Wondering when you should stop swaddling your little one? Find out when you can transition young babies out of their swaddle and how to make the transition easy.
I loved wrapping Evelyn into a baby burrito each night by swaddling her.
Up until she was 10 weeks old or so, we swaddled her at bedtime and for most of her naps. It was an effective way to soothe her while keeping her startle reflex from waking her up. She always seemed to enjoy the sense of security in being swaddled and never fought it.
Swaddling provides a cozy, womb-like environment that can help babies feel safe and warm. Swaddling can calm fussy babies, keep the startle reflex from waking them, and help babies to sleep better.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of swaddling in this post.
When to Stop Swaddling
As soon as babies start rolling over in their sleep from their back to their front, it’s the right time to stop swaddling them. Even if they start to show signs that they might roll over soon, you should start to transition them out of the swaddle.
It’s not safe to have a swaddled baby roll over and can be a risk factor for SIDS.
The reason for this is that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome increases if a swaddled baby rolls to their side, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The AAP doesn’t give an exact time of when to stop swaddling your baby, more of a general recommendation based on each baby’s development. And we know that each baby develops at different speeds!
This can be around 2 months all the way up to 5 months of age for older babies, depending on your baby’s development. Here are some signs that your baby is ready to stop being swaddled:
- They can get one or both arms out of the swaddle
- They can get out of their swaddle completely
- Baby starts rolling over from back to front
How to Transition Out of The Swaddle
Like many new parents, I remember dreading having to transition out of the swaddle for the first time. We were finally in a good sleeping routine and starting to get longer stretches of night sleep. I didn’t want to disrupt my baby’s sleep, but I knew following safe sleep guidelines while she slept was the utmost importance.
The transition went much better than I thought it would. If you’re getting ready to transition your baby out of the swaddle or swaddle blanket, the good news is that you can do it following these simple steps. Any disruptions to your baby’s sleep will be temporary!
If your baby is starting to roll over, it might be time to transition them out of the swaddle. There are a few different methods you can use to transition them.
There’s the cold turkey approach, or the gradual approach. See below for how to do each one and decide the best way to stop swaddling for your family.
Stop Swaddling Cold Turkey
This is the method we used with Evelyn and it went surprisingly well! The main reason we stopped swaddling, was because around the time she was 10 weeks old, she could get herself completely out of her swaddle by shimmying out. (She’s a baby Houdini—see the photo above!)
For three days in a row, when I went to get her in the morning, the swaddle was crumpled at the bottom of her feet. You don’t want any loose objects in baby’s crib, so I knew it was time to transition her.
We started with nighttime sleep and followed her same bedtime routine that night. When it was time to fall asleep instead of swaddling her, we used a regular sleep sack.
A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that covers baby’s legs, baby’s chest, and stomach and is a safe way to keep your baby warm at night, so there aren’t any loose blankets in the crib.
It also gives your baby plenty of room to move their legs freely inside the sleeping bag!
She went down well that night and slept about the same amount of time that she had been. She seemed to love having her arms free and slept with them spread open!
I’m not sure if she was just ready to drop the swaddle, or was just an easy baby, but this method worked for us, making it a smooth transition!
If your baby has trouble sleeping those first few nights without the swaddle, you could help them by doing the Shush Pat.
Stop Swaddling Mid Night
This is a gradual transition and the method my friend used for transitioning her baby into the crib and it takes a more gradual approach.
If your baby isn’t rolling yet, but you suspect the time is getting close, you can put them to bed swaddled. When they wake up in the middle of the night to eat, you can move them out of the swaddle and into a sleep sack, feed them, and then put them back down. They’ll wake up without a swaddle, getting them used to it slowly.
Try this for a few days until they seem ready to go to bed without a swaddle completely.
Swaddle with One Arm Out
This is a great way to transition and takes a couple of days.
With this method, you swaddle your baby like you normally would, but leave one of baby’s arms out. This lets them slowly adjust.
You can swaddle them like this for a few days, then add the other arm out, so just their body is swaddled. Eventually you will stop swaddling them during nap time as well. The Love to Dream swaddle makes transitioning this way super simple! You can unzip the arm part off of their swaddle so baby’s hands are free.
This is also the way I have my clients stop swaddling when they are transitioning out of the SNOO.
Switch to A Swaddle Alternative
The Zipadee-Zip is sort of a transitional swaddle alternative that allows your baby to move around while still having that snug feeling. It helps with the Moro reflex, and is safe for babies to roll in. This is a great option if you’re having trouble figuring out how to get baby to sleep without the swaddle.
I did not know about these when Evelyn was a baby but I will check them out for baby number 2! Bonus for these is that your baby will look like a little starfish! Such a great alternative for swaddled babies!
Other Tips to Help Drop the Swaddle
Avoid common sleep mistakes and follow these tips, which eases the transition out of the swaddle.
- Make sure you have an optimum sleep environment set up including using white noise machines and nursery blackout curtains.
- If you haven’t already, you can introduce a transitional item such as a pacifier at this point to help your baby self soothe. Your baby may have also found their thumb by now, and can soothe that way—a huge benefit of thumb sucking!
- Keep a regular sleep schedule to prevent an overtired baby. Pay attention to those wake times!
- I don’t recommend making the transition from a swaddle to a swaddle transition sleep suit, like the Baby Merlin magic sleepsuit. This is just another sleep item that you’ll eventually have to wean your baby out of and is not safe once your baby can roll!
If your baby has a hard time transitioning out of the swaddle, just remember that it’s temporary. They’ll get used to this new way of sleeping within a couple of weeks. Stick with your same sleep schedule and routine and know that it will get better!
If your baby is 16 weeks old, you can help them learn to self-soothe by using a sleep training method or soothing technique. Be sure to grab our e-Book if you need more help with the process of getting your little one to sleep!
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