If I could give new parents just one piece of advice, it would be to swaddle their newborn.
Swaddling is an effective technique to help soothe newborns as they adjust to life outside the womb. I swaddled my girls right from the get-go and it was truly a lifesaver during the first couple of months. By wrapping them up tightly, you’re helping them soothe through startle reflex and mimicking the womb environment – which can help them sleep better and for longer stretches.
But as much as swaddling helps, it can’t last forever. Swaddling, when done properly, is completely safe and recommended for newborns. But as they grow and become more mobile, swaddling can become unsafe if you don’t transition your baby out of it at the right time.
When To Stop Swaddling
The AAP recommends that parents stop swaddling their baby (arms in) after they turn two months old. This is because swaddling becomes unsafe if:
- Baby starts getting strong enough to break out of the swaddle, causing there to be loose fabric in the crib
- Baby can roll onto their stomach while sleeping swaddled
You can continue to keep your baby in their swaddle with one or both arms out beyond 8 weeks old, but it’s important to look out for the signs that it’s time to make the transition out of swaddling altogether.
5 Signs It’s Time To Stop Swaddling
Startle reflex starts to go away
One of the biggest reasons for swaddling newborns is to help them soothe through moro, or startle, reflex. All newborns are born with this reflex but it usually starts to fade anywhere between 2 and 4 months old. If you notice your baby “startling” less, it’s usually a sign that the time to transition out of swaddling is right around the corner.
Baby starts waking up more frequently throughout the night
If it suddenly seems like your baby is waking up more than usual, especially if they’re waking up crying or fussy without needing to be fed, might be because they’re getting uncomfortable in the swaddle. They may be trying to break free or get an arm out and wake themselves up in the process.
Baby breaks out of the swaddle
If you find your baby was able to wiggle an arm out or completely unwrap the swaddle while they sleep, it’s no longer safe to be swaddling as it creates loose fabric in the crib, increasing the risk of SIDS.
Baby starts showing signs of rolling over
If your baby is working on their rolling skills, it’s time to make the transition to prevent baby rolling onto their stomach while sleeping and not being able to roll back.
Baby starts fighting being swaddled
Some resistance is normal when swaddling, especially when you first try it on your baby. But if they start full-on fighting the swaddle, it’s a sign they are ready to sleep arms free.
How To Transition Out Of A Swaddle
If your little one is showing any of the signs it’s time to stop swaddling, you might be looking for alternatives to help them sleep. To ease the transition out of swaddling, try:
Making the transition slowly: Instead of going cold turkey, transition out of swaddling by swaddling your baby with one arm out for a few nights, then both arms out for a few before dropping it altogether.
Swap for a sleep sack: Transitioning from the swaddle directly into a sleep sack can really help baby adjust to not being swaddled. Plus, sleep sacks can be worn into toddlerhood! Here are some of my favorite ones.
Use white noise: Learn more about how white noise helps babies sleep soundly here.
Give baby a pacifier: Read what you should know about pacifiers and sleep here.
And remember, if you’re struggling at all with our baby or toddlers sleep please contact me here. I am on a mission to help parents around the world get their kids sleeping through the night and yours should be next!