Hospital To Discontinue Practice Of Swaddling, But Won’t Send A Nurse Home With You So You Can Actually Sleep

shutterstock_8431645It’s true that not every baby likes to be swaddled, but when they do, the technique is irreplaceable. My colic, anxiety-inducing son hated to be swaddled. He would scream until you unwrapped the blanket when he’d throw up his arms in surrender and finally sleep (sort of). My daughter when swaddled, however, made the baby faced equivalent to me eating a heaping bowl of fudge-swirl ice cream every night. Pure. Heaven.

So when I saw that Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis is trading in those signature white blankets with the pink and blue stripe I nearly lost my cool.  What? How could they do that? According to the Wall Street Journal:

As part of safe-sleep education programs, 1,000 hospitals are receiving free annual allotments of SleepSack-branded wearable blankets based on birth rates from Halo Innovations Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn. Company founder, Bill Schmid, lost a daughter to SIDS in 1991.

SIDS is a very real danger and I cannot fathom the sadness of losing an infant. But neither the article, nor the hospital, makes a case that swaddling increases the risk of SIDS or in any way puts babies at risk.  It sounds like they were just willing to try the free product.

In 2006, Mr. Schmid began offering newborn-size sacks at no charge to hospitals that pay shipping costs. Hospitals can buy replacements at just over cost and at a discount to give or sell to new parents. Halo gives some proceeds to SIDS research and prevention groups such as First Candle, of Bel Air, Md., and it provides hospitals educational materials from First Candle promoting sacks over blankets.

Halo says the groups use its funding at their own discretion and it isn’t aware of specific studies linking wearable blankets to a lower risk of SIDS.

The infant sleep sacks have an open bottom, but mimic a swaddle by securing the baby’s arms to the body with fabric flaps using Velcro.  According to the manufacturer, these features are “meant to make swaddling safer and easier by giving babies a secure feeling and freedom of leg movement without danger of loose fabric around the head.” But it won’t help your baby sleep — and more importantly won’t help new parents get that precious rest they need to keep up with a newborn’s demands.

We tried a version of this with our daughter and it simply didn’t compare. She was able to get out of it much easier than a blanket. This led to us waking up every hour, not to feed or change diapers, but to re-wrap her. We got so dependent on swaddling for a good night’s sleep that we kept her as a little baby burrito for more than four months. And every night that she got loose, she woke screaming. By three months we had that wrap technique down so perfectly because our sleep depended on it.

Like the American Academy of Pediatrics’ I think sleep sack products are great alternatives to blankets.  In fact I’ve still got my four-year-old in one (they make them with feet cut out so they can walk around wearing them) when he doesn’t want to wear full fleece footie pajamas.  They also come in cotton varieties so your kids can have a little coverage during cool spring nights. I’m not hating on sleep sacks, but swaddling a baby is still the best way to soothe and comfort the baby, not to mention give parents a rest.  And nothing that isn’t supported by iron-clad scientific data should ever get in the way of parents getting a decent stretch of sleep when they can.

(photo: Vivid Pixels/Shutterstock)

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  • Anna H

    The Halo sleep sacks were harder for my son to break out of, and if he did there was no loose blankets in the crib to worry about. They can also be swaddled in the sacks for longer because their legs are free to move, eliminating any risk for hip damage that can come with bring too tightly swaddled. Plus, it’s infinitely easier to revelcro at 3 am!

    • Carinn Jade

      Maybe they have changed since I had them, but the Wall Street Journal article interviewed a family who was woken up by a nurse when the baby’s nose and mouth was accidentally covered by the sleep sack. Experiences can vary so much — I’m glad you had a good one. Anything that helps new parents get some rest is good by me, but I’ll keep my old swaddling blankets!

    • Portia P

      Sure, Sleep sacks- as you call them ( I still think of them as swaddlers) can get up over their mouths if incorrectly used, but definitely so can the blankets. I remember when we finally gave up the A&A blankets, she was a master at pulling her hands up and completely covering her face with the blanket.

