If you've taken Will I Ever Sleep Again? you know that newborns long for the womb those first few months after birth. They love the security of feeling snug while sleeping, and this is exactly what swaddling offers.* However, as the saying goes “all good things must come to an end,” and this is the case with swaddling. Let's talk about transitioning out of the swaddle.
*If your little one hates to be swaddled, this class addresses that too. You can learn more about why I recommend swaddling, even for swaddle haters.
When do I stop swaddling?
There isn’t a universal baby age for coming out of the swaddle; instead, you’ll want to stop swaddling when it’s developmentally appropriate for your baby. We stop swaddling when your little one rolls from back to tummy, or you suspect he is about to start rolling from back to tummy.***
For most babies, this happens between 3-5 months of age (However, every baby is different; there is no reason to worry if your baby is a little ahead or behind this range.). The reason to stop swaddling at this point is safety. Once a baby can flip onto his tummy, he needs his hands free to push up from the mattress.
Again remember, every baby is different. This transition really does require patience, and then for some babies, this transition is quite easy. With that in mind, don’t rush out of the swaddle; if your baby is not showing signs of rolling over, there is no reason to stop swaddling yet.***
I recommend transitioning out of the swaddle into a sleep sack.
Four options to conquer this transition:
1) Cold turkey
Just move her into a sleep sack with arms free. For some, this truly is the most effective option.
2) Swaddle with one arm out
This works great with a swaddle like The Ollie Swaddle (Use code takingcarababies for 10% off.). Swaddle snuggly like you have been doing but leave one arm out. This gives your baby a chance to adjust slowly, but she will still be safe if she rolls onto her tummy. Do this for 1-4 weeks; then, when your baby is adjusting well with one arm unrestrained, allow both arms free and transition to a sleep sack. Follow your baby's lead on the exact timing.
3) Partial night
If your baby hasn't yet rolled, the “partial night” option may be best. With this technique, you may implement one of the above suggestions. When he awakens, swaddle him back up with arms inside the swaddle. Each night try to go a bit longer with arms free. Babies coming out of the swaddle too early can cause major sleep disruptions. When your baby is able to sleep through the night with both arms out, transition to a sleep sack.
4) Implement a transitional item to help with this transition
One fabulous transitional item is the Swaddle Sleeves (Use code CARA10 for 10% off.). The sleeves help muffle the startle reflex in the arms while still allowing the baby to move around and get into a comfortable position. Some parents also love Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. This 3-layered suit provides babies with the comfort they need by helping to muffle their twitches and startle movements that can wake them prematurely. ( Code CARA15 can save you 15%.)
When your baby is ready, you can transition into a traditional sleep sack.
Want to see this in action?
Have a baby older than 5 months and still struggling?
For babies who are over 5 months and struggling with sleep, The 5–24 Month Collection will give you a holistic, fully customizable, step-by-step plan to follow that will help you establish consolidated sleep. It will cover bedtime, night wakings, night weaning, early morning wakings, and naps too. Sometimes, just having it all laid out for you by an expert you can trust is exactly what you need.
*** If you're unsure about swaddling in the first place, check out my blog all about swaddling and swaddle safety. I'll walk you through all of the research. Of course, you and your doctor should make the best decision for YOUR baby about when swaddling should be discontinued.