When should you stop swaddling your baby? If he’s nearly 4 months old and he’s showing one of these 3 signs:
#1 He’s consistently “breaking out” of the swaddle.
Is your baby a little escape artist? Some parents mistakenly think their babies are ready to transition out of a tight swaddle (a swaddle that holds their arms down by their sides) because they are escaping it, when in reality it’s simply a matter of the swaddle not doing a good enough job of staying on their baby. If your baby is breaking out of his swaddle between 2 and 4 months, it is most likely the fault of the swaddle itself. So try a different swaddle first, before going to a transitional swaddle. Between the ages of 2 and 3 months, a baby’s “moro” or startle-reflex is really too strong to give up the helpful, startle-soothing restriction of a tight swaddle, so the best time to start the stopping of the swaddling routine is right around the 4-6 month mark.
#2 He’s suddenly waking up multiple times in the middle of the night.
One sign you should start transitioning away from the tight swaddles is when your baby, who has slept well while swaddled, all of a sudden wakes up multiple times at night, acting as if he is trying to find a more comfortable position to sleep in. If you are able to wait until this sign occurs at around 4-6 months, the transition away from swaddling altogether is pretty immediate. A baby won’t totally outgrow the startle-reflex until around 6 months-old, so the closer you can get to that benchmark, the more seamless the transition will be to no swaddling at all.
Here’s our rough time table regarding your transition to no swaddling:
Night 1-3 Months = Tight Swaddles
3-6 Months = Transition Swaddles
4-6 Months + = Wearable Blankets or No Swaddle/Footed PJ’s
*Give Transitional swaddles a go if your baby is showing readiness around 3 months. We think you should try the Woombie or the Swaddle Up 50/50 because they can take you past that 3-month mark when your baby needs the “idea” of a swaddle, but also needs one he can’t break out of — and it allows your baby to make a more seamless transition to no swaddle at all. Both of these transitional swaddles allow for some arm movement, which will be a very new sleeping concept for your baby. The Swaddle Up 50/50 even allows for your baby to sleep with his arms up (a natural instinct for him) AND LATER ON it allows for one or both arms to be unzipped! So they’re really ideal for introducing your baby to a slightly less-swaddled sleeping experience.
#3 He’s able to roll over from his back to his belly.
At first, your baby will only roll from his belly to his back because this is easier as he can use his arms to help him push over. Back-to-belly rolling comes next, usually by 5 to 6 months, or a month after he’s initially learned to roll over. Once he has even once achieved a back-to-belly roll-over, he will totally prefer to sleep on his belly, and the tight swaddle will prevent him from being able to do so.
Bottom line: you need to stop tight swaddling him right away, once he has rolled over from his back to his belly on his own. It’s in large part because it will become dangerous when your baby struggles in the tight swaddle to roll over, as the fabric could end up covering his mouth and nose and therefore restrict his airways. It’s 100% time to put your baby down for his naps and night time sleep-stretches in just his onesie, without any swaddle, and still with nothing else in the crib (See our Crib Essentials post). When it’s cooler out, we recommend you start putting him in footed pajamas (get ones that zip, not snap, because snaps are a major pain during diaper changes!).
*IF YOUR BABY IS A LITTLE “HERCULES” AND IS ROLLING OVER EARLY (BEFORE 3 MONTHS), THEN TRY THE FABULOUS BABY MERLIN’S MAGIC SLEEP SUIT! It prevents your baby from rolling over and still provides the swaddled effect!
*You can start start using a wearable blanket at this point. Halo Sleepsack’s wearable blanket worn over a long-sleeve onesie is a great choice in the cooler months because they will keep him warm but not pose a smothering risk (because his arms are out). The Bebe au Lait Muslin Sleeper is great option for the warmer months.
Note: Only swaddle your baby during his naps or night time sleep stretches. He should always experience freedom of movement during his awake time.
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