To swaddle or not to swaddle?

Parents of newborns are being warned about the dangers of swaddling their babies too tightly.

The wrapping method is under fire, with claims from some Australian experts that it could lead to development issues.

But new mum Violet Sygrove, a midwife, swears by swaddling.

She wraps up her 11-week-old son Remy and has taught other parents to do the same.

“It helps him sleep longer at night, [which] is probably the biggest reason,” she says.

“[Swaddling] stops him from throwing his hands up, waking himself up, scratching his face. Just being tight as well makes him feel more safe and secure so he sleeps longer.”

The wrapping technique sees a baby bound in a blanket, often with their arms and legs tucked in.

It’s said to soothe them.
Our midwife explained it to us like this: a baby just spent the last few months all tight inside the mother’s tummy. It really doesn’t know what to do with arms and legs that can just go anywhere. So if you swaddle baby, and they are comfy and warm, they will feel much more secure and happy.

But research out of the Australian Medical Journal is warning it could lead to problems with babies’ hips later in life.

Across the ditch there’s been a rise in cases of developmental dislocation linked to swaddling, when a baby’s legs are wrapped too tightly.

New Zealand’s paediatric society says it all depends on the swaddling technique. The official advice from Plunket is not to swaddle babies at all.

Ah yes. Of course it is. But, as I explained above, it’s more about the arms than it is about the legs. Baby need to be able to kick freely while its arms are nice and snug and secure.

None of this is new.

Ms Sygrove says she’ll continue swaddling Remy, but she makes sure his legs are free.

“You can see with him his legs are still free, it’s only his upper torso that’s swaddled snuggly, and the rest of him is kind of left for him to around and move around as he wants to.”

It’s another idea where we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water (I couldn’t help myself).  Swaddling has been just fine for my children, for me and no doubt for my parents and their parents.

The real message is that you don’t put your baby into a straight jacket, and something that has been happening for generations isn’t suddenly dangerous because some expert says, and I quote “could” cause problems.

It does surprise me that the official Plunket line is not to swaddle. Every midwife I’ve worked with has been a great proponent.


– Newshub


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  • LesleyNZ

    I think swaddle. My daughter and daughter-in-law have swaddled their babies. There are some wonderful “swaddles” that you can buy. Newborn like to be tightly swaddled. They used this sort and then as baby got bigger this one was just great. It gives a bit of freedom but keeps baby warm and snuggly and a happy baby. Wish these swaddle bags/cloths had been around when I had babies 35 years ago. We just used home made rectangular muslin swaddle cloths. if you are stuck about what to give a new mum for a baby shower present – get them these (along with an exchange voucher just in case they receive too many!).

  • kayaker

    It’s interesting how trends wax and wane. My Mum swaddled us baby boomer kids. When we had our first child in ’79, there was not much mention of swaddling, let them feel the freedom. We didn’t swaddle. The big thing then was sheepskin and putting baby to sleep on her tummy (on their backs was a no-no, due to potential choking etc.). She was a great sleeper. Our last child in ’91, no swaddling (personal choice), putting him to sleep on alternate sides (sleeping on tummy was now a no-no, due to potential suffocation). Our daughter’s girls (2011/2013) – sleeping on their backs, swaddling and zippy sleeping bags when older.

  • LesleyNZ

    Just talked to my daughter. Her experience is – it depends upon the baby. Some of her friends babies love to be swaddled – some don’t. Some like to be swaddled tightly – some not so tight. One of her friends still swaddles her 8 month old baby – if the baby is not swaddled it won’t go to sleep. Just shows you that little babies have their own little preferences. They are indeed little human beings with likes and dislikes at an early age and their individual personality is already showing up – with a swaddle.

  • Damon Mudgway

    Pretty sure bubs has just spent 9 months bundled up super tight in-utero. So unless this study also suggests removing baby a couple of months after conception so it can wave its little hands and feet about freely, and maybe take a few minutes on the treadmill and rowing machine…I’m sure you can take this study with a grain of salt.

    • …but …but they found ONE expert!

  • Deja Voodoo

    We swaddled our eldest, otherwise it would be a long, loud bedtime and then would wake herself up. Our midwife recommended it to us with the caveat that you don’t wrap it tightly around her legs, otherwise it might lead to clicky hips.
    Our next one would only sleep on her stomach, which is another big no-no. Being aware of the risks, we bought a sensor for the cot that detects breathing and will sound an alarm if there is any apnoea.
    Every child is different and at three in the morning you’d do anything to get them to sleep. You’d think that the professionals would tell you every possibility, and the risks that come with each one, as well as ways to mitigate the risks. Whereas with the ban and ‘we know best’ attitude people are still going to try everything, but won’t be aware of the risks involved.

  • anniem

    Really it depends on the baby, I trained as a maternity nurse in the sixties and we were taught to swaddle. Can’t remember increased numbers of clicky hips. My children were seventies babies when swaddling had gone out of fashion but I did it anyway as that’s the way I was taught and it worked just fine for them. If it hadn’t I would not have done it. A new mother is a vulnerable being and she needs support and guidance NOT tosh like this from so-called experts reported breathlessly as news.

  • Hard1

    You are, with contradicting views, therefore all right or all wrong, so all wrong and officially out of date, and therefore not PC, which is a crime worse than apostasy.
    This is the new acceptable position from 12 April 2016….

    • Intrigued

      Yup – that pic pretty much depicts what I ended up with – with all 3 of mine. Master 4 still likes to do that to me. Not so cute anymore and now I’m the one with clicky hips, neck and aching ageing joints and bones!

  • Mick Ie

    I love all these current experts: Could, May, Might. When it’s definitive, get back to me will you?