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Does swaddling raise the risk of SIDS?


One of the challenges nearly all parents face is how to get their babies to sleep through the night. Swaddling—wrapping babies snugly in a light cloth or blanket—is a popular method to help soothe little ones to sleep.

But a recent study found that swaddling may raise the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 12 months old in the U.S.

The risk of SIDS was highest when swaddled babies were placed on their tummies or sides to sleep. And it increased with age. Infants 6 months and older had nearly double the risk of newborns.

Swaddling can cause other problems as well. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies who are swaddled too tightly may develop hip problems. Although the chances of dying from SIDS for swaddled babies is small overall, it's important for parents to know the risks—and alternatives.

And whatever choice you make, it's one more reason babies should always be put to sleep on their backs.

Back to sleep—safely

The American Academy of Pediatrics began urging parents to lay babies on their backs to sleep, even for naps, in 1992. In the years since, rates of SIDS have dropped dramatically in the U.S.

But there's more to safe sleep than an infant's position. Reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths also means providing babies with a safe and healthy environment—in their crib, in the bedroom and the entire home.

To help your baby rest safely:

  • Give your baby a firm surface to sleep on. Car seats and couches aren't safe for sleep.
  • Resist the temptation to have your baby sleep in your bed.
  • Keep soft items or loose bedding out of your baby's crib. This includes pillows, sheets and blankets, stuffed animals and bumper pads.
  • Don't let your baby get too hot. Dress your baby lightly for sleep in clothing such as a one-piece sleeper or sleep sack.
  • Offer your baby a stringless pacifier at bedtime and nap time.
  • Avoid products that are sold as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS.

In addition:

  • Breastfeed your baby if you can. It's linked with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure your baby is up-to-date on all immunizations.
  • Give plenty of supervised tummy time during awake hours.
  • Keep your house smoke-free. Babies exposed to smoke are at higher risk of SIDS.

How to soothe a fussy baby

Safe sleep is important for your baby. But getting some sleep is vital for you too. So if you choose not to swaddle, how else can you soothe a crying baby?

First, try to figure out what's making your baby unhappy. Is he or she hungry? Is the diaper wet? Or is your baby just in need of consolation? If so, you might try:

  • Rocking in a chair.
  • Gently patting your baby's back or chest.
  • Singing or talking.
  • Playing soft music.
  • Walking your baby in your arms.

If you do decide to swaddle, experts recommend that you stop by the time your baby is 2 months old—before infants typically start trying to roll over.

Hello, baby!

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