Swaddling may cause SIDS

Katherine - posted on 12/26/2010 ( 41 moms have responded )

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The art of swaddling is something many the father brags about being an expert in, and hospitals often take a newborn, wipe them off, swaddle them tightly and hand them back to mom within the first ten minutes after birth.

We've heard it makes babies sleep longer or better, prevents them from waking themselves up when they startle, and overall, helps babies be more secure.

Right?

But the problem is, it has negative health impacts, and even increases the risk of SIDS.

Skin-on-skin contact, a.k.a. Kangaroo Care, is incredibly important to newborns. It can literally make the difference between life and death, as mom's body is designed to hold a newborn to warm them (no need for machines when mom is better, unless there's a medical reason mom can't hold baby right away). When on mom's chest, especially skin-to-skin, baby's breathing begins to mimic mom's respiration and even the heart rate levels out.

Breastfeeding in the first hour, but as soon as possible even in that hour, is optimal for baby's initial health, since after about an hour or two, baby goes into a deep "recovery" sleep, and then will wake up ravenous, which can make the first feeding incredibly difficult. When baby is swaddled, their senses are dulled and they can't use their hands to help them locate the breast and nipple. Yes, you can raise baby to your breast, but when they are allowed to be an active participant and get comfortable and naturally curl their arms around the breast or even knead it with their tiny hands to encourage letdown and flow, it goes more smoothly.

Swaddling during those hospital days can make can make a huge difference in the baby's health and the success of initial breastfeeding and weight gain.

Swaddled babies separated during their first two hours lost more weight.

Swaddled babies kept in the nursery were colder and consumed less milk.

Swaddled babies in the nursery lost more weight despite consuming more formula. Possible reasons for this that the researchers suggested include:

* Severely limiting baby’s movements is stressful, which burns more calories.
* Swaddled babies receive less touch, which can compromise growth in preterm babies.

Pretty major impact, isn't it?

Swaddling, especially the tight swaddles dads pride themselves on, have even been showing evidence of being a significant factor in hip dysplasia. The AAP even recommends that pediatricians who find out their patients swaddle do Ortolani and Barlow examinations to test for a hip click, and that if it's present, they should advise their patients to stop swaddling immediately. The reason some more primitive cultures don't have this issue with their 24/7 swaddled babies is they're wrapped in the frog position, with the legs folded up almost cross-legged, like they are in the womb.

Now, I know a lot of people swear their baby needs to be swaddled to sleep well, and that they sleep better that way and don't wake themselves up as often, but unfortunately, contrary to our country's belief that the most important thing in a baby is making them sleep well, too deep or secure of sleep is actually a bad thing -- it can make babies sleep through feedings they need, causing breastfeeding supply issues, poor weight gain and even delay the drop of bilirubin levels. It even increases the risk of SIDS by TWELVE TIMES. I'll tell you, that was not something I knew or even expected as I pulled up resources for this article. Why are we not told this?!

After everything I've read about swaddling, it seems the only benefit is less interrupted sleep for baby ... at risk of breastfeeding failure, hip problems, weight gain problems, and even death. So pardon me, but I'm never going to swaddle a baby ever again.

Did you know any of this? Do you swaddle your babies?

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Mary - posted on 12/27/2010

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Ok, to start, the OP is merely one authors opinions based on her perusal of some of the literature related to swaddling. The AAP has not taken a stance against swaddling, nor has it issued any kind of statement that swaddling in and of itself is a causative factor in SIDS. Perhaps the misconception stems from the fact that INcorrect swaddling can increase the risk for SIDS; swaddles that are too loose can cover a baby's face and obstruct the airway, and swaddling once an infant can roll over can cause the blanket to become loose as well.

Now, I'm not saying all babies should be swaddled all the time. I do believe that ALL babies should get as much skin-to-skin contact as is possible, especially in the first few weeks. However, this doesn't mean I think a newborn should never be swaddled. My guess is that a happy medium exists; as some of you have already pointed out, this is true of many things in parenting.

Dana - posted on 12/27/2010

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As far as everyone saying that they're always coming out and saying this causes SIDS or that causes SIDS and everything causes SIDS. It's just simply not true. The root of the issue is still the same, if your child is swaddled, either the blanket can become loose and cover their face or they can fall into too deep of a sleep and stop breathing, these are the two issues at the root of SIDS, there are just different routes that can take you there.

