New Research Suggests Swaddling Could Increase Risk Of SIDS

A new study has revealed swaddling could increase the risk of SIDS [Photo: Rex Features]

Swaddling babies has long been advised by health professionals as a near fool-proof way of soothing babies to sleep. What’s more, past research has suggested the technique, of wrapping a baby tightly in a blanket, could lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But a new study has thrown doubt on that by indicating swaddling could actually increase the risk.

Researchers at the University of Bristol analysed for studies and considered data from 2,519 infants, which included 760 who died of SIDS. Their findings, published in journal Pediatrics, revealed that overall, swaddling appeared to increase the risk of SIDS by around a third.

Past research suggested swaddling could lower the risk [Photo: Rex Features]

But the risks were different depending on the sleep position of the baby. The research found that swaddling roughly doubled the risk for infants who slept on their stomachs or sides, and slightly increased the risk for infants sleeping on their backs. The studies suggest that the majority of those found on their stomachs moved into this position while they were sleeping.

Furthermore, researchers said the risk was higher babies six months and older who were swaddled in their sleep.

Dr Anna Pease, lead author of the study explained. “We found some evidence in this review that as babies grow 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 four to six months.”

Swaddling has long been hailed as a way of soothing babies and getting them to sleep better [Photo: Rex Features]

The findings are sure to alarm any parents who are fans of swaddling as a means of calming their babies, but experts say it is important parents are educated about the subject.

“On a practical level what parents should take away from this is that if they choose to swaddle their babies for sleep, always place them on their back, and think about when to stop swaddling for sleep as their babies get older and more able to move,” explains Dr Pease.

The increased risk can be dependent on the position your baby sleeps in [Photo: Rex Features]

In the UK, just under 300 babies die from SIDS, sometimes referred to as cot death, every year. Though the cause of SIDS are unknown, it is thought to be down to a combination of factors. The NHS offers some advice on things you can do to help prevent SIDS including always placing your baby on their back to sleep in the feet to foot position with their feet touching the end of the cot, not smoking during pregnancy or allowing anyone to smoke in the same room as your baby, and making sure your baby doesn’t get too hot or cold. For more information visit the NHS website or contact your health visitor.

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