Swaddling can help your newborn baby sleep more soundly; however, there will come a time when you must stop swaddling your baby.
Whilst swaddling is safe for newborns, once your baby becomes a little more mobile, it is no longer safe to swaddle them.
So, when should you stop swaddling your baby and how do you transition your little snug-as-a-bug baby out of their swaddle?
In this post, we will discuss:
- When to stop swaddling your baby
- Methods for easy swaddle transition
- How to ensure your baby sleeps well without a swaddle
- What should your baby sleep in once they are un-swaddled?
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby
The simple answer is you must stop swaddling when you notice your little one attempting to roll over. A swaddled baby must sleep on their backs, so the moment they can roll over or even try to roll-over, it is no longer safe for them to be swaddled.
The reason being that your baby could end up on their tummy, and as their arms are swaddled, they will not be able to move back onto their backs, increasing the risk of potential suffocation.
Attempting to roll over can happen anytime from around two months onwards, although most babies try to roll over between 3 or 4 months. Many babies also start to reject being swaddled around this age. Although some babies are happy to continue being swaddled past this. If your baby is not rolling over, then it is still safe to do so.
You may have a little escape artist who manages to break free of their swaddle each night. When this starts to happen, it is also time to stop swaddling or transition to a different swaddle type. You do not want to have loose blankets in the crib, increasing the potential risk of suffocation.
Of course, you may decide to stop swaddling sooner than this (perhaps you don't have excellent swaddling skills – this was me 😊) or maybe you are just tired of trying to open your eyes enough to re-swaddle your baby after feeding and changing in the night. Either way, you can stop sooner as babies do not have to be swaddled, and many babies sleep fine without swaddling.
Methods for Easy Swaddle Transition
You have established it is time to stop swaddling your baby (yippee), but you may be concerned that your little one will not sleep as well.
The good news is that all babies do adjust to sleeping swaddle free. Some babies sleep better once they are un-swaddled as they learn how to self-soothe.
Below are 3 Methods for Swaddle Transition
Method 1: Cold Turkey
It sounds scary, but as I said, many babies sleep completely fine without being swaddled and transition out of a swaddle with no disturbance to their sleep whatsoever.
With the cold turkey method, day one may be challenging; however, the second and third will be much easier. Generally speaking, the last nap of the day can be most challenging. You may consider doing this nap in the car or pram for a few days. Just until your little one is used to being swaddle free.
Method 2: Arms out First
If your baby is very dependent on their swaddle for comfort, then consider starting with the morning nap first for this method and then the following one.
The morning nap is typically the most effortless sleep for your baby to go to sleep. After a couple of days, progress to bedtime, followed by lunchtime nap and finally, the last nap of the day.
If your baby is not too dependent on swaddling, then I would recommend following the steps below for all naps and bedtime at the same time.
- Start by swaddling your baby with just one arm out.
- Once they are used to having one arm out (typically a few days), take the second arm out of the swaddle leaving just the torso swaddled.
- Ensure the swaddle is wrapped securely around your baby’s torso so that it does not come loose.
- After a few more days, remove the swaddle altogether.
Method 3: Legs out First
Babies tend to fare better at having their arms out first as once their legs are free; they tend to be more mobile, kicking their legs up and down on the mattress. This can prevent them from falling asleep.
Legs out first, however, is an option. You could start leaving the bottom of the swaddle free and leave the arms swaddled. After a couple of nights, you can stop swaddling altogether.
How to ensure your baby sleeps well without a swaddle
You may be concerned that your baby will not sleep well once they are un-swaddled, but as I mentioned, many babies sleep better once they are out of their swaddle as they often use their hands to self-soothe.
During this transition, it is essential to maintain your bedtime routine. Your routine will help your baby relax and will send sleep signals to your baby.
If you currently use a swaddle blanket, you may consider transitioning first to a swaddle sleep sack hybrid. These are sleep sacks; however, they are a bit snugger than a traditional sleep sack. They also have openings for the arms that can be closed and opened, typically with press-studs or zips. This way, your baby will still feel snug, but you have the option to leave the armholes open, making the final transition easier.
Check out some of our favourites:
What should your baby sleep in, once they are un-swaddled?
Once your baby is out of the swaddle, you can put them into a sleep sack. Sleepsacks generally come with a TOG (thermal overall grade) rating. The TOG can help you choose the right sleep sack, dependent on the temperature.
Inside the sleep sack, your baby will have an onesie and a vest underneath that if necessary. It is essential to layer but ensure your baby is not too warm.
When choosing a sleep sack, ensure you select the right size so that your baby cannot slip inside the sleep sack.
Check out our post on the Best Sleep Sacks here.
Although many parents dread swaddle transition, it is never as bad as imagined, and babies generally settle after a few days.