  • Zazzle21

    I didn’t deliver my son at Abbott, but at another hospital in the Twin Ciites, and all of them use the Halo Sleepsack Swaddler. It’s like a baby straight jacket and different than the sleep sacks for older babies. This is it –

    Contrary to the article’s headline, Abbott is not discontinuing swaddling – but rather using a better, safer product to swaddle than the traditional pink and blue blankets.

  • LiteBrite

    “We got so dependent on swaddling for a good night’s sleep that we kept her as a little baby burrito for more than four months.”

    I got you beat, Carinn. It was pretty close to 18 months before we stopped swaddling our son. I used to joke with friends and family that my son would be 25 and still having me come over and swaddle him.

    For the first three months, DH and I took turns sleeping with our son in the recliner because the kid would not sleep in a bassinet or crib. He could be sound asleep but as soon as his head that mattress, up he was. (You could argue that it was our fault too for not pushing it harder, and you’d probably be right. However, when I look back on it, those cozy nights curled up with him gave us an amazing chance to bond.)

    Swaddling with blankets never worked for us. I used the Kiddopatumus (sp?) swaddler, and it worked like a charm. Finally, when he was three months old, we able to get him in a crib to sleep.

    • Carinn Jade

      That is incredible! I think more than 4 months was really closer to 6 but 18? I’m impressed!! Hey, I’m a proponent of whatever works!

    • LiteBrite

      To be honest, we were just too lazy to switch. Plus, we were scared that once we stopped swaddling him he’d wake up every freaking night, but of course our fears were unfounded.

  • Anonymous mom

    You know what irks me most about this article? The title. Not only does it make it sound like this hospital is being irresponsible by not allowing babies to be swaddled and therefore comforted, but it also makes maternity nurses sound like nothing more than glorified babysitters instead of healthcare professionals.

    • Blooming_Babies

      Yup I agree, the person who writes the article doesn’t get to write the headline.

  • Portia P

    Okay, these swaddle sleep sacks are the same thing as swaddling. Our hospital came around to give them to us too. They worked for us much better than the A & A swaddle blankets did after she became strong enough to break out of even the best blanket swaddle job. I think your article is a bit misleading in the title. They ARE giving parents the tools to effectively swaddle their babies, and aren’t outlawing it or getting away from it. The velcro ones are just a different type.

    • Carinn Jade

      It’s possible they have changed from when I had my daughter 2.5 years ago, but the version we had wasn’t nearly the same as swaddling. Her legs were free and she could get out of them in minutes. In my experience it would have been the same as not swaddling and would have lost us a lot of sleep. It sounds like you had a different experience.

  • jef3r

    I preferred the SwaddleMes in the beginning and then, later on, the sleep sacks. I could never get the blanket tight enough and it’d always come off at night or she’d move around too much while I was trying to get it on her. So much easier to put her in the SwaddleMes. The only problem was the sizing. The flaps on some of those things are freaking HUGE and I couldn’t get them to stay on my baby b/c by the time I pulled them tight enough to pin her arms down the velcro would no longer line up correctly. There were plenty of times, though, that the wings would work their way up and be too close to her face. IMO, equally as much of a danger as the blankets. Honestly, it’s 6 to one half really.

  • Jennifer Klumpp

    Actually, this is a YMMV thing. We tried swaddling and our baby escaped from it Every Single Time. But the sleep sacks with the velcro upper body wrap? Worked like a charm. She would immediately quiet and fall asleep. I just don’t understand why they can’t do both … teach swaddling AND provide a sleep sack.

  • Dr. Harvey Karp

    From the science POV, swaddling is key because it helps reduce crying and parental exhaustion…two of the main triggers for child abuse, unsafe sleep practices, postpartum depression, breastfeeding failure, etc. As Bill S, owner of HALO readily says, no studies show sacks being safer than regular blankets…they can be great….but flaps can get up over face, too (and they cost about double). So the key is to swaddle (til at least 4 months….and to learn how to do it properly).

  • outlaw mama

    If it doesn’t help with the sleep, I don’t want it. Period.

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