Parents News Now

Could Swaddling Your Baby Increase the Risk of SIDS?

A new study calls into question the safety of swaddling sleeping babies.

swaddled baby girl Shutterstock
Swaddling was big in our house when both our kids were babies. In fact, my husband and I actually prided ourselves on our infant-wrapping skills, often arguing over which one of us was quicker at it (me) and better at it (ditto).

But now comes a scary new study published in the journal Pediatrics that shows swaddling a baby may increase the risk for SIDS—which, according to the CDC, killed about 1,500 children in the U.S. in 2014, and is the leading cause of death in babies younger than 1.

Researchers analyzed the results of four previously published studies that included 760 babies who died of SIDS and 1,759 who did not. What they found was that swaddling a baby upped the risk of SIDS.

"Babies who were swaddled were 50 to 60 percent more likely to die of SIDS," said lead researcher Dr. Rachel Moon. She added that when the swaddled babies were then placed on their stomachs to sleep, the situation was even worse: Those infants had 13 times the risk of dying from SIDS.

Whoa!

And the danger increased as babies approached 6 months of age, most likely, Moon said, because by then they can roll over by themselves, which usually happens at around 4 months.

Baby Sleep Safety: Reduce the Risk of SIDS

"The take-home messages are, if the baby is getting old enough where they can roll, they shouldn't be swaddled," she explained, adding that they shouldn't sleep on their stomachs or sides, either.

And while lead author Anna S. Pease told The New York Times that the results should be interpreted with caution, since the study is limited, she agrees with Moon's suggestion for parents.

"We already know that side and prone sleeping are unsafe for young babies," she said. "So the advice to place children on their backs for sleep is even more important when parents choose to swaddle them."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on twitter at @holleewoodworld