Becky - posted on 12/27/2010

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Yeah, Amie, my boys both had their hips checked at every appointment up to a year too. One nurse or dr. even showed me how to check Zach's hips myself.
With most things in parenting, it seems there are two sides - some will tell you it's safer to cosleep, others say the safest place is in their own bed, for example. Some say let them cry it out, others say never let them cry. Now it's to swaddle or not. While you don't want your baby to sleep so deeply that he doesn't wake when he really needs to feed or stops breathing, you also want them to sleep, because insufficient sleep isn't healthy either. So if a baby will only sleep swaddled, then I think, done carefully, it's worth the risk. I think there are very few, if any, parenting decisions that are entirely without risk. Our job is to weigh the risks and benefits, make the best decisions for our children, and minimize the risks as much as possible.

Katherine - posted on 12/26/2010

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This was an actual study done by The Journal of Pediatrics. I understand you may be a little dubious, but how can you refute a study? It's not like one infant died and they decided that swaddling wasn't good, they actually did a STUDY.

Tara - posted on 12/27/2010

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@Rebecca I never suggested you starting eating bugs out of your kids hair. I said that there are a lot of thins we as humans do thinking it is "better" for our children, when it reality it isn't better for them so much as it makes our lives easier or more convenient and is seen as either better for the baby, or is seemingly irrelevant to the overall health of the baby so must be okay..



for example, scheduled c-sections, scheduled feedings, sleep training too early, feeding solids too early, using infant swings, vibrating chairs, moving cars, crib shakers and electronic lullabyes more than holding and cuddling your baby.



I personally believe that if our infants could speak our language, and they were asked this:



"Would you prefer I hold you close to my body where you can hear my heart beat and the sound of my voice, and where you can smell your food source and have access to it whenever you choose to eat, and would you prefer to sleep beside me where you can hear my breathing and smell my body and be able to nurse as you need to?"



"Or would you rather we place you in a chair that plays electronic Mozart and vibrates your body in a way you've never experienced? Would you prefer to have to wake fully and vocalize your distress in order to be fed? Would you prefer that when you sleep, you do so in your own room, down the hall, being kept company by stuffed toys and the sound of noises you do not know? And wake up colder than you want to be and hungrier than you want to be?"



I think being as smart as we are as a species we really should re-evaluate how we raise our young and how SIDS is on the rise in light of awareness campaigns, but please, look at the stats in countries where babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding on demand etc etc. is the norm and what their SIDS rates are.



I spent over a year reading through peer reviewed medical and psychological papers on the issues of early infant development.



I also read a lot of the research from the other side of the fence, and honestly its not that convincing. What I know about biology and the human species is enough to convince me that we're (again western blah blah) going the wrong way about reducing SIDS.

And about a whole lot of other issues,.....but of most of you know that about me. :)





edited once to add paragraphs and remove something that could have been taken as derogatory in nature and again to add that I edited. lol

holy shit too much on the brain, edited a third time because I finally got to read it all over and saw all the typos etc. and if you know me, I just couldn't let it go, cause that's how I roll......

That is all. I am off to clean house my girls are at their dads for the week and I want to catch up on all kinds of stuff!!

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41 Comments

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Amie - posted on 07/13/2011

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*** Mod Alert ***

I'm going to lock this thread since it's 7 months old. If someone wants to debates this issue again, feel free to start a new thread.

Amie
~DM mod

Chasity - posted on 07/13/2011

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yea when I was in the hospital with my son I took him out of the swaddle and held him to my chest with a sheet over both of us and a nurse came in and said " Oh no he needs to be swaddled" and the tried to take him, I was like um he is just fine THANK YOU!!! Also co sleeping has a bad rep but if you read the benefits of it you will be suprised of all the lies out there! I breastfeed, co sleep and wear my son.

September - posted on 12/27/2010

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We swaddled our son but I also had skin to skin almost the entire time we spent at the hospital and I breastfed within the first hour of giving birth. I spent many nights within the first 4 weeks holding and nursing him almost the entire night so we did not swaddle a lot only when he was in his bassinette. The swaddling completely ended around 6 weeks of age because he grew to hate it! :) There are no negative effects from swaddling our son, so I'm not worried.

[deleted account]

I was taught to swaddle with there legs up like in the fetal position, hips are checked at every checkup, and I never swaddled much because my kids hated it unless I kept their arms loose. But I was also given my babies right away to have them latch on, before they even got cleaned off, and then they did there thing and gave my babies back to feed. I was also encouraged to keep them skin to skin as much as possible for the first few days. I was also told to never swaddle my babies tight but never cover them with a loose blanket. After about 4 months my kids got a crocheted blanket if any until about a year old.

