How to Transition Your Baby Out of a Swaddle
Swaddles are a newborn essential. They are critical for your newborn to feel safe, secure and confident. After all, they just spent nine months all nice and cozy in the womb!!! They crave that environment and a swaddle is going to recreate that for them. Eventually by 8-12 weeks, it is time to get out of the swaddle to help baby learn the skills of using their own body for soothing!
KEEPING BABY IN THE SWADDLE
But what about before? So often I hear of 4-7 week old babies who are struggling to keep a swaddle on them. It’s constant fight and I’ve heard parents complain about how many “hates the swaddle” or “breaks out of anything!”
In these tricky cases, I have some suggestions…
My personal favorite swaddle was the Summer Infant Swaddle Me. Since it’s velcro it made those middle of the night feeds much easier!
Many of my clients love (though I never personally used) the Love to Dream Swaddle. This clearly gives baby no where to go but keeping arms snug above their head. As they grow the Love to Dream also has a swaddle that offers the arms straight up in the air, but also has little zippers at the shoulders (The L2D 50/50) so when it’s time to get out or swaddling, you just unzip. Now it’s a sleep sack! You don’t have to have any other product!
It can get expensive to experiment, but you have to find the one that’s right for you! Go on a neighborhood group, Facebook marketplace and borrow them. At this age, just please avoid the Magic Merlin. It won’t work at this age, and I don’t recommend it in the future either. (More on that here!)
TRANSITIONING OUT OF THE SWADDLE
In the Newborn Course, I talk about using the swaddle being used until anywhere between 8 to 12 weeks. Like anything, it can vary based on if baby came early, or how big or small your baby is. 8 weeks is the soonest, and 12 weeks is the last call!
Here’s why we need baby to wean the swaddle:
SAFETY: If they are starting to roll, we want to encourage that, and we want to do it safely. You can’t stop it, so celebrate it!
DEVELOPMENT: Even if they aren’t rolling yet, you need to get them out for developmental reasons. The startle reflex goes away by 4-6 months, and in my experience babies who keep the swaddle longer than 12 weeks tend to more easily wake themselves up during sleep as they’ve become so used to the swaddle.
HOW TO TRANSITION OUT OF THE SWADDLE:
Pick a start time, nap or bedtime. Either one is okay! Begin my taking one arm out of the swaddle, and allowing the other arm to remain contained.
For the next nap, swap! Swaddle the arm that was last free and take the other arm out.
For the next night waking, swap! Swaddle the arm that was last free and take the other arm out.
Continue swapping bath and forth between arms for each nap and night waking.
After 3-4 days, get both arms out!
During the day time, up that tummy time! One of our most popular podcasts so far is the one with Baby Begin, talking about tummy time. Jennifer recommends 5-6 tummy time sessions per day, about 3-5 minutes per session.
Celebrate!! We want your baby to move!! We want them to roll! These are skills that will continue to help your baby grow, thrive and eventually self-soothe!
If you want to transition to an open-arms sleep sack now, go for it! These can be helpful in rooms that tend to be a bit chilly, as a cue for sleep (that zipper sound!!), and may help keep your baby from crib climbing as they grow! (See all my favorites here!)
I’d love to hear how your transition is going! Comment below and tell me how baby is doing, and don’t forget to share this with a new mom or a mom who may be struggling with the swaddle!!
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant