Harvey Karp talks about recent day care swaddling bans in three states


Anderson Crib in American Walnut (Land of Nod)

I took all the usual prenatal classes before my first child was born. The breathing techniques went out the window at the first offer of an epidural, though, and I never did get the hang of suctioning his nose with the bulb. But that lesson in swaddling? Pure gold.

When he was fussy or restless, the simple act of bundling him in one of those hospital-issue receiving blankets was usually enough to calm him down and get him to sleep. And when he was calm and getting rest, that meant I was calm and getting rest, which made for a happier time all around.

So all the recent talk about swaddling, and whether it’s safe for babies, got my attention. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommends that child care providers not swaddle infants over the age of two months, citing an increased risk of SIDS if a baby rolls over and the blanket comes loose. Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania have banned swaddling in child care centers. Others have raised concerns that swaddling may increase a baby’s risk of having hip dysplasia.

The NRC said in an e-mail statement that it doesn’t ban swaddling altogether. Instead, it doesn’t recommend the practice in day care settings.

“We recognize the many benefits of swaddling (when done correctly) by parents/guardians for newborns and young infants in hospital nurseries and in private homes,” the statement said. But caring for a child in a group setting “presents different health and safety concerns when compared to a private home,” they wrote.

Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and the author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep,” thinks the controversy over swaddling is misguided. He said in a recent phone interview that when it is done correctly, swaddling is absolutely safe for babies. In fact, it can lower a baby’s risk of SIDS, he said, because babies who are in a deep sleep are less likely to roll over onto their stomachs. Swaddling, particularly when combined with the use of low-pitched white noise, he said, can promote that kind of deep sleep.

Karp is known for his 5 S’s System for calming babies (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking). He notes that happy, well-rested babies can also reduce parental fatigue. That’s good for everyone.

“We know it increases sleep and reduces crying,” Karp said. “Those are extremely important goals. Exhaustion and persistent crying are the chief triggers for marital conflict, postpartum depression, child abuse, over-treatment with medications, unsafe sleep practices and obesity.”

Do you think swaddling is safe? Why or why not? Tell us about your experience with swaddling in the comments section.

Mari-Jane Williams covers parenting and family issues for Local Living and schools for the Prince William and Loudoun Extras.
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