Once you master the baby swaddling art (after the 17th unsuccessful attempt, that is), you finally see that there is light at the end of the parenting tunnel. Or, at least silence. And longer stretches of sound sleep for everybody.
Swaddling is a great settling tool for newborns as it makes them feel almost like they did in the womb (read: blissful solitude combined with warm coziness and a feeling of security). Besides, it helps immensely with their startle reflex, so it’s no wonder that once you (and your baby) have found the comfort of swaddling, it’s hard to say goodbye to the USPS-postage-ready wrapped version of your newborn. But, sooner or later, the swaddle will have to go.
When is the best time to stop swaddling your baby?
The best time to stop swaddling your baby is on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Just kidding! There is no right or wrong time to get rid of the swaddle. Each baby has its own preferences and while some babies enjoy being swaddled well past 6 months, others start feeling uncomfortable due to the movement restrictions of the swaddle in just a few weeks. There are, however, 2 factors to consider when you decide to stop swaddling your baby:
Safety – when your baby starts rolling over (at around 4 – 6 months) and turns to her stomach in her sleep, it’s time to say goodbye to the swaddle as this may cause breathing difficulties, increasing the risk of SIDS.
Comfort – after your baby outgrows her startle reflex (a.k.a. Moro reflex), this is a good indicator that she may no longer need to be swaddled. This is especially true if she constantly breaks free of her swaddle (letting you know she doesn’t feel comfortable in the swaddle anymore).
3 Easy ways to stop swaddling your baby:
1. One step at a time
If your child heavily depends on her swaddle to go to sleep (and stay asleep), getting rid of it should be a gradual process. Start by unswaddling one arm (the non-dominant one), wait for 1-2 nights, and then unswaddle the other arm (the dominant arm). Once the baby gets accustomed to sleeping with her freed arms, you can remove the swaddle altogether and have a glass of wine. You’ve made it!
2. Once and for all
If you can feel that your child is ready to be freed from the swaddle (she keeps trying to break free anyway), you can easily get it over with by simply not swaddling her one night and seeing how that works. If the baby is happy to be sleeping without anything restricting her movements (which you will know by, hopefully, a night of sound sleep), then you’re all good. Congratulations!
3. Moving from swaddle to sleeping bag
When your baby has outgrown her swaddle, it’s time to move from swaddle to sleeping bag. There are many options available on the market, so it is really up to you to decide which sleeping bag/sleeping sack will best fit your baby’s needs. Oh, and you should, by all means, encourage the use of a lovey (a small blanket or a stuffed animal) when your baby moves from swaddle to sleeping bag – this will make the soothing process easier for her and will help comfort her when she drifts off to sleep.