Updated: Aug 4
The swaddle is a great soothing technique for newborns. It gives that snug womb-like sensation and prevents their arms from flailing up (known as the Moro reflex) which can wake them abruptly from their sleep. There comes a time, though, that we need to transition our baby out of the swaddle - a daunting thought for parents who have been enjoying some much needed sleep. Let’s first talk through signs that your baby may be ready to make this transition - one of their first sleep-related transitions since birth!
Signs that it's time to transition out of the swaddle:
If your baby shows any signs of rolling from back to tummy then you need to make the transition for safety reasons. If your baby is getting to their tummy, then they need their hands to push up and roll on the mattress.
Your baby is gaining more strength and consistently stretching their arms and breaking out of the swaddle.
You’ve noticed that your baby’s startle reflex with their arms has lessened or gone away.
There’s no need to rush this transition, unless of course, your baby is showing signs of rolling. I prefer to transition babies from a swaddle to a sleep sack. You will find many products available that can also help with this transition.
There are a few different ways you can go about the transition. I highly suggest starting the transition at bedtime, versus with naps. This transition can be easier for some babies than others, but we want to at least give our babies the time to be able to adjust. We have less time with naps to let them adjust, versus the full night ahead with bedtime. If you are considering sleep training, this is also a great time to transition your baby out of the swaddle while starting sleep training. Lastly, if your baby is starting to show signs of rolling, give them as much tummy time practice during the day as you can. That means they have less need to practice in their crib when it’s time for sleep, and can help them to adjust and get comfortable more quickly when we remove the swaddle.
So here are the ways you can transition out of the swaddle:
Just do it and don’t think back.
Keep one arm swaddled, with the other arm out for 1-2 weeks so that your baby can adjust slowly and start to get a feel of what it’s like with an arm free.
Consider a product that helps to provide baby with some security and potentially weight around their arms. Products include the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit, Nested Bean Zen Sack, Zipadee-Ziop Sleep Suit and the Swaddle Sleeves Sleep Sack.
Some babies can transition easier than others. As with many transitions related to sleep, the most important factor is remaining consistent in your response. Most babies will need some time and space to learn how to move around their crib with this new freedom. Some may find that they are more comfortable sleeping on their tummies, and that's OK from a safe sleep practice (as long as you place them down to sleep on their back).
If you need more help with this swaddle transition, or anything else related to your baby's sleep, let's connect! I'll help to get an action plan into place and support you along the way.