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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Risks Go Higher With 'Swaddling'

Update Date: May 11, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

Encasing infants tightly with a blanket or cloth might play a great risk for the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome, a new research has indicated. Babies who are swaddled and placed on their stomachs or sides may have an increased risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome, according to USA Today.

Researchers found that babies who were swaddled, or wrapped tightly in a blanket or cloth, were twice as likely to die from SIDS, if they were laid on their stomachs or sides, according to the report, published in the journal Pediatrics.  The likelihood of SIDS was low for those placed on their backs.

Anna Pease who spearheaded the study the University of Bristol in England did not prohibit swaddling but indicated that the act could be dangerous for older children who can alternate from lying on their backs then into a prone position.

"On a practical level what parents should take away from this is that if they choose to swaddle their babies for sleep, always place them on their back, and think about when to stop swaddling for sleep as their babies get older and abler to move," Pease said.

The study, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, analyzes a total of 760 global SIDS cases compared with 1,759 control babies. Its findings, which come from analyzing four studies of SIDS deaths in the 1980s and 1990s, reinforce the guidance that babies should be put to sleep on their backs. But they also raise a question about the safety of swaddling infants-even those placed on their backs when they're put to sleep. (SIDS rates have declined sharply in recent years, a reversal health officials attribute to the success of the "back to sleep" campaign that instructs caregivers to put infants to sleep on their backs.)

An infant that is unable to flip from his or her back to their side or stomach can safely be swaddled, according to Chris Colby, division chair of neonatology at Mayo Clinic, who is not associated with the study.  He notes that swaddling is used to mirror the constricted nature of the womb and promotes the baby falling asleep more quickly.

"The concern is that as babies get older - even tho swaddled -- they could wiggle around and end up in a prone position, face down, looking at the mattress," Colby said. "You have to be mindful as your baby gets older, and assess if swaddling your baby tight at 2-3 months if still a safe practice."

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