Study says swaddling could cause SIDS

swaddled babyParents have traditionally swaddled their babies to calm them, but it actually might increase the risk of SIDS, according to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Swaddling, or closely wrapping a baby with a light cloth, is thought to improve sleep and reduce crying. But a recent study titled “Swaddling and the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: A Meta-analysis” concluded that the risk of SIDS appears to increase when infants are swaddled while sleeping on their stomach or side.

“The significant risk of placing infants on their side or prone to sleep doubled when infants were swaddled,” the study stated.

The risk of SIDS linked to swaddling also seemed to increase in older infants, according to the study. This might be likely because of the higher chance of older infants rolling onto their stomachs, the study stated. In the Netherlands — a country with low rates of SIDS — guidelines advise not to swaddle after 4 months of age, to stop swaddling as soon as the child is trying to turn over and to stop swaddling by 6 months of age.

“We already know that being found prone is strongly associated with SIDS, but the risk also increased fourfold among the swaddled infants,” the study stated.

The study noted several limitations on the data used. It came from four different studies from different regions and different time periods with different swaddling practices. Finally, none of the studies included adequately described the swaddling technique used.

Despite the limitations, the analysis indicated that the current advice to avoid placing infants on their front or side to sleep may especially apply to infants who are swaddled, the study concluded. Health professionals and current guidelines should also consider an appropriate age limit at which swaddling should be discouraged.

By Betsy Stein