I have a newborn and am confused about whether to swaddle her or not. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information on it. Some say it’s great for the baby to stay soothed and sleep through the night. Others say the baby can get too used to it and won’t be able to comfort himself. What’s the right answer?
DR. BLUM’S ANSWER
To swaddle or not to swaddle: that is the question. Swaddling brings up some issues that involve more than just a child’s comfort. The first issue is safety. The dress and position of a baby during sleep can be contributing factors to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Preventable risk factors for SIDS include having babies sleep on their stomachs, overheating and smoking in the household. Swaddling can contribute to overheating if a child is wrapped in very warm blankets and is in a warm room. If the baby was born prematurely (another risk factor for SIDS) he should be dressed lightly and if swaddled it should also be light. That said, I think many babies do prefer to be swaddled and sleep better if they are swaddled.
Helping a baby learn to sleep is the other issue that underlies the basic question. Babies tend to be very trainable when it comes to sleeping. A consistent bedtime routine is essential to having a good sleeper. This should begin when the child is first brought home from the hospital. A bedtime routine could be something like a bath, a few stories, then nursing or a bottle and then bed. The child should be put down partially awake so that they learn to self-sooth. He should be a basinet or crib (never in the parent’s bed) from day one. At some time during the first few months he should be sleeping in a crib in a room other than the parent’s bedroom. If a consistent bedtime routine is followed and the child is in a crib in his own bedroom, most children will sleep an uninterrupted eight to 10 hours by 2 to 3-months-old. If the parents are getting a good, solid eight hours of sleep every night the question of swaddling becomes moot.
Dr. Robert M. Blum is a pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics in Bingham Farms and West Bloomfield. Email him questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.