Is it necessary to swaddle a newborn?

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Before anything else, what is swaddling?

Swaddling is an ancient practice of wrapping a baby with a blanket or similar cloth to restrict movement. The most famous

record of swaddling is found in the Holy Bible, in the New Testament, referring to the birth of Jesusin Luke 2:6 – 2:7: ” And

so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her

firstborn son, and wrapped him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn”.

Swaddling clothes described the Holy Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. After an infant

was born, the umbilical cord was cut and tied, and then the baby was washed, rubbed with salt and oil, and wrapped with

strips of cloth. These strips of cloth kept the newborn baby warm, and were thought to ensure that the baby’s limb would

grow straight.

Swaddling involved wrapping the new baby in linen bands from head to foot to ensure the baby would grow up without

physical deformity. Babies back then would be swaddle like until about 8 tom9 months .

Scientific opinion towards swaddling began to change as times evolve. There was an association of neglect with swaddling,

especially regarding wet nurses who would leave babies in their care swaddled for long periods without washing or

comforting them. Several years after, physicians and philosophers began to openly criticize swaddling and finally

its complete abolishment. This thought was very controversial during the time, but slowly gained ground.

A child unswaddled would need constant watching; well swaddled it is cast into a corner and its cries are ignored. It was

claimed that infants left free would assume faulty positions and make movements which might injure the proper

development of their limbs. A vain rationalization of a false wisdom in which through the years was never confirmed.

They have never found one to claim that a baby’s feeble movement could be dangerous, as it was claimed that if these

babies assumed a position that would be injurious, pain would warrant them to naturally change it.

Modern swaddling became increasingly popular as a means of settling and soothing irritable infants and helping babies to

sleep longer with fewer awakenings. The medical community had recommended swaddling to promote calmness and

prevent frequent wakefulness. Secure swaddle is important to ensure that the blankets does not become loose and be

kicked off by a wakeful baby.

Some modern medical studies support the notion that swaddling helps babies fall asleep and to remain asleep and helps

to keep the baby in a supine position, which lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However another

study, contradicts the former. They claim that as per their study, swaddling increased the risk of SIDS. Also, they claimed

some evidence shows that certain swaddling techniques may increase the risk of developmental dysplasia of the hip.

To avoid hip dysplasia, the swaddle should be done in such a way that the baby is able to move his or her legs freely at the



What is the controversy in swaddling?

Swaddling can be safe and would benefit the baby if done properly. However, when done improperly, it can pose a number of threats.

If a blanket used for swaddling gets unwrapped, it can pose a danger to infants if the blanket covered the face, and then

becomes a hazard for safety in terms of breathing.

Another thing, swaddling may also lead to overheating, depending on the type of blanket used.

In the issue of hip dysplasia, babies whose legs are swaddled too tightly may be at risk. Dysplasia is a developmental

abnormality of the hip joint where the sock doesn’t fully cover the ball portion, thereby pose for possible chances of


Swaddling was once promoted as a way to prevent SIDS, however, there was no evidence that it helps. It was claimed that

swaddling can potentially increase the risk of SIDS, if the baby is placed in the prone position (on their stomach) for sleep.

For public health teachings, you have to think about the many levels of background, the literacy levels and the kind

of parents you are dealing with. When the risks and best practices surrounding swaddling are properly communicated and

families unique situations and challenges are considered, therefore the practice of swaddling is beneficial. For some babies

that are colicky, some babies that are difficult to settle, swaddling can be very helpful.

Is there an official guidance?

When most agencies acknowledge the benefits of swaddling, should there be an official guide to do it safely? If it is a

common practice in the hospitals, therefore it shouldn’t contribute to the risks of SIDS, if done properly. The needs to

emphasize the importance of putting the baby to sleep on their back, on bedding that is not too soft,cannot be stressed


As soon as the baby begins to roll over, at the age of 3 to 4 months, parents should stop swaddling. The risk of the baby

getting suffocated, as they roll on their belly and get stuck in that position.

As the risk of hip dysplasia cannot be ruled out, parents and caretakers should make sure that swaddled babies can still

freely move their legs and hips.

Overheating can also be another contention, swaddles babies should be dressed lightly, and /or use light blankets.

When its time to stop swaddling, appropriately-sized sacks can help ease the transition, as long as they are used properly.

Making sure that the sack is completely fastened and that there should be no loose ends lying around.

Safety sleep tips for newborns

Always lay your baby down to sleep on his/her back o a firm surface. Baby should sleep in a crib or bassinet and not on

the bed with you. There should not be loose pillows or blankets where your baby is sleeping. Dress your baby in a footie

pajamas or wearable-swaddle to keep the baby warm at night. Room temperature should be not too warm or too cold.

When the baby can roll from front to back, it is okay for them to sleep on their stomach. If baby is able to pull himself up to

standing, lower the crib mattress, so the baby don’t climb out of the crib.




I want you to feel that you can reach out to me if ever you have questions or want to share ideas that you have related  to the care of babies, growing premature babies, and the overall health issues pertaining to the care of babies OR just drop me a comment to just say “Hello” or “what’s up”.


All The Best,                                                                                                                                                                              Maria Teresa                                                                                                                                              

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