Hilda Wong

When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby & How to Do It!

In a world full of teddy bears and lullabies, newborn babies found tremendous comfort in being snugly wrapped up in soft, warm swaddling cloths. The gentle pressure around their tiny bodies brought them back to the familiar coziness of the womb, making them feel secure and protected in their new, overwhelming world. But, as all stories evolve and all babies grow, there comes a time when parents must begin the transition from swaddling.

"Ah, but how would I know when to start this transition?" you may wonder, cradling your sleeping little one in your arms.

Well, fear not, dear parents, for there are subtle signs your wee ones will give, whispering to you that it's time for them to explore the world a little more freely.

Firstly, keep an eye out for an adventurous little escape artist. Should you find your baby constantly wriggling free from their swaddle, it might be their way of saying, "It's time, mom and dad, I'm ready to move." You might also see your baby rolling over, a sign of growing strength and coordination. Remember, swaddling a baby who can roll over can pose safety risks, and it's an important sign to start transitioning.

Now, onto the chapter of 'how'. Unfurling your little burrito isn’t as challenging as it might seem, trust me. Start with baby steps—no pun intended. Begin by leaving one arm out of the swaddle. This will give your little one a taste of freedom, yet still provide the security of the swaddle. Over time, leave both arms out, then transition to a wearable blanket or a sleep sack, which will maintain warmth while allowing more movement.

Transitioning out of swaddling is like turning the pages of a book. Each chapter is a new adventure. You, as parents, are the authors of this tale, guiding your baby with love, patience, and an understanding that all good things evolve in their own sweet time. With that in mind, here are some of the signs that parents need to keep an eye out for and how to stop swaddling their baby.

Related: How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

a swaddled baby yawning widely

Why Do Babies Get Swaddled?

There is a wide range of reasons why parents swaddle their babies but one of the main reasons is that it comforts and calms them. Swaddling relaxes the baby’s startle reflex, which can help a baby and the parent sleep better. This also helps babies learn how to self-soothe since the swaddling can imitate the touch of their parents.

Swaddling also prevents babies from scratching their faces since their arms are secured inside the swaddling blanket. Babies that are swaddled don’t need a pillow or blanket, which allows parents to keep minimal items in the crib. This keeps the baby safer since it reduces the chances they can choke or suffocate.

Related: Winter Tips: How to Keep a Baby Warm at Night

Why Stop?

Although swaddling can be a great tool for putting a newborn to sleep, they will outgrow it in a few months. Babes develop and grow extremely rapidly during the first few years of their lives and swaddling will quickly feel restrictive rather than comforting. 

Babies that are being swaddled can also overheat since they are wrapped up in the swaddling blanket. During the early stages of development in a baby’s life, their bodies are unable to regulate temperatures well so they need to be kept warm at all times. After a few months, their bodies start to regulate their temperatures better and a swaddling blanket can make them feel too hot.

There is also a safety concern with swaddling once babies learn how to roll over on their stomachs. Babies can roll over while swaddled but since they don’t have their hands free to push away, there is a risk of suffocation.

a baby with a grey knit cap yawning in bed next to his teddy bear

 

Signs to Stop Swaddling

One of the signs that the baby is ready to be transitioned out of swaddling is that they’ll start looking uncomfortable when being swaddled. If the baby cries during swaddling and resists it, it may be time to stop. When the baby learns to roll over and starts to be more active, swaddling will feel less comfortable for them so consider transitioning out of swaddling when you notice this. 

Related: Things Every New Parent Should Know About Newborn Sleep

How to Stop Swaddling

Although some prefer to simply stop swaddling cold turkey, it may be beneficial to slowly wean the baby off to make sure they are as comfortable as possible. Here are some things you can try if you want to slowly get the baby used to sleeping without being swaddled.

Start getting the baby used to this sleeping change by loosening up the swaddle. Give their arms and legs enough slack to move around a bit. If the baby tolerates this well, you can try leaving an arm out but make sure that they are wearing a covering on their hand so they do not scratch at their face.

Consider using a sleep sack to get your baby used to sleeping without being swaddled. Sleep sacks are like a bodysuit that’s made out of a warm, blanket-like material with an opening for the arms and the head. It is comparable to a sleeping bag with arm holes for a baby.

These sleep sacks keep a baby warm by providing an extra layer of warmth while keeping the arms and legs relatively free and mobile. When sleep sacks are used as a part of your baby’s bedtime routine, they can be a great cue for the body to get ready for bed. They can also help provide some of the comforts that the baby is accustomed to from swaddling and make the transition to sleeping normally a lot easier.

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Using a sleep sack is also a safer option than covering your baby with a blanket since the sleep sack is relatively secure on the baby’s body and will not present a choking hazard.

If your baby is struggling to stay asleep without the swaddle, try swaddling them when they wake up for the first time. This will help the baby start to get used to falling asleep without the need for a swaddle but will get them back down to sleep quickly. Soon, the baby will be used to sleeping further into the night without the swaddle.

Establishing a bedtime routine can help make the transition easier. This can help babies learn to self-regulate and settle down, relax, and get ready for bed. A good bedtime routine will help your baby get better sleep and also stay asleep for longer. 

a baby sleeping while wearing a teddy bear onesie

 

Be Patient

This transition from swaddling to not being swaddled can be a difficult time for both the baby and the parent. It is important to be patient and be prepared for this to affect both the baby’s sleep and your sleep. 

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Follow these tips and you’ll soon find that your baby will be sleeping without the need to be swaddled. Congratulations! Take the time to savor this milestone with your baby and celebrate! 



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