Swaddling can help your newborn sleep better, but sadly, all good things come to an end. Read on to find out when to stop swaddling — and how.
Many mamas sing the praises of this ancient practice.
But while you may know it’s important to start, when to stop swaddling is also vital info.
Not to worry, we’ve got you covered (no pun intended, we promise).
Swaddling a baby involves wrapping them tightly in blankets or cloths so they can’t move easily.
The idea is to mimic the womb’s comfort and coziness and prevent them from startling themselves awake.
It can help them sleep better and for longer.
And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can even reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation.
Sounds great, right? It is!
But swaddling can become a little risky as your baby becomes more active and, sadly, it has an expiry date.
So, when should you stop swaddling, and how do you go about making this transition?
In this article: 📝
- How long should you swaddle a baby?
- How do you know when to stop swaddling a baby?
- How do you transition out of a swaddle?
How long should you swaddle a baby?
You should stop swaddling your baby when they show signs of rolling over.
Not when they’re actually rolling over, but when you catch them side-eyeing the patch of crib beside them. That’s your cue.
And it usually happens between the two and four-month mark.
So, why should you stop swaddling your little one?
- Loose fabric is a risk. If your baby breaks out of a swaddle, they’ll have loose fabric around them, which could be a suffocation or strangulation hazard. The AAP recommends having a blanket-free crib until your baby is 12 months old.
- You don’t want them to be swaddled on their tummies. A swaddled baby who rolls onto their tummy while sleeping might battle to breathe. It’s not worth the risk.
How do you know when to stop swaddling a baby?
There are a few telltale signs that can tell you that your swaddling days are nearly done:
- They’re angling to roll over. This is a biggie. If they’re starting to rock and show signs of rolling (see what we did there?), it’s time to abandon the swaddle.
- The startle reflex goes. The startle or Moro reflex is an automatic response that babies make when they get a fright. It can be triggered by loud noises, bright light, and sudden movements — even their own. It usually goes away completely when they’re between three and six months old.
- They’re waking up more often at night. Do you feel like your little one is waking up more regularly? Are they crying or fussing but not hungry? They might be starting to feel uncomfortable in their swaddle. Of course, there are other reasons they’re feeling cranky, so it’s not definitely the swaddling, but it’s something to be aware of.
- They don’t like being swaddled. Some babies resist being swaddled from the beginning (and that’s totally fine), but others start to get twitchy about it later. It’s a sign to let those limbs loose.
- They break free. If you find your baby can get one or both arms loose in their sleep, it might be the end of the swaddle. If this happens very early on, at just a few weeks old, it’s less likely to be your baby’s superhuman strength and more likely to do with how they were swaddled.
How do you transition out of a swaddle?
How you transition out of swaddling is really up to you.
Some mamas go cold turkey — one day there’s a swaddle, and the next day there’s not.
And some take a more gradual approach.
It usually depends on how much your baby likes being swaddled and how eager they seem to want to roll over.
- An arm at a time. If you want to take it slowly, try taking one arm out first. Then, a few nights later, both arms. After a few more nights, remove the swaddle altogether. (It’s worth noting that some babies like having an arm free from the start. This is perfectly safe as long as they’re properly swaddled.)
- Try a sleep sack. Sleep sacks give some of the comforts of being swaddled while allowing your baby’s arms and legs to move around a bit more. This makes them perfect for the transition.
Saying goodbye to the swaddle can be a little hard — it’s a sign that your baby is no longer a newborn.
But don’t worry, mama, there are many exciting phases of babyhood still to come.
Enjoy every moment.
😴 More swaddling and sleep tips:
Babies Waking Up Too Early: What to do
Baby Sleep Temperature Guidelines to Follow
How Many Swaddles Do I Need?
Is White Noise for a Baby Good?
How to Dress Baby For Sleep
When Do Kids Stop Taking Naps?
Can Babies Have Nightmares?
How to End Co-Sleeping: Your Quickfire Guide
What Do Babies Dream About?
When Can a Baby Sleep With a Blanket?
Bringing Your Newborn Baby Home from Hospital