Bundling babies against the cold could be deadly risk

How to be careful with swaddling, space heaters, climate control and more

When it’s cold outside, it’s a natural instinct to try to keep yourself and your family warm. While adding layers or extra blankets to the bed might ease your mind and provide comfort, they could pose a deadly risk for babies.

“When temperatures dip, caregivers should take precautions against sleep-related infant deaths,” said Erika Janes, R.N., coordinator of Safe Kids Louisville, a program led by Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.

Resist the urge to over-bundle or over-swaddle your baby, add blankets to the crib or keep the nursery extra warm. Studies have shown that these actions can increase the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies need to be able to lose some heat to regulate their system. Over-bundling in a warm room can weaken a baby’s breathing pattern and prevent them from being able to wake themselves up to begin breathing normally.

Make sure baby sleeps safe

Janes said being safe is as easy as ABC: Always put babies to sleep alone, on their backs, in a safe crib.

Safety-approved cribs, playards or portable cribs that are designed for infant sleep are highly recommended. Do not let babies sleep — naps or at night — in a sitting position in car seats, swings, jumpers, etc. Once asleep, remove the child gently and place him or her in a safe sleeping area for a nap or night’s rest. Babies who sleep in products not made for sleep have an increased chance of SIDS, suffocation and other sleep-related causes of death.

Use climate control. A light one-piece bodysuit or sleeper should be fine, with the thermostat set between 68 degrees F and 72 degrees F.

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“If the room is comfortable for you, it’s comfortable for the baby,” Janes said. If you can’t keep the room at 68 degrees, don’t add blankets, which can cover a baby’s face. Use a sleep sack instead; babies can’t become tangled in them and they are made with breathable fabric.

Reconsider using a space heater. Adults can adjust the temperature of a space heater if they’re too hot; babies can’t. In addition to the risk of SIDS and the fire danger that space heaters can pose, dry, flaky skin, nasal dryness, nosebleeds and potential burns are all potential risks with space heater use.

Swaddle safely. If the baby gets sweaty while sleeping, he or she is wearing too many layers. Stop swaddling once the baby is able to work his or her hands out of the swaddle. Janes said that milestone usually happens at about 2 months old. At this age, there’s also a chance that a swaddled infant could roll onto their belly, which could be deadly since the baby would not be able to roll onto the back again.

Be firm. Never place a baby to sleep on a soft surface, such as a pillow, quilt, sheepskin or waterbed. A firm, safety-approved crib mattress covered with a snugly fitted sheet is best. Never have toys, loose blankets or bumper pads in or on the crib.

Eliminate hazards. Look for gaps around the mattress or crib that could trap the baby. Never place a crib near blinds, electric cords or other strangulation hazards. Remove drawstrings on clothing.

Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers this advice: “Share the room, not the bed.” Share your bedroom with the baby for a minimum of six months, ideally for the first year, but never share the bed. Bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS by 40 percent.