Deciding when to stop swaddling your baby is relatively easy. The hard part? Figuring out how to stop swaddling.
We generally have differing opinions here at The Moms At Odds… but we completely agree on the benefits of swaddling for babies:
- Swaddling keep babies sleeping on their backs
- Swaddled babies sleep for longer periods of time
- Swaddling suppresses the startle reflex so they sleep more soundly
- Swaddling is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics because it eliminates the need for blankets in the crib (which is a SIDS risk)
The list goes on and on! But if you’re here I’m guessing you already know all the benefits of swaddling.
You’re reading to transition out of the swaddle. So let’s get to it already.
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When to Stop Swaddling Baby
Unfortunately, the swaddle can’t be used forever.
When your baby is able to roll over from back to front, it’s time to stop swaddling. Being swaddled and on their tummy is really dangerous since they don’t have their arms free to push up. So when baby is rolling, stop swaddling immediately.
Also, when baby is able to break out of the swaddle is a good time to consider transitioning. Busting out of the swaddle means there’s loose blankets in the crib which pose a risk.
If your newborn is a swaddle houdini, but you aren’t ready to stop, check your swaddle technique. If using a blanket, think about switching to a velcro swaddle that may hold in place better. Nested Bean Zen Swaddle is also a really cool velcro option because it’s lightly weighted on the chest so baby feels cuddled and soothed.
Pssst… we talk about these (and more!) in our post on Essential Baby Sleep Items.
Typically babies can be swaddled until about 3 – 4 months. Some Doctors recommend to stop swaddling at 2 months so that they are not swaddled when they start to roll and some babies begin rolling that young.
How to Stop Swaddling the Slow, Gradual Way
Once you’re accustomed to the longer chunks of sleep that can be achieved by swaddling, it’s hard to give it all away.
After you’ve decided on when to stop swaddling baby, I highly recommend slowly transitioning out of the swaddle.
This way you can figure out how to get baby to sleep without the swaddle and not sacrifice any of the ever-so-precious sleep.
I’ve consulted numerous books, blogs, and other moms. After trial-and-error + two kids later, I have found the perfect method for how to stop swaddling!
Consider the Timing
One of the keys to success is to transition them as early as possible. And by “early” I mean stop swaddling at 2 months (or even 6 weeks!).
But don’t stop reading if your baby is almost 4 months and is still being swaddled – you can use this method too! It’s just easier if you start early.
This was the biggest difference between my kids. We transitioned by first at 2 months and my second at 6 weeks.
Let me tell you, even though it was only 2 weeks earlier it was much easier as 6 weeks.
Slowly Transitioning Out of Swaddle
Ok but now let’s talk method: not the when but the how to stop swaddling.
The concept of a slow transition out of swaddle is easy – it starts by mimicking the swaddled environment as closely as possible and then deconstructing it piece-by-piece.
The first night of “The Transition” (*cue dramatic music*), you want to swaddle baby as normal with one small change… swaddle them with one arm sticking out.
Problem is, we still want them to feel snug in there, that’s where the infant body support pillows come in to play.
Use these (or similar) infant body support pillows on either side of baby to give them that snug feeling. Note: you can also roll up towels and put them under baby’s crib sheet, but those have a tendency to roll around and be a pain to reset multiple times per day (or night!). I highly recommend getting the support pillows because they’re cheap and effective.
After they’re sleeping well like this, the slow transitioning out of swaddle continues over the span of a few weeks in this order:
- Step 1: Transition to swaddling baby with both arms out, but with the swaddle fabric still pull tightly on their torso. The support pillows should continue to tightly hug their body.
- Step 2: Then swaddle their torso progressively less tightly (but with the support still placed firmly against their sides).
- Step 3: After you are able to remove the swaddle completely, now it’s time to slowly pull the support pillows further away from baby each night so they’re slightly less “hugged”. Continue until you are no longer using the support pillows at all.
Here’s Ry rocking the “1 arm out” look:
**Important Note: “Loose” swaddles should still be secured. It is important that throughout the process baby is unable to pull the swaddle material up towards their face.
Maybe the slower transition concept of how to stop swaddling sounds right to you, but you aren’t keen on the idea of loosening the swaddle and using support pillows or towels…
Luckily, there are products out there that can accomplish the same thing!
