What's Wrong With Swaddling?
In Texas, daycares have banned the age-old—and often effective—practice of swaddling babies. Why?
The age-old practice of swaddling has been embraced by modern parents as a way to encourage better sleep habits, and even as an effective technique for calming colic. Many doctors, including Happiest Baby on the Block author and pediatrician, Dr. Harvey Karp, swear by it.
So why are so many daycare centers starting to resist the idea of swaddling?
In Texas, where swaddling is now officially banned in licensed childcare settings, the answer comes down to a matter of safety. As the Huffington Post reports, daycare providers around the country have been quietly moving away from swaddling since 2011, when the National Resource Center on Child Health and Safety issued a report that said swaddling could increase the odds of serious health outcomes when used in a daycare setting, particularly if a baby is wrapped too tightly or placed on his or her stomach to sleep. “In childcare settings,” the report concluded, “swaddling is not necessary or recommended.”
In December 2012, Texas decided to embrace these guidelines by creating a “no swaddling” rule for child care providers. Four months later? As one Texas daycare worker tells the Huffington Post, swaddling is already sorely missed.
“Young babies that were sleeping an hour [or] an hour and a half are now sleeping 20 minutes,” she said. “I have some babies who are not sleeping at all.” But is swaddling the only answer to keeping young babies calm? Miriam Pope, a home daycare provider in Patterson, New Jersey, who has babies as young as eight weeks old in her care, says that any care giver with experience should be able to get by just fine without swaddling. “I don’t swaddle, but I do use white noise, we dim the lights… we rock the babies who need rocking, we put them to sleep on their backs, and we stay on a schedule,” she explains. “These things work.”
And remember, even if you have a daycare provider still willing to swaddle, there’s going to come a day when the burrito wrap becomes too constrictive. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this usually happens between two to four months of age. How do you know your baby no longer needs to be wrapped? At two months, the AAP recommends swaddling your baby with one arm out. If she gets fussier, continue wrapping (with both arms in) for a few more weeks. However, if she still sleeps well with one arm out, she probably doesn’t need swaddling any more. The AAP also notes that most babies are ready to be weaned off swaddling by 3 to 4 months of age, although some babies continue to need the wrapping to help them sleep up to 9 months of age.
Worried that your swaddle-loving baby will be forced to go cold turkey when it’s time for daycare? Pope says not to worry. “Parents of very young babies looking for a care giver will say to me, ‘but he’s been swaddled every day of his life! He won’t sleep without swaddling!’ I let parents know that babies, even very young ones, usually adjust very quickly to the routines of daycare, and that includes sleep routines,” she explains.
But Pope also notes that just because daycare are no longer swaddling babies, doesn’t mean parents have to give up the practice. “I tell parents, keep swaddling at home if you want and that will be something special to your baby that means home.”
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