Read on to find out what age you should stop swaddling and how to get your baby to sleep without being swaddled.
Swaddling is a smart strategy for helping your newborn sleep more soundly. Tucking her in a snug wrap can make her feel safe and secure as she adjusts to life outside the womb, keeping her cosy and warm and preventing her from flailing her arms and legs (the startle reflex).
But within a couple of short months, it’ll be time to kiss the swaddling goodbye. Although safe for newborns (provided you’re swaddling in accordance with other safe sleep guidelines), swaddling becomes risky as your baby gets older and becomes more mobile.
So when exactly should you stop swaddling your baby, and how can you ease your little one’s transition to swaddle-free sleep? Here’s what you need to know…
At what age should you stop swaddling?
In short, you should ditch the swaddle as soon as you notice your little one becoming more active and attempting to roll over. Although many babies roll over at around three or four months old, some babies start showing signs of trying to roll as early as two months old.
Once your baby is mobile to the point where she could potentially kick off her blanket, the blanket poses a possible suffocation or strangulation hazard. As your baby gets more mobile, being confined to a wrap can also prevent her from practicing age-appropriate motor skills, which could negatively impact her development.
The best way to stop swaddling
After wrapping and unwrapping your baby more times than you could possibly count, stopping swaddling can feel like the end of an era. And if her swaddle blanket has become an integral part of her sleep routine, you might worry that stopping could seriously throw your baby’s sleep habits off.
The good news is all babies eventually adjust to sleeping without a swaddle. And of course, you could certainly try stopping cold turkey to see how your baby responds. You never know — she might sleep just as well as before!
But if you suspect that wouldn’t be the case (or you don’t want to risk a bad night’s sleep experimenting), you can also try a more gradual approach. Here’s how to do it:
Start by swaddling your baby with one of her arms out of the swaddle.
A few nights later, move on to swaddling her with both of her arms free.
A few nights after that, stop using the swaddle blanket altogether.
Good to know: Swaddling your baby with one or both arms out is perfectly safe, as long as you continue to wrap her blanket securely. In fact, some newborns prefer being swaddled with one or both arms free from the very beginning. If you’re unsure or have questions, reach out to your baby’s paediatrician. You might want to consider looking into a Velcro or zipper swaddle wrap. Some parents find them easier to use, and some babies seem to prefer them to old-fashioned blankets.
How do I get my baby to sleep without being swaddled?
It’s understandable that you might worry your baby won’t sleep as well without her swaddle. But rest assured, even if your baby initially has a tough time transitioning, she’ll eventually get used to it.
Remember, you still have lots of tools at your disposal for helping your little one sleep.
Establishing a calming bedtime routine with a predictable pattern — like a bath, feeding, rocking and a lullaby or a story — can help your baby unwind and, hopefully, fall asleep.
Creating a soothing ambiance by dimming the lights, speaking softly and playing white noise can help too. And finally, don’t discount the power of touch: Infant massage can calm a fussy baby and get her in the zone to fall asleep.