Swaddling your baby for the first few months (or weeks) can be comforting to your baby, as the tightness of the swaddle mimics the coziness of the mother's womb. There will come a time that you need to transition your baby from this cozy swaddle. Of course any transition or change can be daunting and scary, but with change comes the good too. Adapting to the change of eliminating the swaddle can be hard for parents and baby, especially when it comes to disrupting sleep, but moving on from the swaddle needs to happen for the safety of your baby, and so that your baby can meet milestones and grow. This blog post was written with the intention to give you insight as to when to you should stop swaddling and how to achieve success with the best approach that matches you parenting style.
When should I stop swaddling?
There isn’t a universal age to transition your little one out of a swaddle; however, the AAP says this transition can occur as early as 8 weeks old, this all depends on when your little one begins showing signs of rolling. For most babies this transition will occur between 3 – 5 months of age, but every baby is different so don’t worry. The reason to stop swaddling is due to safety. Once a baby can roll onto her tummy she needs her hands free to be able to push up from the mattress.
With some babies this transition is easy and other babies it does take some patience. If your baby is not showing any signs of rolling over then there is no reason to stop swaddling just yet.
How do I stop swaddling my baby?
There are many approaches to this transition. I recommend beginning with nights first and once nights are unswaddled then begin tackling each nap starting with nap 1 being unswaddled. However, if you feel that your baby can handle the transition at once with all the sleeps, then go for it. You know your baby best, and his temperament.
Below are a few approaches you can use for this transition:
1. Cold Turkey: you guessed it. This option is just what it says, you stop using the swaddle and possibly deal with some tears in the process the first few nights, but then your baby will get used to it. Make sure your little one is at least 3 months old if using this approach because you want to fully ensure the Moro Reflex has settled. When using this approach, it’s best to do nights and naps at the same time to be consistent.
2. Transitional Swaddle: This is my absolutely favorite approach. There are many transitional swaddles that I love – the first is the Love To Dream™ Transition Bag. You will transition your little one by using this product for at least a week with both arms zippered, then you will unzipper one arm for nights and naps and proceed with unzipping the second arm. This product then turns into a sleep sack that you can use long-term to keep your baby warm since she is far too young to have blankets. The second option, which many of my clients find a lot of success with if their baby is sensitive to the transition, is the Halo Transitional Swaddle. I love this swaddle because on the first night and for naps you can use this swaddle to take both arms out, but still give your little one the security he needs. You can also use this swaddle for many months, so it’s not a wasted investment.
3. Swaddle with one arm out: If you are using a traditional swaddle with arms down you can allow your baby to have one arm out at night and swaddle the other arm snug down to her side. Do this for a few nights (even a week) then pull out the second arm. For naps you will stick to one arm unswaddled until your little one is sleeping with both arms out at night, then you can do the same with naps too.
4. Partial nights: If your baby hasn’t rolled yet this is a great option. With this option you may implement one of the suggestions above, and when she wakes for her first night feed you will swaddle her back up with arms inside the swaddle. Each night you will try to go a bit longer with arms free. Babies coming out of the swaddle too early can definitely cause some major sleep disruptions.
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