When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby: 5 Signs To Watch For
How do you know when to stop swaddling your little one? This is an important question to ask, especially for your baby’s safety.
Swaddling is a great technique to help your baby feel safe as they adjusted to life outside of the womb. We understand the many incredible benefits of this ancient technique, which is why we created swaddles that are 100 percent breathable and help prevent overheating.
But the older your little one gets, the less they need this method to help them feel calm or fall asleep.
Also, while swaddling has lots of great benefits for newborns, there comes a time when your baby is just too old to be swaddled and swaddling can become more harmful than helpful.
When is this stage? And if it’s time to stop swaddling, how exactly do you help your little one transition?
You’re asking all the right questions! So, without further ado...
How Long Should You Swaddle Your Baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents start to wean their infants off swaddling when they begin to show signs of trying to roll over. They add that “many babies start working on rolling at around 2 months of age.”
But not all babies start that early. Other studies have shown that babies will typically begin rolling somewhere between three and six months of age.
As each child is unique, it’s essential to look at other indicators (outside of just age) that they’re ready to leave swaddling. That’s what we’ll dive into now!
When To Stop Swaddling: 5 Signs
1) Consistently Breaking The Swaddle
Is your little one getting strong enough to break out of their swaddle blanket?
While this may not be a definite indicator that it’s time to stop swaddling, the concern here is that every time they punch or kick away the blanket, this leaves loose fabric in the crib.
Unfortunately, having loose swaddles in the crib is a possible strangulation or suffocation hazard. And this doesn’t just apply to swaddles — bedding, blankets, clothing, and any other type of loose fabric is a danger for your little one.
If your baby is breaking free from the swaddle at just a couple of weeks old, they’re obviously still very little and not ready to stop being swaddled. You might just need to brush up on your swaddling technique to make sure your baby is secure in the swaddle.
On the other hand, if they are older, this might be a sign that they no longer want to be swaddled.
2) Having No More Startle Reflex
Like all other babies, your little one was born with a startle reflex (commonly known as the Moro reflex).
In a nutshell, this is an involuntary response that usually happens when your baby is startled by a sudden movement, a loud noise, or any unfamiliar stimulus in their environment.
Your baby might quickly stretch out their arms and legs in front of them, and then just as suddenly curl back into a fetal position.
Babies will often startle themselves awake and start crying. This reflex can make it difficult for your baby to get a good night’s rest.
If you’ve been swaddling your little one for a while, you might have noticed that doing so helps to reduce startling because your baby will feel as safe and secure as they felt in the womb.
At around four to five months is when infants usually outgrow the startle reflex. So, if your little one is no longer showing signs of this reflex, they may no longer need to be swaddled.
Expert tip: a huge part of helping your baby feel comfortable in a swaddle is using gentle and breathable fabrics, like the ones in our Newton Baby Organic Swaddle Blankets.
These swaddle blankets are made from 100% organic muslin cotton. This material is super soft and feels light and gentle on your baby’s delicate skin!
3) Being Fussier Than Usual
Babies can be fussy for many different reasons. They might be hungry, tired, sleepy, hot, or going through a growth spurt.
That being said, it’s not best to just assume that a fussy baby no longer needs to be swaddled. But it’s important to pay attention to your little one’s cues.
If they are displaying other signs and are also extra fussy, they could be communicating that they want to break free from the swaddle for good!
4) Rolling From Back To Tummy
One of the most challenging things about parenting is that there is no “rule book.” What works for one parent may not work for you.
Because of this, many parenting “guidelines” end up being open to your own interpretation and unique circumstances. But not this one.
When it comes to swaddling, there is one clear indicator that your little one has outgrown this phase, and that is: they are becoming more mobile.
If your baby rolls onto their tummy while sleeping, having them in a swaddle can be dangerous because they might not be able to roll back over on their own with their arms and legs confined.
Besides being a safety concern, confining your little one in a swaddle once they’re moving around more can affect their motor skills development. We don’t want that!
5) Fighting Being Swaddled
If you’ve just started swaddling and find your little one trying to resist it, that’s perfectly normal in the beginning. Remember that your baby has just recently gone through birth, so there’s a lot for them to take in!
However, there comes a time when your baby just starts putting up a full-on fight with you when you try to swaddle them. This can be lots of kicking, punching, and maybe some crying.
If this is the case and they are a little older, it may indicate that they want to sleep more freely.
So, you’ve realized that your little one is displaying some or most of the signs mentioned above. You’re now ready to allow them to sleep swaddle-free.
The only question is: how do you make this transition as smooth as possible?
How To Transition Your Baby Out Of The Swaddle
Instead of a gradual transition from the swaddle, some parents decide to go cold turkey. Of course, you can do that. And if you’re lucky, your little one might sleep soundly from their first night out of the swaddle!
But if you suspect your baby might have difficulty adjusting and would like to ease them out of the swaddle, the following techniques can help.
1) The One Arm Out Method
Starting the transition by placing one of their arms out while still having the other arm swaddled is very common (and effective!).
In addition to easing your baby through the transition process, this technique helps if your little one still has a little Moro reflex present. Having one of their arms securely tucked will help to reduce the disturbance of jerking movements.
2) Both Arms Out Of The Swaddle
After your little one has been sleeping soundly with one arm out for a few days, you can leave both arms out of the swaddle.
They may get a little fussy at first because they’re not used to sleeping without being swaddled. But your baby will soon learn to adjust, so you may need to give it some time.
3) Bye-Bye Swaddle
After a few days of having both arms out, you can try to let your little one sleep without a swaddle.
As babies are unique, some might take a couple of days to get used to this, while others won’t need that much time to adjust. It really just depends on your baby.
But don’t worry; they’ll get there!
Helping Your Baby Sleep Without The Swaddle
If your baby has never slept without a swaddle, it can be a little confusing to them. To help make this process smoother, take a look at our tips below.
Maintain A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Just because the swaddle is gone doesn’t mean everything else needs to change!
Give your little one some comfort in consistency by maintaining the same bedtime routine you had while they were being swaddled.
Create a Soothing Atmosphere
You can create a calming environment for your little one through small things such as dimming the lights in their room, playing calming music, or using a white noise machine.
A gentle baby massage might also help them wind down and is a great opportunity for a bit of bonding time!
Swap The Swaddle For A Sleep Sack
Swapping the swaddle for a sleep sack can be a great way to help ease your little one into a different way to sleep. Many parents use this technique, and it can help your baby continue to sleep soundly — and safely!
Here’s To The Next Phase Of Your Baby’s Development!
If you chose to swaddle your newborn, then you already know how about the incredible benefits of this ancient strategy.
But once you realize that your little one is breaking free from the swaddle, they’re becoming more mobile, their startle reflex has reduced, or they are fighting the swaddle, then it might be time to make the transition to swaddle-free sleep.
And don’t be too sad about this inevitable transition. Pretty soon, there will be another exciting milestone to come!