Swaddling is a fantastic way to respect your baby’s need for a fourth trimester in the first three months of life. Wrapping your baby securely keeps them warm and feeling safe, and effectively works at switching on their ‘calming reflex’. Not only this, but it helps them to sleep sounder and for longer as it prevents them from activating their moro (or startle reflex).
When to transition out of the swaddle?
I always recommend swaddling from birth until your baby begins to roll (generally somewhere between 4-6 months); as this can become a safety hazard. Many babies from 3-4 months learn seek to soothe themselves at bedtimes with their hands (either sucking on fists, fingers, or playing with their favourite comforter). It can therefore be beneficial to transition out of the swaddle to expedite self settling.
Signs it may be time to wean from the swaddle:
- Your baby can roll, and attempts to roll swaddled (most definitive sign)
- Your baby continually busts out of the swaddle (may also be solved by a better wrapping technique, or using a zip up swaddle instead of a wrap)
- Your baby starts fighting the swaddle (an overtired baby will also fight the swaddle, but they may still very much require this for sleep)
- Your baby is 3-4 months, has lost their startle relax, and seeks comfort/self settles by sucking their hands, or toying with their comforter at sleep times (which they are unable to do if swaddled)
How to make the transition:
There are many ways to transition out of the swaddle. Some prefer unswaddling the legs first (keeping the arms secure). My only issue with this is; if your baby starts rolling at an early age (4 months) where full head control is not yet developed, they may have difficulty moving their head to the side, or rolling back over if they are unable to use their arms.
For safety reasons, I always recommend arms first.
1. Keeping legs and one arm wrapped, leave one arm out for 3 nights
2. Two arms out with legs still wrapped from night 4-6
3. Release legs
- Love to dream 50/50 swaddle or ergoPouch swaddle and sleep bag in one (swaddles with shoulder studs/zips that allow for baby’s arms to be released one or two at a time, whilst keeping their body contained).
- Introduce a sleeping bag (appropriate tog for weather) following this transition to keep your baby warm and secure (note that babies are unable to regulate their own body temperature until they are 12 months of age)
- The Magic Sleep Suit, Zipadee-zip and Sleepy Hugs Sleep Suit; are halfway between a swaddle and sleep bag. They help to muffle the startle reflex by keeping baby’s hands contained, but with enough freedom to move them – keeping babies feeling secure, cosy, and sleeping for longer.
What to expect:
You can expect some regression or change in sleep patterns when making this transition; and this is completely normal. At the beginning, your baby may resist bed times, not sleep as long (catnapping), or wake more frequently than normal. You may also notice your baby is more irritable, and unsettled. It can take between 3-7 nights (hopefully no longer) as your baby adjusts to his/her new freedom and mobility without the swaddle.
How to make this transition easier:
1. Keep a consistent day and night routine. It will be especially important not to let them become overtired during this transition, as an overtired baby will resist bedtime and can be difficult to settle
2. Optimise their sleep environment
3) Acknowledge your baby’s tired cues, as an overtired baby will often resist sleep
4) Increase wind down time before bed (10-15 min before naps, and 30-60 min at the end of the day)
5) Establish consistent and positive sleep associations; book, sleeping bag, comforter, white noise etc
6) Be prepared to spend extra time sitting beside your baby’s bed, to help them to fall asleep
7) Delay any sleep training or other transitions such as night weaning, or dummy weaning until after this transition
8) Be patient, kind and sensitive to your baby’s needs. Extra cuddles will make them feel loved and secure…. And know that this too shall pass!
If you would like extra support during this time, feel free to get in touch for a consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org