By Kathryn Peck / Medically reviewed by Dr. Samantha Ball, DO
When you finally master the art of swaddling your baby, there’s something extremely gratifying about it. It’s not easy to do, but you very quickly transitioned from amateur to expert in the field of swaddling. Your baby is happy, snug, and asleep.
But this stage doesn’t last forever, and you’ll notice when your baby starts to fight to free their arms with every grunt, snort, and ounce of energy in them that the end is near.
If you’re like me, your heart will want to keep your baby swaddled as long as you can, but your mind will tell you otherwise. When it’s time, it’s time.
If you’re like me, your heart will want to keep your baby swaddled as long as you can, but your mind will tell you otherwise.
While each baby is different, most babies no longer need swaddling between 3 and 4 months of age. But don’t go by a number - there are several telltale signs that might indicate your baby should not be swaddled anymore.
The most prominent sign, according to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for sleep safety, is that your baby is either rolling over, showing signs of rolling over, or even just starting to roll from back to side. Even when you notice that leg trying desperately to get themselves to roll, it’s time. Other signs that might indicate your baby swaddle is no longer needed may include:
- Your baby is struggling to break free from the swaddle, which usually wakes them up at night.
- Your baby can break out of the swaddle with one or both hands.
- Your baby simply resists being swaddled.
- Your baby no longer has the dramatic startle reflex or (also called the Moro reflex).
- Your baby is fussy when swaddled.
So once you’ve determined that your baby isn’t in need of being swaddled anymore, then what?
Don’t fret, there are options.
You can try to transition gradually out of a swaddle by freeing one arm first for a few nights, then allowing the second arm free. After a few more nights, you can remove the swaddle blanket altogether.
There are plenty of sleep sack options to consider that can also help with a more gradual approach to the transition. Check out the Love to Dream Swaddle UP Adaptive Transition Bag (https://lovetodream.com/), which allows gradual control of the arms in a safe, easy to zipper snug sleep sack.
It is important to note that the AAP no longer recommends the use of weighted swaddles and weighted sleep sacks. They have been found to be, according to pediatric experts, too restricting for some babies and can potentially increase the risk of SIDS.
HALO offers a variety of non-weighted transition swaddles and sleep sacks. Plus Angel Dear, long known for their line of baby clothes, blankets, and loveys, now offers sleep sacks and wearable blankets once you are ready to stop swaddling.
And, that’s another option. You could just stop swaddling. Easier said than done, I know.
For a safe sleeping environment, keep your baby’s crib free from loose blankets, bumpers and toys; keep the mattress firm; and keep the temperature slightly cool to prevent overheating.
Whatever the path you choose, know that it’s just temporary; in a week’s time your baby will have adjusted to the new routine and you’ll have completely forgotten those endless nights when your baby woke up 45 times. Just know that it’s the right decision for you and your baby.
Read more on the blog: “Swaddle Transition: Cold Turkey or Gradual?”
Please note: This is for educational and informational purposes only and is not meant to substitute individual medical advice. For specific and individual advice, always talk to your doctor.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.
About the reviewer: Dr. Samantha Ball, DO, is a pediatrician, cat mom, and advocate for children’s overall health and wellness. She is continually focused on supporting families through all stages in a realistic and evidence-based way. In addition to practicing medicine in Georgia, she shares experiences and her perspectives on topics including parenting tips, mental and physical health, and how to navigate the unexpected challenges that come about when raising kids.