There are many things we all try as parents in order to get baby to sleep. And swaddling is one of them. I remember wrapping my little ones up like a burrito and marveling about how adorable and effective something like that could be. Now along comes a study to ruin the sleep party.
Doctors have warned that swaddling could cause hip problems and increase the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Of course, this is one of those cases that it "could" not that it "will," but it really boils down to the fact that some of us are just doing it wrong, especially when I just read about the practice of swaddling as "binding babies in blankets with their arms restrained and legs stretched out."
Sure, in a sense, that's what swaddling sort of is (minus the leg part), but let's describe a few other baby things we do in a crude way.
Bathing baby: Submerging body in sudsy water in weird giant bucket while baby cries, is naked, and freezing because baby is naked and wet.
Soothing baby: Cooing in baby's face with wide eyes and singing a lullaby in your best tone-deaf voice while bouncing about the house in hopes to get her to stop crying or fussing.
See my point? Just about anything can be twisted to sound like it's not a good thing. And just like anything in parenting (or in general), too much of any one thing is often exactly that ... too much. Swaddling needs to be done right; and not in excess. Just like if you gave your baby a bath every two hours it wouldn't be the best idea, it's also not to good to swaddle your baby for long periods of time and with her legs stretched out without being able to move.
There's always a right way and a wrong way. If we learn the right way to do things, there won't be an issue. Just like there are safe co-sleeping practices that could help you all sleep soundly, there are also un-safe co-sleeping practices that can harm your child. Just like baby carrying can be fantastic, if you do it wrong or use a crotch dangler, it could hurt your baby's spine and hip development as well. So let's talk about the safe way to swaddle.
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Clarke was quoted as warning parents about swaddling, but added, "In order to allow for healthy hip development, legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. This position allows for natural development of the hip joints. The babies' legs should not be tightly wrapped in extension and pressed together. It is now essential that midwives, neonatologists, and pediatricians provide the correct advice in relation to healthy swaddling practices."
I was always taught to swaddle in the way that allows baby's legs to bend up and out; never was I told to bind straightened, pressed together legs. And I was also taught to never swaddle for long periods of time. We want to make sure baby's legs are able to be in that "frog" position, so swaddle wisely, especially in those early months when baby's hip joint is developing. Avoid letting baby sleep swaddled up for long periods of time, but a few hours every few days is okay, according to Dr. Sears in The Baby Book, which was like my parenting guidebook. You want an arsenal of soothing techniques and swaddling can be one of the many. The "soothing baby" technique I wrote about above definitely works.
Do you swaddle your baby? Does this news worry you?
Image via David J Laporte/Flickr