How to Wean from Swaddling – A Gentle Transition

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  • August 02, 2017
wean from swaddle

wean from swaddleArticle originally appeared in Gentle Baby Solutions, Week 16

So you’ve reached that wonderful — and often dreaded milestone: your baby is ready to give up the swaddle. But are you?

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.

On average, babies are ready to be weaned off swaddling between  3 and 4 months of age. 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.

Cues that your baby is ready to wean from the swaddle

  • Your baby wiggles out of their swaddling blanket frequently.
  • Your baby can roll over
  • Your baby fights the swaddle more than usual
  • Your baby no longer quiets easily when swaddled.

Swaddle weaning options to try

  • 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.
  • 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, you can begin weaning at night first and work on naps later.
  • 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.

Products that help you wean from swaddling

Swaddle Up 50/50 by Love To Dream

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 LoveToDream three-stage swaddle and sleeping system, identifies the transition period as whenever the baby first rolls.

swaddleup

SwaddleUP (right) offers an arms-up position. SwaddleUP 50/50 (left) helps transition from the swaddle.

“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! You can read more about the Love to Dream Swaddle Up system here here.

Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit

merlin magic sleepsuitAnother 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. You can read more about the Merlin Sleepsuit here here.

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:

wakeful windows

It is always easier to make transitions 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!

 

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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