When to Stop Swaddling Baby
If you’re the lucky new parent of a brand-new baby, it’s hard to overstate the relief you feel when your young one starts to sleep for longer stretches of the night. After all, more sleep for your mini-me means more sleep for you.
hat is until you find yourself lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wondering, when should I stop swaddling my baby? What do I dress them in after I stop swaddling?
he short answer is that you should stop swaddling your baby before they’re able to roll over without your help. Afterwards, you can keep them cozy and warm with a wearable sleep bag. But for the full details on when to stop swaddling, read on: we have the tips you need to make the transition from swaddle to sleeping sack as smooth as possible.
How to Know the Time is Right
While many newborns sleep up to 17 hours a day, much of that sleep only happens an hour or two at a time, or until the young baby starts to develop regular sleep cycles at around four to six months old.1 When done safely, swaddling can be helpful in giving newborns and younger babies a more peaceful, less interrupted sleep.2
his is because swaddling can:
- Provide feelings of safety and security
- Help babies sleep longer (allowing both of you to get a better night’s rest)
However, there comes a point when swaddling no longer makes sense, and may even pose safety risks as your baby grows and becomes more mobile.
How, then, do you know when to stop swaddling baby? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, swaddled babies should no longer be swaddled once they can roll over on their own. The reason for this is twofold:
- A baby who rolls over while swaddled may not be able to roll back over since they don’t have the use of their arms. When left on their stomachs in this way, swaddled babies may have difficulty breathing.
- Little ones who are becoming more active may roll and move around enough to become unswaddled, which brings the risk of getting tangled up in the loose fabric.
For many babies, rolling starts around three or four months old. If you notice your baby rolling over when unswaddled, it’s a sure sign to say goodbye to swaddling. But ideally, you should stop swaddling before the rolling starts. Some babies become more active and attempt to roll over as soon as two months old, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to your baby’s activity level around this time.
If you want to stop swaddling even sooner, or if swaddling doesn’t seem to be helping your baby sleep any better, it’s okay to do so.
Making the Transition from Swaddle to Sleep Bag
Now that you know at what age should you stop swaddling a baby, you may be wondering how exactly to go about it. If your baby already sleeps soundly when swaddled, you might fret that removing that feeling of security will undo any progress you and your little one have made in the sleep department.
Yet, learning to sleep without a swaddle blanket is a process that all babies adapt to with time. While they may lose some Zzzs in the process, some parents even make the switch without any transition at all. However, if you’re looking for a way to stop swaddling a little less abruptly, there are some steps you can follow to make this transition feel smoother. Let’s take a look at a few different approaches.
The Gradual Approach
his approach allows your baby to get used to the feeling of sleeping unswaddled in several gradual steps, without the suddenness of removing the swaddle all at once. Follow these steps to give your baby a gentle transition into unswaddled sleep:
- Swaddle your baby before bed as usual, but leave one arm out. Give your baby a few nights to adjust to this new freedom.
- After a few nights, leave both arms out. (Take a moment to appreciate all the joyous wiggles and wriggles that result.)
- After a few more bedtimes, stop swaddling entirely.
By the time your baby goes to sleep without any swaddle at all, they will have had time to get used to the feeling. Hopefully, this will help keep any tears to a minimum.
o make this process even more gradual, you can also start by leaving one leg unswaddled, then both legs, and then progress to leaving one or two arms unswaddled. However, the most important thing to remember is to never leave a baby with a swaddle that could unravel, as this poses a safety hazard.
The Partial Approach
In this approach, begin by putting baby down for sleep without a swaddle. Then, if they wake up or become fussy later on in the night and can’t seem to settle back down to sleep, you can swaddle them up for the remainder of the night. The purpose of this method is to slowly get your baby used to sleeping without a swaddle for longer periods of time.
The Cold Turkey Approach
As the name suggests, this approach involves putting your baby to sleep without a swaddle without any period of transition. Some parents succeed at making the switch in one night and even find that their baby sleeps more soundly without a swaddle.
However, keep in mind that your baby could still need some time to adapt. You can help lessen the shock by first letting your baby sleep unswaddled during nap time. Then, if it goes well, you can transition to swaddle-free nighttime sleep.
Choosing Baby’s New Sleepwear
When your baby is still a newborn, a swaddle can be a great way to ensure they feel nice and warm at night. Once the swaddle is gone, however, you might be wondering how to keep them cozy and snug at bedtime.
According to the AAP, you’ll still want to keep your baby’s sleeping area free of loose blankets, objects, or stuffed animals until they’re at least one year old. Any loose bedding or materials can pose safety risks if the baby rolls over onto them or gets tangled up in them.
Instead, opt for a wearable sleep bag. This essential piece of sleepwear allows the baby more mobility for kicks and wiggles while mimicking the feeling of being enclosed in a swaddle. It also provides plenty of warmth for those tiny toes.
Tips for Sleeping Without a Swaddle
If you’ve made the transition to sleeping without a swaddle, but your baby still isn’t resting as well as before, there are a few other things you can try to help them get used to their new sleep attire.
Below are a few tips we’ve gathered to help encourage a plentiful night’s rest without a swaddle:
Sleep Snug With Monica + Andy
If you’re yawning at the thought of making a change to a sleep routine you feel you’ve just gotten the hang of, hang in there: like other steps in your baby’s development, removing the swaddle at the right time will be beneficial in the long term, and the transition will be over before you know it.
Plus, if you haven’t realized it yet, there’s a silver lining to ditching the swaddle: you get to swap out the swaddling blanket for an all-new set of adorable pajamas.
At Monica + Andy, you can find all the sleepwear your baby needs to keep them feeling snug and secure, from Wearable Sleep Bags to One-Piece Pajamas. And if you still have some swaddling days ahead of you, or need something soft for tummy time, bundle up with our wide selection of Swaddles + Baby Blankets. No matter what you’re shopping for, shop the GOTS certified organic cotton products available at Monica + Andy.
- "Getting Your Baby to Sleep." American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Getting-Your-Baby-to-Sleep.aspx
- "Swaddling: Is it Safe?" American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Swaddling-Is-it-Safe.aspx
- aylor, Marygrace. "When to Stop Swaddling a Newborn Baby. " What to Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/sleep/when-to-stop-swaddling-baby/