Recently, a 4-month-old baby girl died after she was accidentally suffocated while being swaddled as she slept at home. According to Channel News Asia, the baby was believed to have passed out after the swaddle covered her face, suffocating her. The incident, which happened in Malaysia, came as a major shock to many parents.
This raises the question, “Is swaddling safe for babies?”
Swaddling is a technique used to wrap newborn babies tightly in a blanket. As the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains, swaddling can be an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep. But in order to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), parents should stop swaddling as soon as babies can roll over.
“If babies are swaddled, they should be placed only on their back and monitored so they don’t accidentally roll over,” says Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, chair of the task force that authored the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations.
Here’s what you need to know about AAP’s safe sleep recommendations (taken from Healthy Children.org):
- Place your baby on her back to sleep, and monitor her to be sure she doesn’t roll over while swaddled.
- Do not have any loose blankets in your baby’s crib. A loose blanket, including a swaddling blanket that comes unwrapped, could cover your baby’s face and increase the risk of suffocation.
- Use caution when buying products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Wedges, positioners, special mattresses and specialized sleep surfaces have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Your baby is safest in her own crib or bassinet, not in your bed.
- Swaddling can increase the chance your baby will overheat, so avoid letting your baby get too hot. The baby could be too hot if you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing.
- Consider using a pacifier for naps and bedtime.
- Place the crib in an area that is always smoke-free.
Just to be clear, we’re not trying to scare you. Swaddling is risky if you do it wrong. Make sure you can get a hand in between the blanket and your baby’s chest as it’s dangerous to swaddle too tightly. Furthermore, don’t swaddle so loosely that the blanket unravels and covers your baby’s face. Also, learn more about SIDS and ways to prevent it.