First let’s start with the Love to Dream Swaddle Up 50/50 Transitional Bag. The Love to Dream has zip off wings which allow you to help transition out of swaddle. Essentially, the wings make it easier for parents to transition the gradual way, by unzipping one arm at a time.
Parents rave about the Love to Dream and it certainly has many benefits. Baby zips in easily without worrying about being wrapped tight enough or breaking free. The zipper also opens from the bottom for easier diaper changes. The swaddle allows baby’s hands to be up by their face which can help with self soothing.
The other option is the Woombie Convertible. It’s similar to the Love to Dream in that it also has removable arms to help transition out of the swaddle.
The Woombie offers the same benefits of easy zipping and diaper changes. It appears one of the biggest differences between the two is that when swaddled the woombie holds the arms down by the chest while still allowing movement.
The best part of these two products is that they can function as swaddles, transitional items, and wearable blankets all in one making them better bang for your buck than buying each of those items separately.
So there you have it! A slow, smooth transition solution to the how to stop swaddling dilemma that will guarantee to get your child sleeping in their crib as beautifully as they did when they were swaddled.
If slowly transitioning doesn’t interest you (or if you need to stop swaddling yesterday) check out Rachel’s fast method for how to get baby to sleep without swaddle:
Stop Swaddling Cold Turkey (ie. the Fast Way)
Basically, the fast way is to completely stop swaddling cold turkey. I’m not gonna lie, this method can be a sleep disaster for baby and mom.
For procrastinating moms, like myself, who were scared to slowly transition for fear of losing any more precious sleep and waited until their baby could roll over, the swaddle needs to go immediately.
Unfortunately, baby may be rolling before they’ve outgrown their startle reflex and they may not be able to sleep well free of the swaddle.
This is a huge change for them and while I’m sure there are a few exceptions, many babies will have some rough nights adjusting. You can try to push through and hope for sleep, or you can try a transitional product designed to ease babies into swaddle-free sleep.
This was a life saver for us with my first. The very first night he went from waking every 20 – 40 minutes back to twice a night. He loved that puffy suit and so did I!
The only drawback is that it has a relatively small window for use. It is only designed for back sleeping so it shouldn’t be used if your baby can roll over in it. It is not safe for tummy sleeping.
I will note that because the thickness reduced his ability to move, my son was able to roll over outside of the suit long before he could roll while wearing the suit.
I was very concerned that getting out the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit would be another difficult transition, but we didn’t have any problem! By the time we ditched the suit, he was able to roll to his tummy well and seemed to prefer to sleep that way.
The Zipadee-Zip is another swaddle transition item that many parents rave about. It’s basically just a fabric bag that your baby zips in.
The material creates some resistance against their flailing limbs so they shouldn’t startle themselves awake as easily.
We decided to try out the Zipadee-Zip with my second son, but we did not have quite the same immediate success. Every baby is different, so it’s difficult to truly compare. His sleep did improve.
While, I’m still not sure if the Merlin Magic Sleep suit would have made for a more effective transition, the Zipadee-Zip has some additional benefits.
The Zipadee-Zip is less restrictive than the Merlin Magic Sleep suit so it does allow your baby more movement and it is safe for baby to roll and sleep on their stomach. This also means that the Zipadee zip can be used longer.
As an added bonus, the Zipadee-Zip also comes in TONS of adorable prints.
Switch to Wearable Blankets
Whether you decide on the slow transitioning out of swaddle, use a transitional product, or just stop swaddling cold turkey, you probably want to ultimately switch to using a wearable blanket.
Obviously, loose blankets in the crib pose a serious risk so wearable blankets are a perfect alternative to keep baby cozy, warm, and safe. Babies can’t kick them off or over their faces.
You don’t just have to take our word for it, wearable blankets are also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are many different wearable blankets available, but we especially love the HALO Sleepsack.
They zip from top to bottom making diaper changes easier and keeping the zipper away from baby’s face. They come in cotton and micro-fleece allowing for warmer or cooler nights, and area also available in a variety of adorable prints.
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When it comes to the topic of sleep training, we’ve got you covered too! The Moms At Odds wrote an entire post debating the pros/cons of sleeping training.