When I was pregnant with my first child, my parents gave us a DVD copy of “The Happiest Baby on the Block”.
The pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, in the video demonstrated five ways to soothe a baby, one of which included swaddling or tightly wrapping a baby in a blanket. Within seconds of using each method, the babies in the video were happy and calm.
We instantly applied his techniques — especially swaddling — when our daughter was born. The results were amazing. Our daughter felt warm and comforted by being swaddled. Yes, she would flail her arms around, and we would have to have a wrestling match at times to get the swaddle tight and right. But once she was in the burrito, she slept and didn’t have her reflexes waking her up.
Now, almost five years later, the National Resource Center on Child Health and Safety, in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Public Health Association, issued a safety guideline against child care centers swaddling babies.
In 2011, a study by the National Resource Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that swaddling can increase the risks of “serious health outcomes” — such as hip dysplasia and loose blankets in the crib if a baby breaks free of the swaddle which could increase the risk of SIDS – and concluded that “swaddling is not necessary or recommended” in any childcare setting.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said that when done correctly, swaddling is an effective technique to help calm infants and promote sleep. However, the report — which focused on strategies for reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence showing it helps babies in that regard.
Child care centers are now struggling with this guideline because many utilized the same calming, soothing technique as we did with our children. How challenging it must be to now run a center where infants might sleep hours less than they had previously.
It’s unfortunate. I don’t think the general public understands how to properly swaddle and the purpose of it. A baby spends more than nine months curled up, warm in the womb. Swaddling provides an opportunity to experience that warmth and control the reflexes that a baby experiences their first few months of life. There are those who say that their child doesn’t “like” swaddling. I don’t believe this to be true. I think swaddling is just like sleep-training, it’s a taught/learned action. My children squirmed and tried to fight a swaddle every time we put them in it. However, a few seconds after being swaddled, they were happy, content and usually on their way to sleep.
When used properly, swaddling is a great opportunity for a baby to feel protected and comforted. Since child care centers are trying to do that for children every day, isn’t it important that we give them that same chance?
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Danielle Herzog is married and a mother to two children. Read her every Wednesday on momaha.
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