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Rest Easy: New Study Doesn't Change What We Know About Safe Swaddling


Swaddling - wrapping a baby up very snugly so that only its head is left out - that can be just the thing to calm a fussy baby. But a recent article in the journal Pediatrics explored the connection between swaddling babies and SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, and prompted a lot of horrifying headlines.

Well, rest easy, parents. Joy Victory who is the deputy managing editor at dug through the study and the subsequent headlines, and she found nothing to be alarmed about. She joins us now. Welcome.

JOY VICTORY: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: When you went back to the original study, what did you find?

VICTORY: I found something that was a lot more measured. The researchers' conclusions were not quite so scary and importantly, did not differ from what the American Academy of Pediatrics already tells parents about swaddling and its - a weak association with SIDS.

WERTHEIMER: So what did the study's authors actually conclude?

VICTORY: They concluded that swaddling is weakly linked to a slight increase in SIDS risk. But the news media headlines - some of them - made it sound like this was a cause-and-effect that swaddling causes SIDS. And that's a definitely - a terrifying prospect to think about. The SIDS risk did seem higher for babies who are on - face-down or on their side, which is something we're already, you know, told as parents, to put babies on their backs when we put them in a bed, no other way - not face-down or on their side. And this is especially important if they're swaddled.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think the journal article brought this on itself? Perhaps there was something about it that was easily misunderstood. Maybe the medical math was not as clear as it might've been.

VICTORY: In my opinion, no. I mean, this was a type of study that was - it's called a meta-analysis, which it's looking at the body of studies on a topic. And in this case, this was four studies. And it's a - you know, it's a complicated statistical analysis to try to pull out trends and patterns. And when I read the study myself, and importantly, the conclusions, I felt like this was a very levelheaded study. It took pains to point out important limitations, which was another factor that was missing from a lot of the news coverage - was that that there were some very important limitations that they couldn't tease out from the research.

WERTHEIMER: For example?

VICTORY: Bed-sharing. We know that sharing a bed with your baby, particularly really little babies, is risky when it comes to SIDS. We see the same associations going on here where we think that there's a relationship between SIDS and bed-sharing. They weren't able to factor that out. So if a baby was swaddled and sharing a bed, was it the swaddling, or was it sharing the bed? And they weren't able to figure that out.

WERTHEIMER: Joy Victory is a deputy managing editor at Thank you very much.

VICTORY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.