Age-old swaddling has supporters, opponents

— Swaddling is one of the oldest baby-calming techniques known, and a 2007 review of swaddling by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that swaddled babies do awaken less often and sleep longer.

Some people argue, though, that swaddling poses a danger to babies because the blankets meant to soothe them could come loose and cover their faces.

Like so many child-rearing issues, parents are likely to get different - even conflicting - advice on the issue of when, how and how long to swaddle their babies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics review showed that swaddling can soothe pain, lessen crying and, in preterm infants, help improve neuromuscular development and motor organization.

But the review also showed that swaddled babies are more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia. And while swaddling makes it more likely that babies will be put to sleep on their backs, as is recommended, putting swaddled babies to sleep on their stomachs increases the chance of sudden infant death syndrome.

Contemporary Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal for pediatric health-care providers, says swaddling should besnugly wrapped around baby so it doesn’t loosen during the night. That publication says some babies do fine with no swaddling, but “the fussier your baby is, the more she’ll need to be swaddled. Tight bundling is so successful at soothing infants that some babies even have to be unswaddled to wake them up for feedings.” Despite the controversy, Lisa Stipe, owner of Nanny for Newborns, recommends swaddling for all babies until 3 or 4 months of age.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there. That’s a big tennis match right now,” she says. “My belief is that swaddling, done properly, is very beneficial to a newborn, from a neurological standpoint, from a sleep standpoint - basically, if you swaddle a baby properly, it’s kind of like putting them back in the womb. I’ve seen plenty of people get their babies to sleep just by whipping out a swaddle blanket and a sound machine. They don’t consult with me, they don’t have to do anything … . Some babies are good sleepers that way and they just need a little push.”

Family, Pages 33 on 10/20/2010

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