Losing the Swaddle-Go Slow or Cold Turkey?

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Swaddling has a special kind of magic, but there comes a day when your little one outgrows the swaddle,

but just how do you transition them without completely ruining their sleep?

If you have worked with me during the newborn phase, then you will know that I always recommend safe swaddling during the first few months of life. Why? Well, that’s because babies are so nice and “wrapped” up in the womb that the new-found freedom outside the womb can be a little daunting at first. So, to help your newborn cope with their new world we swaddle them to ensure they feel safe and secure as though they were back in the womb. If you feel your little one hates being swaddled, don’t worry I have just the Newborn Plan to address those little wrigglers.

Swaddling though, as great as it is, must come to an end, but just when does this happen?

Swaddling’s end date?

Unless you have been advised by your medical practitioner to stop swaddling your baby, there is no specific age when a newborn should be un-swaddled, my rule of thumb is usually between 12-16 weeks or when their Moro (startle) reflex is no longer prominent. You will also need to stop swaddling when it becomes developmentally appropriate for your baby, A.K.A they can roll or are showing signs of rolling. This will be different for all babies so don’t panic if yours is a little ahead of the game, or if you have one that is more relaxed and happier to hang out on their back a little while longer.

Babies grow and develop differently, the most important part is just to ensure you are attending to your baby’s developmental needs as they are happening for your baby, and not because some milestone chart says so. Once your baby can roll, they will need to have their arms free so they can safely push themselves up from the mattress.

Important: Remember that taking the swaddle away too early may cause unnecessary sleep disruptions, so be sure that your baby is ready for the change.

So just how do you master the transition? Before I explain, let’s just remember, as with anything baby sleep-related, you need to have patience and remain consistent, and before you know it they will successfully be sleeping with their arms out.

Transition time?

So, as I explained transitioning out of the swaddle does take some patience and consistency on your part, so with that in mind you have two options here:

a) Cold Turkey

All you need to do is ditch the swaddle and replace it with a sleep sack. My favorite is from Nested Bean, I find the design, material, and fit of the sleep sack of the best I have seen around, and the added bonus of the little built-in bean bag is so great from extra comfort for your little one.

b) Slow transition

To help preserve the night sleep, try the following transitioning method

Day 1: One arm out for the morning nap

Day 2-3: Now try one arm out overnight

Day 4-5: Now that you have one arm out for the morning nap and overnight, go ahead and take one arm out for their lunch nap, this may cause your baby to wake after one sleep cycle but just resettle if this happens

Day 6+: Once your baby is used to having one arm out for all naps and night-time sleep, do both arms using the same method as above

Have a 3.5-6-month-old?

Have you transitioned your baby from the swaddle to the sleep sack but have found their sleep is now worse when you were hoping for better? They may just be going through their developmental sleep regression. Have a read through my blog, The Dreaded 4-Month Sleep Regression, to get some advice on how you can survive this tricky stage.

Has your baby’s sleep gone completely south? Don’t despair, with my sleep packages you can achieve the sleep you have been dreaming of because coming out of the newborn phase is always tricky but you do not have to suffer through it alone.

Love and Sleep Hugs


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