For new parents, discovering swaddling and swaddling blankets is life-changing. This simple technique can bring more peace to your home. While you’ll certainly have to get up in the middle of the night for feedings in those early months, swaddling means you won’t have to worry about your baby startling themselves awake. That means a little more sleep for you too.
While babies love the snuggly feeling of being swaddled because it makes them feel secure like they did in the womb, there comes a time when this phase must end. For many, this soothing newborn technique ends around the 3 or 4-month mark, though if your baby keeps startling awake, you can safely continue the practice on up for 6 months, 9 months, or even longer.
That might seem vague, but every baby is different. Ask any parent with more than one child and they’ll regale you with tales of how different their babies were from each other. So, how to you know when it’s time to stop with the swaddling?
Here are a few things to look for:
- Your baby always breaks out of the swaddle
- Your baby is rolling over while sleeping
- Your baby has stopped startling awake
- You’re about to start sleep training
If any of those things are happening in your home, then it’s time to stop swaddling. Your next question of course has to be, “How?”
Tips for Stopping Swaddling
Just like the guidelines are around 3 to 4 months, there are different approaches for ending the phase of swaddling. You can see which one works best for you and your baby!
1. Start with nap time
Some parents choose to start unswaddling baby during nap time. A different part of the brain is engaged during day sleep so this might be a great method for you. If it doesn’t work once, don’t fret. It make take a week or two to make the transition.
2. Do the arms first
Not every parent is comfortable with making changes to naptime. After all, that’s a slice of peace and potential nap for you! One of the most common ways to stop swaddling a baby is by leaving one arm out of the swaddle for a few nights, then proceeding to both arms unswaddled. Once that goes well, you can stop swaddling.
3. Or go with the legs
Less common is keeping the legs out while the arms are swaddled. If you find success in this direction, you can then keep one arm out of the swaddle and then proceed to no swaddling.
It’s important to note though that if your baby is rolling over at night, this is a concern for safety and taking the slow approach to stopping swaddling won’t work. You’ll have to stop swaddling effective immediately. A sleep sack could be a helpful and safe transition in this scenario.
While swaddling is a great way to help baby adjust to the world outside the womb, don’t forget that babies shouldn’t be swaddled all day long. They need to build their muscles and develop motor skills. You can use your swaddle blanket as a soft place to conduct tummy time when your baby is awake, putting it to even more good use. When you do though, always be present and paying attention for safety.