When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby – 3 Top Transition Tips!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 11/05/21 •  9 min read

So, you’ve been swaddling your baby since birth and they’re quite happy with it…

Why fix what isn’t broken… Right?

Well, it’s quite natural to wonder if and when to stop swaddling baby…

But with that said…

It’s equally natural for you to be hesitant to stop swaddling just in case baby stops sleeping well afterwards!

However, knowing when to stop swaddling is a very important transition that baby will need to progress through at some point!

So how can we identify when baby is ready to stop being swaddled and subsequently, navigate this sleeping transition?

How Do You Know When To Stop Swaddling?

Swaddling makes your baby feel safe, it limits the startle reflex and keeps them cosy and warm, reminding them of being in the womb.

However, there will come a time when it is no longer safe for your little one to be swaddled. 

So how do we know when to stop swaddling?

The simple answer is this…

When your baby starts to become more mobile and shows signs of being able to roll over from their back to their front. 

Usually, this occurs when baby is between two and three months old.

Of course, once your baby can roll over they need to be able to move more freely in order to roll back onto their backs and stay safe.

But as with everything baby-related…

No child is the same.

And some babies will simply wake up one day and decide they no longer like being swaddled.

Therefore, you need to be aware of the subtle signs that your baby is ready to stop being swaddled…

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5 Subtle Signs To Stop Swaddling Baby

Here are 5 signs to watch out for that will tell you when your baby is ready to stop swaddling:

  1. Baby is restless and fussy when trying to settle
  2. They no longer have the startle reflex (also known as the Moro Reflex)
  3. Your baby is managing to break free from their swaddle
  4. Baby is rolling from their back onto their tummy
  5. Your little one fights being swaddled when they previously did not mind

So now we know the signs that baby is ready to stop being swaddled… But what happens if we continue to swaddle baby regardless?

3 Dangers Of Continued Swaddling

Although swaddling is beneficial in the early weeks to help your little one sleep feeling safe and secure, swaddling for too long can be detrimental to your baby’s development and well being.

1. Suffocation

It is very important that you stop swaddling once your baby shows signs of rolling over. 

If you do not stop swaddling when your baby shows signs of rolling over, you run the risk of them rolling onto their tummy and suffocating.

2. Overheating

Overheating, rapid breathing and sweating from being swaddled is another risk when your little one becomes more active which can lead to SIDS.

If your baby is wriggling and trying to move more or succeeding in getting out of their swaddle then it is a sure sign that your baby is ready to be transitioned out of their swaddle

3. Hip Dysplasia

Prolonged swaddling or too tight swaddling around the hips can also lead to hip dysplasia. 

As your baby grows they will naturally need more room to move hence the reason a transition swaddle or sleep sack is ideal once your baby is 2 months or older.

So now we know the dangers associated with swaddling for too long…

How do we go about transitioning baby out of a swaddle?

How Do You Transition Out Of Swaddling?

Well, some babies will happily move from being swaddled to unswaddled… 

Especially if they have begun to fight it and want more freedom of movement!

Other babies, however, will struggle to make the transition and you will need to wean them off the comfort a swaddle offers slowly…

And provide other ways to make them feel safe and comfortable and ready for sleep!

So here’s my 3-step swaddle transition plan to get you going.

3 Step Swaddle Transition Plan

Having a swaddle transition plan for when you stop swaddling baby will make this change much more manageable for you and your little one.

When To Stop Swaddling. 3 Step Swaddling Transition Plan

1. Swaddle With One Arm Free

The first step in this plan is to swaddle your baby as normal but leave one arm free. 

This is especially useful if your baby is still experiencing the startle reflex as it also allows your baby to still feel safely wrapped up… but gradually gets them used to not having their entire body swaddled.

2. Swaddle With Both Arms Free

Next, you can then move on to swaddling baby with both arms free. 

When starting, it is best to try this step during nap times rather than at night so that you can observe how baby copes. 

You will, therefore, have the time to help baby adjust to being swaddled with both arms free as they may be a little bit fussy at first.

TOP TIP: Although going arms free is the usual method some babies may prefer to have their legs free first.

3. Transition To A Sleep Sack

A perfect way to safely transition your baby out of their swaddle is to introduce a sleep sack or blanket. 

Sleep sacks are ideal for babies as you do not need blankets and sheets (which are not always safe) but they keep your baby at the correct temperature whilst still allowing them to move freely. 

An ideal way to help with the transition to a sleep sack is to wrap your baby in a thin muslin swaddle underneath the sleep sack to begin with then remove it once they have got used to the sack.

Plus… Here’s a handy video from Norton Health that provides a great visual for how to safely transition baby from a swaddle using the arms out technique, a transitory swaddle and a sleeping sack too.

What To Remember When You Stop Swaddling Baby

It is important to remember that some babies will take longer than others to transition out of their swaddle and you should prepare yourself for some brief sleep disruption during this time. 

On average it can take 7-10 nights for your little one to get used to sleeping without a swaddle.

However, if you feel that your baby is not ready to be unswaddled you can always leave it for a week or two and try again.

Always bear in mind that if your baby has started to show signs of rolling over… you will have no choice but to ditch the swaddle for safety reasons.

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without A Swaddle

Whilst some babies will take to being transitioned out of a swaddle with ease… 

Others will struggle. 

If this is the case when you stop swaddling your baby, you’re going to have to teach them to fall asleep in other ways.

1. Alternate Between Swaddling And Non-Swaddling

When you are weaning baby off swaddling, try alternating between swaddled sleep and unswaddled sleep. 

The best way to do this is to alternate unswaddling or transitional swaddling at nap times first. 

This gives you the opportunity to monitor your little one more easily.

Then gradually, increase the number of times you stop swaddling baby when you put them down to sleep until they are swaddle free.

2. Use Transitional Products

To my mind, the best way to help your baby transition out of a swaddle is to use transitional products. 

The Halo SleepSack is ideal for swaddle transitions as they allow you to swaddle baby safely and then go through the arms free or legs free stage when they’re ready.

3. Help Your Baby To Learn To Fall Asleep Without A Swaddle 

Learning to fall asleep without the comfort of a swaddle can be hard for some babies… 

However, having other sleep cues and comforts will help your baby become less reliant on their swaddle in order to fall asleep. 

To help your baby on their journey to self-settling and better sleep without their swaddle try the following:

  1. Establish a calming regular bedtime.
  2. Give your baby a massage before bed.
  3. Introduce a white noise machine.
  4. Try a pacifier.
  5. Check the sleep environment. Is it too light? Or too warm?
  6. Make sure the sleepsack is the correct tog weight for the time of year.

When To Stop Swaddling Recap

When to stop swaddling will simply come down to keeping an eye out for the signs that baby is ready to move on.

Therefore, you should re-evaluate your baby’s sleeping regularly and assess how much they are moving and whether they are ready to transition from the swaddle to a sleep sack.

Always remember to lay your swaddled baby on their back and never on their side or tummy.

If swaddling is done correctly it can be a lifesaver in helping you get your newborn baby to settle. 

However, you should always regard it as a short term solution and not a long term one.

If you have any further questions about when to stop swaddling or swaddling in general, feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] and ask away. I’m more than happy to help!

Also, if you’re looking for products for your little one and you’re not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox

It is full of all my favourite products which are all non-toxic, eco friendly, sustainable and, of course, they’re all baby proof!

There’s a whole page dedicated to Baby Sleep to get you going too!

So until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting.

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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