QUESTION FROM THE READER: I have a newborn and am unsure about swaddling or not swaddling her. There appears to be a lot of contradictory information about it. Some argue that it is beneficial for the baby to be soothed and sleep through the night. Others argue that the baby will become too accustomed to it and will be unable to comfort himself. What is the correct response?
The question is whether to swaddle or not to swaddle. Swaddling raises some concerns that go beyond a child’s comfort. The first issue is one of safety. SIDS can be exacerbated by a baby’s clothing and sleeping position (sudden infant death syndrome). SIDS risk factors that can be avoided include having babies sleep on their stomachs, overheating, and smoking in the home.
If a child is wrapped in very warm blankets and is in a warm room, swaddling can contribute to overheating. If the baby was born prematurely (yet another risk factor for SIDS), he should be dressed lightly and swaddled lightly. Having said that, I believe that many babies prefer to be swaddled and sleep better when they are.
The other issue that underpins the basic question is assisting a baby in learning to sleep. When it comes to sleeping, babies are very trainable. A regular bedtime routine is essential for a good sleeper. This should begin as soon as the child is brought home from the hospital. A bedtime routine might include a bath, a few stories, nursing or a bottle, and then bed. The child should be placed partially awake in order for them to learn to self-soothe.
From the start, he should be in a basinet or crib (never in the parent’s bed). He should be sleeping in a crib in a room other than his parents’ bedroom at some point during the first few months. Most children will sleep an uninterrupted eight to ten hours by the age of two to three months if a consistent bedtime routine is followed and the child is in a crib in his or her own bedroom. The question of swaddling becomes moot if the parents get a good, solid eight hours of sleep every night.