This isn't a brand new thing because when my oldest was born my doc told me that there was a possible risk and taught me a different method then the standard swaddling technique. No baby NEEDS to be swaddled to sleep thats just what they are used to.

Sherri - posted on 12/27/2010

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Yes they check their hips as infants at every pediatricians appt. as an infant they checked hips etc.

Dana I never swaddled but I always covered them with blankets anyways. My youngest wouldn't sleep unless he covered his face with his blanket. Actually at four he still does this to go to sleep. He pulls blankie over his head and face and goes to sleep. I used to hate it but he would not sleep unless it was done so eventually we just stopped moving it.

Shauna - posted on 12/27/2010

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I didnt swaddle my child, simply b/c he didnt like it, he slept better in a sleep sack. However at a previous child care center i worked at, every infant was swaddled VERY tightly, to help them fall asleep at the "appropriate nap times" .... i disagree on this. hence, i dont work there anymore.

Mrs. - posted on 12/27/2010

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Yeah, I not sure how if you believe swaddling is an effective tool that you exclude things like skin to skin contact? Can't you do both? I know I did.

@Tara, I get it you're really into infant development research and you have a strong stance on what is effective and what is not. I assume that you are an intelligent woman who uses the resources at hand to come to your conclusions based on those resources and life experience. Please, assume the same of those who disagree based on the same reasons, not assuming none of us has done research, reading or consulted our own professionals and came to different conclusions. The bug thing was a joke as the winky smiley face at the end was meant to express.

I think in general I buck against anything that is too one sided, to me it has an agenda that is not inclusive of using various sources and ideas to skin that pig. I just feel if we swallowed everything every study presented, as a parent, we would be running around like chickens with our heads cut off (sorry about all the animal references). I've had to deal with this while become my own advocate in my own 2 decade long battle with chronic heath issues. If I had gone immediately into what one study said on some of my health issues, I'd probably have a nerve block implanted in my spine....that God I never allowed that to happen. It's an extremely example but I believe when dealing with studies, health and doctor's advice...I take it at a distance, use my own first hand experience, talk to other patients/mothers and really listen to my own body/my baby's needs...if it still jives, I might buy it. If it doesn't I won't, regardless of who published it.

Katherine - posted on 12/27/2010

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I must admit I looked it up in the AAP and there WAS nothing about swaddling HOWEVER there have been studies done. I did find those.

April - posted on 12/27/2010

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Thanks for posting! I agree. My son HATED to be swaddled. People would say, "Oh, you're just not doing it right." No...he hated all kinds of swaddling! He always found a way to wriggle his little body free. I stopped swaddling him before he was even a month old. I won't be swaddling my next baby...it won't be necessary. We'll be bedsharing. Sleeping with mother has actually been shown to decrease SIDS.

Caitlin - posted on 12/27/2010

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Crazy.. everything causes cancer, everything causes SIDS.. how about just making informed decisions.. I loved holding my daughters right away skin on skin, but according to the nurse that came to our house for the 3 day check said that having the baby sleep skin on skin was putting her at risk of sids.. HA! seriously, I take most of these things with a grain of salt. I'm not paranoid, I do what works for my kids as long as I dont' feel it is dangerous.

Mrs. - posted on 12/27/2010

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How can you refute a study? Studies are like buses one comes along every half hour. As I said before, there is a lot of literature that says the opposite, not to mention doctors, midwifes, public health nurses.

And sorry I'm not gonna start eating bugs out of my kids hair..;).

Laura - posted on 12/27/2010

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Neither of my boys would have anything to do with swaddling so it was never an issue for us. But I do agree that this "everything causes SIDS" thing is getting silly. They change how a baby is supposed to sleep (stomach/back) like every 10 years pretty soon we're just going to have to put our kids in plastic bubbles until age 5, oh wait they could suffocate in plastic, scratch that :)

