As a new parent, you likely have more questions about baby care than there are hours in the day.
But one of the most common you’ll come up on in regards to your newborn is: When should I stop swaddling my baby?
“All babies have a startle reflex called a Moro reflex for the first couple months of life,” begins Texas-based baby sleep consultant Caroline Pavlick. “While some grow out of this sooner than others, babies with a strong Moro reflex do best swaddled so as to prevent them from accidentally waking themselves by startling.”
Soon enough, however, every baby will outgrow the need for a swaddle.
Here’s a closer look at the when, why, and how of transitioning your baby out of the swaddle.
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the ideal time to stop swaddling your baby is around the 2-month mark. However, Caroline adds that this time frame may extend to 3 or 4 months.
Better yet, a more accurate point of reference to stop is when your baby attempts to (or successfully begins to) roll over. “Parents will see initial signs of rolling with their little one when the baby starts rolling to his or her side while sleeping, or during daytime play,” Caroline explains.
Other signs that it’s time to stop swaddling include them trying to break out of the swaddle or becoming more fussy or restless when wrapped up.
Why is This the Best Time?
Many parents choose to swaddle their newborns to comfort them and promote good sleep. After all, a swaddle is meant to mimic the mother’s womb and thus provides a safe and soothing sleep environment.
However, once your newborn develops and gathers strength to roll over, more serious health risks come into play. If they roll over to a face-down position while still swaddled, their ability to breathe freely gets extremely compromised.
Further, if they happen to gain enough strength to break free of the swaddle on their own, the loose fabric also poses serious health risks.
How to Transition Out of the Swaddle
Even if your baby shows signs that they’re ready to transition out of the swaddle, they may still have trouble adjusting to their new sleep regimen.
That said, here are three parting tips on how to successfully transition your baby out of the swaddle.
1. Ease into it
When it comes to major changes in your baby’s routine, it’s often best to start slowly and ease into a transitional period.
With that in mind, you’ll likely want to start having your baby sleep with one arm out for a few days — followed by both arms for another few days — before they grow comfortable with this new sense of physical freedom.
2. Invest in a sleep sack
Along the same lines of making a smooth transition, you may want to swap the swaddle for a sleep sack.
While not as restrictive as a swaddle, sleep sacks (aka: wearable blankets) are a popular choice to cover and soothe your baby as they sleep — without posing the same risks that loose blankets and other fabrics have.
3. Create a consistent routine and comfortable sleep environment
Last but not least, there are a number of ways to ensure that your newborn gets the most restful and restorative sleep possible.
This includes adhering to a regular sleep routine, which may entail:
- sticking to consistent nap times and bedtimes
- singing them to sleep
- giving them a pacifier to indicate it’s time to rest
- Caroline shares that your baby may also prefer to self-soothe by sucking on their fingers: “Sleep is enhanced tremendously when a baby learns natural ways of self-soothing by bringing their hand to mouth, especially if the baby won’t take a pacifier.”
In addition to establishing a routine, ensure your baby has a safe and comfortable sleeping environment by:
- ensuring the room temperature isn’t too hot or cold
- freeing the sleep area of excess fabrics and objects
- placing the baby to sleep on their back
- turning on a white noise machine
- By understanding when and why your baby is ready to stop being swaddled, you should feel empowered to start embarking on this exciting new step in their evolving sleep routine.