Swaddling: Is It Time to Abandon This Age-Old Practice?

October 21, 2016

As a parent, you’re looking for every and any method that will make parenting easier while providing safety for your newborn. Many parents use the age-old practice of swaddling, which is simply a method of securely wrapping a baby in a blanket for security.

While many parents and childcare specialist advocate swaddling, there are others who oppose it and feel as though it is a contributor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), while others simply feel that it isn’t safe for children while their bodies develop because somehow it impedes growth.

Swaddling: What Is It? Where Did It Come From?

In the video above, Tina Allen, a childcare expert provided her explanation of the traditional practice and its benefits saying,

“Swaddling is an ancient tradition of wrapping a baby securely, snugly in their blanket. To help them feel connected, to help them feel that they’re very secure. Within their own blanket. It’s been practiced for centuries, in different cultures around the world.

There are thousands of pictures that have come up or drawing even from years and years ago. We see different cultures practicing swaddling in many different ways. So it has been found to help soothe many different babies. Not all, not everything works with every single baby, every baby’s different, just like I’m different from you.

Every baby likes something different. That’s okay, there are many babies that feel soothed or comforted by swaddling. Swaddling for some of these babies helps them to sleep comfortably through the night.

Sometimes babies can be startled by their own body movements and can wake through the night, so if you have swaddled your baby in some cases this does help so that they can sleep more soundly throughout the night…”

What are the Benefits of Swaddling?

Dr. Tim Schrader, spoke on some of the benefits associated with swaddling, saying,

“Swaddling has several benefits, it mimics the shape of the womb so the comfort of the womb can ease children’s restlessness and help with their sleep patterns… You want to have the benefits of swaddling without doing unnecessary harm to the child.”

In addition to helping newborns sleep, many childcare professionals believe swaddling helps

  • Reduce SIDS
  • Less crying
  • Longer and better sleep

What are the Risks of Swaddling

When swaddling, isn’t performed correctly, it can lead to hip problems, technically known as ‘Hip Dysplasia.’

“Improper swaddling would be bringing the knees together. Most babies are in the womb with their legs flexed up towards their abdomen and often to the side. If you purposely push the legs down so that their knees and hips are in a straight position, their hips will actually have a fair bit of pressure on them, in the ligaments and the soft structures around the hip, may allow that hip to slip out of position…

And then there’s in between categories where a hip might be a little loose where it lives in the socket the majority of the time, but with stress it can be dislocated. Or a hip that is dislocated at rest with manipulations can be put back into the socket…

We’re not at all discouraging swaddling. Universally I think it has a lot of benefits. I swaddle my own children. It’s just that if you’re going to swaddle maybe do it in a way that’s healthy for their hips as well” explained Dr. Schrader.

How to Swaddle

When swaddling is employed, parents must make sure it is done correctly. This also includes placing the child on their back so that they do not succumb to SIDS. In addition, other physicians believe it is best to stop swaddling at the two-month mark. This is when the baby has the capacity to roll over and this could result in suffocation.

If parents consider swaddling, it is imperative that they learn to do it properly. A Google search will return a list of articles and videos on the process, but if parents want to ensure that its done correctly, they may want to consider a class on caring for newborns and learn the process correctly. In addition, they may consult a specialist who is qualified in newborn care.

Alternatives to Swaddling

Parents turn to swaddling to assist with sleep for their newborn. Another alternative is to look at sleep cycles for newborns. Dr. Polly Moore, an expert on newborn sleep patterns has written two books on baby sleep cycles and many parents who’ve followed her work have found assistance with helping their children get proper sleep.


Although swaddling is an effective practice, even if you practice it at home, many childcare centers have abandoned the process because they feel that it is dangerous and many members of their staff who may be trained to care for newborns, might not have the training needed to properly swaddle a child.

Ultimately parents will have to decide if this practice is necessary when they can look towards other methods for ensuring their children develop healthy sleep patterns.

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