Tara - posted on 12/27/2010

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I've known for a long time that swaddling isn't all it's cracked up to be.
I taught babywearing for a long time in addition to designing my own line of slings and selling them. And when an infant is held close to a warm body (not just moms body) they are essentially in a transitional womb. The benefits are many, in addition to an increase in oxygen levels, a regular heart rate, regular breathing patterns and a decrease is post birth weight loss etc. wearing your baby close to your body prevents positional plagiocephaly as well as Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis in infants and children. This is because when a baby is carried in a sling style carrier, they are positioned frog like, and this is a natural way for an infant to be. When they are swaddled, their movements are restricted leading to the unnatural development of several skeletal structures.
It also prevents an infant from developing their own gross motor skills at the appropriate time.
I honestly think people need to just look to the monkeys, look to the other mammals on the planet. Along the way as we evolved to be more "civilized" I think we also forgot how to instinctively raise our young, we as a society have been trying to improve on our style of rearing our offspring in the early stages of infancy and in doing so, we have only served to distance ourselves from what is natural.
If only the monkeys could talk.... what would they say to us about how we nurture our new babies?

[deleted account]

@Amie, They do the hips check here in Australia at every major check.

My son now goes to bed wrapped but pretty much as soon as he is put down the arms come up and he is out of it but i think it's a signal for him that it's sleep time.

[deleted account]

This is all new to me. I have swaddled all of my babies. My almost 6 month old is still swaddled to sleep when it's cool enough. I have always fed them unwrapped and when they were content they would then be swaddled and put down in bed. When left un wrapeed my son will not sleep well.
I will continue to swaddle as it has had no ill effects on my children and their development.

Sarah - posted on 12/27/2010

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I swaddled both of my girls (the eldest one wasn't until quite a while after she was born because I didn't find about it until then!)

I only ever swaddled them for bed time. I can see how if a child was swaddled the majority of the time, some of things in the article could occur, but I think if your sensible, swaddling is a wonderful thing!!

Amie - posted on 12/27/2010

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Is checking the hips not a normal part of care in the states? Or other areas, other than where I am?



All 4 of my children were always checked right up until they were a year old, I believe it was. I remember the public health nurse always taking their diapers off and checking their hips. It looked so uncomfortable but they all were fine.



I swaddled them all. Never when we went to bed, we co-slept/bed-shared with all of them. When they were napping and not sleeping next to me, the swaddling helped them to nap. They still wiggled out eventually but it helped.



According to a lot of studies the things I've done with my children will or should have caused them harm. They're all perfectly fine. It is why I take everything in stride and take calculated risks like Sara H mentioned.



I'm sure there are people out there who misuse swaddling too. After all, a calm swaddled baby, who can resist? Let's keep him/her swaddled as much as possible. I was never one to use it without them napping, it's what I was taught to use it for. So it's what I used it for. Feedings, bed time, wake time, I never swaddled them during those times.



I remember in the hospital too, having each of my girls laid on me. My son was taken away quickly because they noticed an anomaly, his extra thumb, but he checked out fine and was given back to me about 5-10 minutes later to lay on my chest.

Jodi - posted on 12/26/2010

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I can't say any of it surprises me. My daughter was almost never swaddled, in the hospital the nurses always yelled at me for unswaddling their nice job to have skin to skin while breastfeeding. After we got home I only swaddled her at night time when it helped to calm teh colic. (read calm, it did NOT make her sleep, just made the crying less.) Not sure how I'll do it with twins as I love kangaroo care, but we'll see.

[deleted account]

I had planned on swaddling...even registered and received those koala blankets for swaddling. It just seemed the thing to do for babies. But Eliza had other plans. As young as a day old, as soon as she was swaddled, she would begin to fight and fight and fight until she was FREE! Little booger was and is persistent.

I have no real opinion on this study. It's like all other parenting decisions really...there's a calculated risk with everything it seems.

Becky - posted on 12/26/2010

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I didn't know that it increased the risk of SIDs or hip dysplasia.
Our hospital encouraged skin to skin and breastfeeding within the first hour. They swaddled when the babies were in the bassinettes - which mine rarely were because they hated them - but when they were with me, they were unswaddled and generally skin to skin. Neither of them really liked being swaddled, so once we got home from the hospital, we stopped pretty quickly. I was never any good at it anyway - they could always get out. We used the sleep sacks instead when I was worried about them getting cold. Both of them slept with us for the first few months too, and I was worried that if I swaddled, they would overheat.

Sherri - posted on 12/26/2010

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I am just not going to worry about every single new thing that comes down the pipes. Everything now causes cancer, Everything now causes SIDS GAH!! Think they need to start teaching the hospitals that first if it is such a concern.

