Parents beware, because swaddling your newborn baby could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, experts are warning.
The new research, published in her journal of Pediatrics, shows that putting your baby on its side or stomach while it sleeps ccould be potentially life threatening.
Cuddling or wrapping babies in blankets is often advised to keep newborns warm as they nod off to sleep.
Past research has even indicated this method could reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
But this new study, carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol, contradicts that, raising alarm over the traditional technique.
These conclusions were reached after researchers scrutinised four different studies spanning two decades and covering England, Tasmania in Australia and Chicago, Illinois.
Dr Anna Pease, lead author of the study, said: “The focus of our review was not on studies about swaddling – a traditional practice of wrapping infants to promote calming and sleep – but on studies that looked at sudden infant death syndrome.
“We tried to gather evidence of whether there was an association between swaddling for sleep and SIDS.
“We only found four studies and they were quite different, and none gave a precise definition for swaddling making it difficult to pool the results.
“We did find, however, that the risk of SIDS when placing infants on the side or front for sleep increased when infants were swaddled.”
The risk of SIDS increased in babies who are swaddled on their front or side, the study concluded, despite its limitations.
However, most babies moved into this position as they were sleeping, researchers added.
Dr Pease said: “We found some evidence in this review that as babies grow older, they may be more likely to move into unsafe positions while swaddled during sleep, suggesting an age is needed after which swaddling for sleep should be discouraged.”
Most babies start being able to roll over at about four to six months, she added.
Around 290 deaths in the UK are as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Parents should be educated on swaddling babies, Professor Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said in response to the study.
She said: “Targeted awareness campaigns for vulnerable families that promote safe sleeping habits are one way of delivering this and another is through the school system with compulsory PSHE lessons, instilling positive health behaviours at an early age.”