How to best swaddle a baby

October 4, 2017 Updated: October 4, 2017

New parents are often taught how to “swaddle” their baby by hospital staff.

It’s a cozy wrapping that allows the child to feel safe and secure—potentially avoiding cranky behavior.

“I would stop swaddling by age 2 months, before the baby intentionally starts to try to roll,” Dr. Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, chair says of the practice. “If babies are swaddled, they should be placed only on their back and monitored so they don’t accidentally roll over.”

Parents should know the risks.

“That is why parents like swaddling – the baby sleeps longer and doesn’t wake up as easily,” Moon said. “But we know that decreased arousal can be a problem and may be one of the main reasons that babies die of SIDS.”

But in one analysis from the University of Bristol, scientists found that swaddling infants when they sleep on their stomachs or sides is linked to an increase in SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“The focus of our review was not on studies about swaddling — a traditional practice of wrapping infants to promote calming and sleep — but on studies that looked at Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” said lead review author Dr. Anna Pease, “We tried to gather evidence of whether there was an association between swaddling for sleep and SIDS.”

“We found some evidence in this review that as babies get older, they may be more likely to move into unsafe positions while swaddled during sleep, suggesting an age is needed after which swaddling for sleep should be discouraged. Most babies start being able to roll over at about 4 to 6 months,” Pease added.

She said that babies should be swaddled on their back.