How to Wean from Swaddling — A Gentle Transition
So you’ve reached that wonderful — and often dreaded milestone: your baby is ready to give up the swaddle. But are you? Do you know how to wean from swaddling?
Many parents of newborns worry that they will have to actively “wean” their baby from swaddling. Luckily, babies often send clear signals that they don’t like being swaddled anymore as they get more mobile. You’ll learn:
- When to stop
- Intermediate options to try
- Helpful products to try
- Wakefulness windows for babies
When to Stop Swaddling
On average, babies are ready to be weaned off swaddling between three and four months. However, many babies continue to enjoy being swaddled for naps while not be swaddled for night sleep. That’s ok! It’s more difficult to go to sleep during the day so swaddling can help.
It’s time to stop swaddling when your baby:
- Wiggles out of their swaddling blanket frequently.
- Rolls over
- Fights the swaddle more than usual
- No longer quiets easily when swaddled
Too early to sleep train? What can you do until then?
Read: Starting Sleep Training? 10 Steps to Take BEFORE You Start
How to Wean From Swaddling
- Try swaddling her with one arm out. If she fusses and hits herself, she is not ready. Try again in a couple of weeks.
- If she is happy, leave her arm out. In a couple of days or weeks you can try putting her down with both arms out. It’s ok to keep the torso swaddled if your baby likes it!
- Some babies even like having their legs unswaddled first before trying the arms. It’s worth a try!
- If your newly unswaddled baby is fussing when you put him down, you can stay by his crib and put your hands on his chest to calm him. Then slowly reduce the pressure, and finally lift your hands off completely. Be careful, you don’t want to form a new sleep crutch during this process.
- You can begin weaning at night first and work on naps later if you have been swaddling for naps in addition to nights, and your baby is not yet rolling but you sense it’s around the corner, .
- If your baby is rolling, it’s time to start weaning him off the swaddle, one arm at a time, right away. If your baby is not rolling yet but busting out of her swaddle despite your expert swaddling techniques, try transitioning with a blanket sleeper, or a sleep sack. That will let them move around, but still give them that cuddly contained feeling. You can even try a sleep sack with “wings” that you can gradually loosen.
What is the Sleep Lady Shuffle?
Read: The Sleep Lady Shuffle: How to Gently Sleep Train your Baby
Products that Help You Wean From Swaddling
Designed with safety in mind, the Swaddle Up line of baby sleep sacks can be used from the newborn stage on. The Swaddle Up 50/50 is specifically designed for the baby who is weaning from the swaddle. Hana-Lia Krawchuk, founder and owner of the Love To Dream three-stage swaddle and sleeping system, identifies the transition period as whenever the baby first rolls.
“Rolling is a pretty big milestone for babies. They start rolling at anywhere from three to six months in a full-term baby. And we get questions about direction — rolling is rolling. Once they start showing signs of rolling, they need to get out of the swaddle for safety and development.”
All of the sleep sacks from Love to Dream feature hands-up wings and a safe, gentle, lower-body swaddle with legs and hips free to move. Once a baby gets rolling, the 50/50 — designed for babies who are 4 months and up or who show signs of rolling — features zip-off wings. The wings can be removed one at a time to ease the transition to hands-free, and are soft and silent enough to be removed after the baby has fallen asleep!
Another product clients raved about is called the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit. Developed by a pediatric physical therapist, it is a sleep suit that is made of a soft material that provides “input” to the baby to calm the startle reflex while still providing baby the freedom to move arms and legs. Perfect for babies who are not rolling yet, still have their startle reflex, and are busting out of their more traditional swaddle blanket. The Magic Sleepsuit keeps baby warm all night long, with easy access zippers and no loose blankets or material.
Be Mindful of Wakeful Windows and Tummy Time
During waking hours, babies need to have time to move and practice rolling both directions. Make sure your baby has plenty of tummy time during the day so that they can master their new skills. Don’t forget to watch for your baby’s sleep windows so he is not over tired.
Remember that your child’s naps are changing in the next few months, so take a few minutes to look at the appropriate nap and wakeful window schedule for your baby:
Want to know more about flexible schedules?
Read: Sample Schedules: Sleep and Naps From 6 Months to Preschool
Now that you know when to stop swaddling, you can plan ahead to make an easier transition. It is always easier with a well-rested baby. Try to keep naps within your baby’s “wakeful window” of 1-1.5 hours to avoid an overtired baby. Be consistent with your pre-sleep routine as you begin swaddle weaning.
Chances are, within a few nights, your baby will enjoy being able to move around freely, and the swaddle will be a distant memory!