Millions of babies are wrapped, so if swaddling causes SIDS, you’d expect hundreds of swaddle-related infant sleep deaths each year. But a study from 2004 to 2012 found fewer than 2 sleep deaths per year among swaddled babies. And most victims were stomach sleeping or had unsafe, bulky bedding. The authors noted that “reports of sudden unexpected death in swaddled infants are very rare.”
This extremely low SIDS rate suggests that wrapping may actually prevent SIDS and suffocation. Australian doctors also found that swaddled babies (sleeping on the back) were 1/3 less likely to die from SIDS, and a New Zealand study found a similar benefit.
Another recent 8-year study reported on deaths related to sofa sleeping. Babies were brought to the sofa because of crying or for a feeding…and then the mom or dad fell asleep. Most of these 1,024 fatalities were in babies under 3 months old. I believe that many of these parents would not have fallen asleep in that dangerous location had they used swaddling to keep their babies sleeping longer.
Here are 4 final strands of evidence that point to wrapping as a way to prevent SIDS and suffocation:
1. Swaddling Reduces Rolling
Swaddling makes it hard for babies to flip over. That’s important because SIDS risk jumps 8-45x for babies who routinely back sleep, but accidently roll! (FYI, SNOO smart sleeper, with its unique clip-in swaddle, is the only baby bed that prevents infants from rolling to the risky stomach position.)
2. Swaddling Reduces Unsafe Sleeping
By reducing crying, swaddling lessens a parent’s temptation to put her baby to sleep on the stomach. It also may reduce her temptation to bring the baby into her bed.
3. Swaddling Reduces Cigarette Smoking
Infant crying can push a mom to restart smoking, which raises the SIDS risk.
4. Swaddling Boosts Breastfeeding
Nursing reduces SIDS risk by up to 50%. Swaddling boosts nursing by reducing the crying and exhaustion that leads some women to abandon nursing (because of depression or doubts about the adequacy of their milk.)