The Short of It
Babies who are swaddled while lying on their sides or face down have a higher risk of SIDS, according to a new study.
We already know placing infants on their backs to sleep is safest to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Now, a new study called "Swaddling and the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: a Meta-analysis," published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, confirms babies who are swaddled and placed on their sides or lying face down are at a higher risk for SIDS.
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Researchers looked at four studies spanning two decades, which covered diverse geographic areas, ranging from England to Tasmania and Australia to Chicago, Ill. What they found was that the risk of SIDS nearly doubled for swaddled infants who were placed on their sides and actually did double for those found on their tummies. This held true even for older infants swaddled during sleep.
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Researchers found that most babies who were swaddled or wrapped snugly in a blanket—a practice known to promote calm and sleep—may have been originally placed on their sides or backs to sleep, but they shifted onto their tummies on their own, which is why swaddling can be a dangerous practice.
Researchers concede none of the studies they looked at offered precise definitions of swaddling. And they were unable to say exactly how swaddling and SIDS are related, so they stopped short of advising against swaddling. But it seems parents may want to consider alternatives to swaddling, to promote the safest sleep environment possible.
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As a mom who was a devoted swaddler, I'm glad to have this information! I honestly didn't know I was putting my babies in potential danger by swaddling them. I thought I was helping them fall asleep and stay asleep longer. But clearly swaddling is not ideal, and I would definitely think twice about doing it again in the future.