How to Transition Baby from Swaddling

It is recommended that you stop swaddling your baby at around three to four months old, or when they start rolling.

Swaddling can inhibit movement and your baby’s sleepwear and bedding should be adjusted to support their development phases. Often your baby will tell you when they are ready to move out of the swaddle because you’ll find one arm out of the swaddle, or the swaddle has come completely undone.

You can expect some disruption during the transitioning phase, but no more than a few nights. Your baby will learn to adjust to a sleeping bag quite quickly, but there are ways you can help them.  If you notice they are moving around the cot more, wriggling free of the wrap or wriggling one arm out, you can adjust your swaddle to accommodate this change.

How to Transition Baby from Swaddling

  • Start with day sleeps as these are generally shorter.
  • Over a few days, start by swaddling your baby with their arms out.
  • Try one arm out first, and then when they are comfortable with that try releasing the second arm, only swaddling from the chest down.
  • At the same time, you should gradually loosen the tension of the swaddle/wrap.
  • If you feel that your baby misses the feeling of pressure from the swaddle, place your arm gently across their upper body. As they start to settle, you can then take your arm away.

You may need to assist your baby between sleep cycles with shushing and patting while they get used to having one arm free. This may take a few days. Once they are comfortable with this for day naps, start the process for the night sleep.

When you have both arms out you can give up the swaddle/wrap all together and tuck them in tightly under a sheet or use a baby sleep bag, as per the SIDs & Kids Guidelines.

When using a sleeping bag or wrap it is important to use the right fabric weight as per the temperature in your baby’s room. This will help to reduce the chance of your baby getting too hot. Elevated temperature has been associated with higher risk of SIDs.

Recent research has found an association between swaddling and SIDs. If the baby is swaddled and rolls onto their tummy, the swaddle may prevent them from rolling back because it can restrict their range of movement.

The authors of the study did not suggest not swaddling your baby, but rather, suggested when your baby showed signs of wanting to move or roll they should be put to bed without the swaddle.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to move away from swaddling, it is part of moving with your baby’s development phase and the extra movement that not swaddling affords them is an important part of their development.

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