When to Stop Swaddling
When you brought your newborn home you discovered pretty quickly (through some trial and error) how your baby liked to be swaddled for sleep. Some type of swaddle was probably a lifesaver. But as your baby grows and starts showing signs of rolling, it’s time to let the swaddle go and transition to arms out. Let’s make the transition smooth and stress-free!
The Swaddle Stage:
Swaddling is usually a game-changer for parents. Fun little tidbit: Look at your ultrasound photos. However, your baby held their arms in utero is probably how they liked to be swaddled. After being in such a snug space for so long swaddling can help babies relax and combat the moro reflex which can cause them to wake themselves up. Babies all have preferences for their sleep but as they grow it’s important to make changes to accommodate their milestones.
Most experts recommend transitioning when your baby shows signs of rolling or reaches 12-16 weeks of age. Some common signs of rolling are:
- Controlled lifting of the head and shoulders during tummy time
- Kicking their legs and scooting in a circle while on their back
- Turning to one shoulder
- Rocking hips side to side
- Using legs to lift hips into the air
The Moro Reflex and Its Role:
Before we jump into the transition tips, let’s talk about the Moro reflex – that adorable startle reflex your baby has. Typically present during the first few months, the Moro reflex can impact the transition process. As your baby gains more control over their movements, the reflex tends to diminish, making it an ideal time to make changes to their sleep routine.
Breaking out of the Swaddle:
If your baby is not showing signs of rolling here are some reasons they may be breaking out of the swaddle.
- Active Sleep- Before the 4th month babies spend about 50% of their sleep cycle in active or REM sleep. As your baby gets stronger they may break out of that swaddle during this active period of sleep. Be sure you’re following the guidelines for swaddle safety.
- Overtiredness- Your baby may be more fussy and prone to fighting sleep if they are overtired. You can avoid overtiredness by watching wake windows appropriate for their age and sticking to a daily schedule. Don’t forget to grab my FREE wake window guide and take a look at my sample schedules!
- Type of Swaddle- I highly recommend a swaddle that uses velcro or a zipper like the Butterfly Swaddle, Love to Dream, or the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit. Any of these are more difficult to break out of and help avoid loose bedding.
Tips for Practicing Rolling:
Encourage your little one to explore the world of rolling during the day. Set up a safe and supervised space for playtime where they can practice this newfound skill. Place toys slightly out of reach to motivate them to reach and roll. Use colorful and textured objects to engage their curiosity, fostering both physical and cognitive development.
Step One- Make sure your little one can push up onto their elbows during tummy time. If that is too hard on the floor or if your baby swims with arms out to the side, elevate their upper body to make it easier.
How- Use a boppy pillow, wedge, your legs or chest then tuck their arms under and place toys at eye level.
Step Two- Encourage reaching with hands and tracking toys with their eyes during tummy time. Place books, toys, or other motivating items in front of your baby making sure they’re within arms reach.
How- During tummy time and floor play, cup your hands around their shoulders and rock gently to one side of off weight the opposite arms and show your baby how to reach forward with the free arm. Be sure to practice both sides.
Recommended Sleep Sacks:
Once you decide it’s time to bid farewell to the swaddle, the transition can be made smoother with the help of sleep sacks. These cozy alternatives provide a sense of security while allowing your baby to move freely. Here are a few recommendations:
- Halo SleepSack: Known for its quality and safety features, the Halo SleepSack provides a snug fit without restricting movement.
- Aden + Anais Classic Sleeping Bag: Made from breathable muslin fabric, this sleeping bag keeps your baby comfortable and regulates their temperature.
- Zipadee Zip Sleep Sack: With its unique star-shaped design, the Zipadee Zip Sleep Sack provides a cozy environment for your baby to sleep comfortably while allowing for unrestricted movement.
- This phase is usually accompanied by the 4 month sleep regression so don’t be surprised if sleep goes out the window and life feel chaotic. Book a free call with me so we can get your sleep back on track and turn a potentially stressful milestone into a learning experience that will benefit you all for the long term!