Joanna - posted on 12/26/2010

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I swaddled my first until 7 months. She wouldn't sleep longer than 20-30 minutes unswaddled. I am swaddling my 9 week old, trying to wean her from it, but it seems to help calm her, so I may wait until the colic passes. She never sleeps longer than 3 hours though, so no missed feedings, and the times we do cosleep, she isn't swaddled ( we only cosleep when I'm nursing in my sleep, and she's got to wrap her arms round the boobie).

Mrs. - posted on 12/26/2010

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Please, I second the everything causes SIDS these days. This is a practice that goes back to the beginning of time. I've read books written by doctors that are very pro swaddling.

If I didn't swaddle my baby she wouldn't have slept. The minute we wrapped that babe up she'd pass out into a peaceful slumber.

I remember discussing it in my baby class and most of the women had gotten scared off...though some did it. One afternoon my daughter was due a nap and was fussing like crazy. We were all talking and while I was talking about something else, I routinely took her and wrapped her up like normal and stuck a paci in her mouth. She did what she always used to do, passed out and stopped whinging. Everyone stopped talking and just stared. A couple of them asked me how to do it again. Two of the women who hadn't slept for months emailed me and told me they had given it a try on theirs and found to was a miracle for getting them down.

Now I know it doesn't work on all babies but I would never ditch it as a method on some sketchy "new" info about it "maybe" causing SIDS.

Meghan - posted on 12/26/2010

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I never really put any thought into it. They told me to do it in the hospital to keep him warm but with in a few minutes he was out of it. To this day he still hates have blankets on him.

Sherri - posted on 12/26/2010

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Heck everything now a days supposedly causes SIDS. #1 I didn't swaddle after we got home from the hospital actually don't know anyone that did. Yes I breastfed each for a little while but always held their hands they scratch. Also never slept with my children, never kangarooed my children. Just not something I am comfortable with and certainly wasn't for us. I would lay them in their cribs cover them up and go to them when they woke for a feeding, change diaper back in jammies or clothes and done. I also only breastfed for an average of 8wks. I was a full time mom and I worked full time. So bottle after 8wks worked best for us, once I went back to work. I just couldn't breastfeed any longer.

C. - posted on 12/26/2010

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Didn't know, but it makes sense. My son hated to be swaddled. Always wanted to be held on my chest with the blanket on top. Well, never planned on using the swaddling method with my next babies anyway, but this just cements my feelings about it.

Lady Heather - posted on 12/26/2010

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I got to feed and kangaroo care right off the bat (my midwife was big on that), but it didn't do me any good. Kid didn't want to feed and likes to sleep on her own, even to this day. Weirdo. It's still a really nice thing to do just after birth. It was hours before anyone took her and put her in a blanket. We just had some nice cuddle time. It wasn't like on the tv where they immediately wrap the kid up.

Stifler's - posted on 12/26/2010

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I think swaddling lasted about 2 days, until we got home from hospital. They didn't let me breastfeed within the hour either though. I think it was ages before I actually tried to do a feed.

Minnie - posted on 12/26/2010

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We don't swaddle. We bedshare and swaddling and bedsharing are a no-no. A baby tightly wrapped stays in a deeper sleep and isn't as likely to follow the breathing/sleeping rhythms of the mother. It also can put the baby at risk- no ability to startle and move away.

Neither of my girls could stand being swaddled anyways.

Sharon - posted on 12/26/2010

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None of my babies were bad off. It just sounds like a lovely & sweet way to start off life.

Well my first born went straight to nicu that was preventative.

Dana - posted on 12/26/2010

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I did kangaroo care with Ethan, it was lovely. The hospital didn't ask me or say anything about it, I just asked if I could since he was a preemie and I'd heard so much about it. They were like "Oh yeah...you can do that" -and it is a very reputable hospital. *sigh*

Sharon - posted on 12/26/2010

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I do wish Kangaroo care had been advocated when my babies were small. It just sounds LOVELY.

Katherine - posted on 12/26/2010

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I swaddled too. I didn't do it too tightly, but I was told to. It's amazing how things change in just months.

Sharon - posted on 12/26/2010

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I swaddled all three and none ever lost any weight.

I never swaddled them "tightly" though.

Kate CP - posted on 12/26/2010

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I did when my daughter was born but never that often or that tight. She liked having her arms out when she was swaddled. I never had issues with nursing or any other issues stated above.

It just goes to show that what's being stated as "good" today will be totally abhorrent tomorrow. :/

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