age. Five cases involved “wearable blankets, with 1 death, 18 cases with swaddle wraps, with 8 deaths, and 12 deaths from swaddling with ordinary blankets.
In the cases with wearable blankets or swaddle wraps, the infants rolled over to the tummy, and were thought to die because they couldn’t breathe. Most likely, their parents didn’t realize they could roll over yet! This was probably the case for several who were swaddle in standard blankets, but in standard blankets, other problems included the blanket getting over the nose and mouth or the baby getting too warm. Incidentally, term babies of normal size don’t normally get overly cold to need extra blankets. In fact, some can get over-heated very easily.
As to the other injuries, when babies are wrapped too tightly, it hurts their hips. So, some suggestions for swaddling include: don’t do it; consider other forms of clothing, like sleepers. Certainly don’t swaddle once a baby even might be able to roll over. Most babies don’t roll over until closer to 4 months of age, but some can be “early rollers” and they are especially at risk.
Don’t use the “wearable blankets, as they can slip and get over the face, and can even strangulate infants. Check with childcare providers or grandparents to see if they are swaddling and if they are, they need to do it safely. Even though swaddling has been around a long time, that doesn’t mean it is the only way to help an infant sleep, and most babies can learn to calm without swaddling. Just be sure you are safe. Give that kid a hug.