Are you wondering if it’s time to stop swaddling your baby, but you aren’t quite sure how you’ll know when that moment arrives?
I remember the day I learned to swaddle. A nurse spent several minutes teaching me how to do it, and when I finally got it right, I was sure this was a trick I would be using forever.
The only problem with that is it’s probably frowned upon to swaddle your kindergartener. No matter how awesome it is, there comes a time when you need to say goodbye to swaddling.
But how do you know if it’s time, and how the heck do you take away something that’s been such a comfort for your baby, and let’s face it, to you too? In this article we are going to discuss how to tell if it’s time to stop, and we’re also going to go through some different methods on how to stop swaddling when it’s time.
The Time Has Come
Are you considering putting an end to swaddling but not really sure how to tell if your baby is ready? The good news is you don’t have to go into this blind.
If your baby is experiencing one or any of the signs below they could be telling you they are ready to bust free from the swaddle.
1. Breaking Free
Just because your baby is starting to be able to break free from their swaddle, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to stop (1). In fact, it could just mean you need to swaddle tighter. But if you try to swaddle your baby tighter and they are still consistently breaking free, it might be a sign your baby is ready to stop swaddling.
2. Soothing Stops
Swaddling is meant to comfort our babies — it calms them down and makes them feel secure. If suddenly your baby stops being soothed by swaddling, it is no longer doing its job. When this happens, your baby is showing you they are ready to be swaddle-free.
3. Rolling Over
I understand if it takes you awhile to give up the swaddle. Maybe you try to swaddle tighter when they start to break free and are no longer soothed. It’s hard for you, just like it is for baby!
But there is one sign that, above all others, will tell you when it’s time to stop swaddling your baby. This one isn’t so much about comfort, but about safety.
Sleeping face down is dangerous for your baby, especially if they are unable to roll back over. This can greatly increase the risk of SIDS (2).
Just as with babies who break free from their swaddle, if your baby is rolling over onto their tummy consistently each night, usually by 7 months old, it is better to be safe than sorry and start to wean the swaddle. The journal “Pediatrics” published the following study on the risks of SIDs when babies are swaddled and end up sleeping on their side or belly.
Here are some safety tips from the AAP about swaddling.
How Exactly Do I Do This?
Possibly harder than deciding it’s time to stop swaddling is deciding how to implement it. Do you just bite the bullet and go cold turkey? Well, I guess you can.
But there has to be a better way that will end in fewer tears for both you and your baby.
If you’ve ever tried to wean your baby off of anything cold turkey, whether it’s nursing, the bottle, or yes, even swaddling, you know it can lead to a lot of tears and heartache.
To avoid this, I instead recommend a gentler and more gradual approach, using these steps.
- Start by leaving just baby’s legs out and only swaddling their arms and torso.
- After a few nights leave one arm out of the swaddle too, so you are just swaddling baby’s torso and a single arm.
- In a few more nights take out the second arm, leaving only the torso swaddled. At this stage, some babies continue to sleep well their torso and legs swaddled, but keeping their arms free.
- Then finally remove the swaddle altogether.
Of course, every baby is different, so this process might not take you as long, or it might take even taker longer for you and your little one. That’s okay! Trust your gut and let your baby set the pace.
Things That Might Help
Sometimes we might need a little extra help in order to break the swaddling habit, and that’s totally normal. So normal, in fact, there is an entire line of baby products created for moms and babies in the same situation as you.
Check out the products below to see if any of them might be a good fit for your little one.
1. Sleep Sacks
Are you worried your baby will get too cold once you stop swaddling, but at the same time they aren’t yet big enough to be able to handle loose blankets? Sleep sacks are your answer.
Sleep sacks are quite literally wearable blankets, providing another layer of warmth and security to your baby once they are passed the swaddling stage. What I love about them is that they come in so many different varieties — sleeveless, short sleeve, 100 percent cotton. The sleep sack of your baby’s dreams is only a mouse click away.
2. Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit
The Magic Sleepsuit from Baby Merlin helps to muffle a baby’s reflexive startles, just as with swaddling, but it leaves their arms and legs free, making it a perfect transition for babies who are tired of the confinement that swaddling can bring.
Keep in mind this product is made for back sleepers only, so if your baby is rolling over it is not recommended. However, if you are trying to stop swaddling when your little one is younger, this could be a great product for you.
3. Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap
This strap is great if you live in a warm climate and don’t want your little one to be overheated, or if you are just at a point where you want to only swaddle your baby’s arms and torso. The Swaddle Strap by Anna & Eve also comes with an inner strap that prevents it from sliding over your baby’s face.
4. Zipadee Zip
You might have heard of the Zipadee-Zip on the television show Shark Tank. It easily became one of the program’s breakout products, and I can see why. It provides a comfortable, secure, and safe environment, while still allowing a baby room to wiggle around and roll over.
This product also offers a small amount of resistance to help with your baby’s startle reflex, and even prevents the risk of hip dysplasia (3). It’s not just for cribs either — the Zipadee-Zip can be used in car seats and strollers too.
My favorite part of this product though is how big it can go. With three sizes, this product is available for little ones ranging from 12-34 pounds.
5. White Noise
Do you live in a metropolitan area where there are noises outside your window all day, every day? Do you have older children who often run wild during your little one’s nap time? All of these things can set off your baby’s startle reflex — one of the things that swaddling helps to control.
If your baby is completely weaned from the swaddle, but still being woken up by the noise around them, white noise might be your answer. The sound from a white noise machine can range from rainforest sounds to running water, or even just static.
You can get white noise for your little one through phone apps or special machines. My personal favorite is the Cloud B line of stuffed animals with soothing noises built in. My grandfather bought me one when my second child was born, and we have nicknamed him the Magic Giraffe because he would put my child to sleep under any circumstances.
6. A Consistent Sleep Routine
Babies thrive on routine, and one of the easiest things you can do to help your baby get used to not being swaddled is to provide them with a consistent routine each night. This will let them gradually and predictably let them get ready for bedtime, instead of just throwing them into it each night.
You can do things like take a bath, read a story, and sing a lullaby. What matters is you do the same things, in the same order, each night so your baby knows what is coming.
At The End Of The Day…Err Night
We understand that the decision to stop swaddling might be hard on both you and your baby. But there comes a point where it is no longer a soother, and instead more of a safety hazard. Thankfully, you don’t have to quit cold turkey and there are products to help you along the way.
- Take it slow: It might take you several nights to ease into not swaddling. That’s okay!
- Special products might help: Whether you go with a sleep sack, Zipadee-Zip, or something else, you will find there is a wide range of products out there made to help ease the transition out of swaddling.
- Noise can help: A machine that makes noise might seem counterproductive to some, but many mothers swear by the magic of white noise.
- A routine can make a big difference: Babies do not do well with the unknown, instead, they thrive on consistent routines.