A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Swaddled infant in crib

Swaddling and Safe Infant Sleep

Swaddling can help calm a fussy baby. And after years of taking care of babies and raising 3 of my own, I’m pretty good at getting just the right snug wrap! But done the wrong way, swaddling can be harmful. Let’s take a look at why and how to do it right.

Hospital nurses or your doctor can show you how to wrap a blanket around your baby – there’s some tricks to getting it just right. It’s important to leave plenty of room for your baby’s legs to move and their hips and knees to flex. Why? Turns out swaddling those little legs too tightly can increase babies’ risk of hip problems or dysplasia.

Once you get the perfect baby burrito wrap technique, there are a few more things to do to help them sleep well and safely.

  • Only swaddle for the first 2 months. While swaddling can be great for a new baby – it mimics being snugly inside mom’s womb – it’s dangerous if used beyond 2 months.
  • Always place you baby on their back to sleep. Sleeping face up decreases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Swaddling shouldn’t be used when there’s any chance your baby could roll over into the swaddling blanket – so be sure to stop swaddling by the time they’re 2 months old.
  • Make sure your baby doesn’t get too warm when swaddled. Are they sweaty or flushed? Swaddling can increase the chance they’ll overheat. In general, think about how warm or cold the bedroom is and judge what your baby needs based on how many layers you might need. They don’t need to be extra bundled up.

American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that babies:

  • Sleep in a bare boring crib or bassinet. Don’t put bumpers, toys, stuffed animals or loose blankets in the crib.
  • Not sleep with products like wedges and positioners – they’ve not been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS.
  • Not sleep in your bed. Infants are safer sleeping alone.
  • Be offered a pacifier.
  • Always be in a smoke-free environment.

And one last word of advice about baby sleep – get some rest when they do! Really. That old saying about sleeping when they do is a good one. You’ll be the best parent you can be if you do.

Find more resources for parents

American Academy of Pediatrics:
How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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