How to Stop Using or Transition a Baby from the Swaddle

How to Stop Using or Transition a Baby from the Swaddle

The new baby smell, the feeling of gratitude, love and a touch of overwhelm as the new reality of life +1…or multiples sets in. 

The nurses are like swaddle ninja’s. I suppose after the hundreds of swaddles they do each month, anyone would become an expert. I have to admit, when I was in the hospital, I felt like a swaddle boss…then we came home and well, it all unraveled, literally and figuratively!

What is Swaddling?

Swaddling is a technique of wrapping a baby in a blanket or cloth to mimic the feeling of being in the womb. In addition, newborns don’t have the motor control, and their “moro reflex” or startle reflex can often wake them from the precious sleep both they and you need. During a newborn's first weeks, swaddling can be a lifesaver for parents while they learn their new baby's needs and desires. 

What is the Best Position to Place Baby’s Arms when Swaddling?

I like to provide guidance for this by actually starting while you are still expecting. Have a look at your 20 week ultrasound, where were the baby's arms? If they were up, then look for a swaddle with arms up. Were they down by their side or at the heart center. How a baby spent 9 months is likely going to be how they wish to spend their first weeks outside of your belly.   

It’s important to try different positions as you learn about your newborn and their needs. While above is not full-proof, it’s a good place to start.

How Do I Safely Swaddle a Baby?

Here at Tiny Transitions, we are all about safe infant sleep. We want to ensure we aren’t using anything loose that can become a potential safety hazard, like loose blankets. It’s actually for that reason I don’t recommend using the blankets they give you at the hospital. They quickly start to break out of those as they become more awake, alert and aware.

Instead, register for (or better yet borrow and try) a few swaddles, until you find the one that works best in your home. Using a swaddle vs. a blanket ensures there are no potential safety issues if the swaddle wasn’t done well enough or if the baby breaks out. 

Can I Swaddle Under Safe Sleep Guidelines?

We like swaddles that ensure the ABC’s of sleep, Alone, Back, Crib and in a swaddle that is age-appropriate. There should be nothing else in the crib, but baby, on a hard flat surface, like a crib or bassinet. 

At What Age Should You Stop Swaddling? 

Typically, you stop swaddling between 8 & 12 weeks, or when they show signs of rolling. You don’t want a newborn to roll in a swaddle, with their arms in, as this can pose a suffocation risk should they roll and only have developing neck control. 

When they begin to show signs that they are close to rolling, start by unswaddling one arm at a time, until you free both arms. Then, place an order for the Magic Sleepsuit, a great transition from swaddle product. It’s unweighted, supports the ABC’s of safe sleep and also allows for access to their fingers, as babies start to explore self-soothing and gross motor skill development. 

How Do I Transition a Baby from the Swaddle? 

Begin by transitioning your baby out of the swaddle during daytime naps. This allows you to monitor their response and adjust as needed. It also allows you to ensure that the baby is not overtired, which can make the transition harder for them as they have very sensitive wake windows. 

Start by leaving one arm out of the swaddle while keeping the other arm swaddled. This allows your baby to get used to having one arm free while still feeling some familiar snugness. Once your baby is comfortable with one arm out, gradually transition to having both arms out of the swaddle. You can do this over the course of several days or weeks, depending on your baby's response. 

Consider using a transitional swaddle like the Magic Sleepsuit, that allows for more arm movement while still providing some sense of security. Also, make sure your baby's sleep environment is conducive to restful sleep and allow time for them to adjust to the new transition, it may take a few days. 

Do You Recommend a Swaddle Transition Product Like Magic Merlin? 

Yes, we love the Magic Sleepsuit as a transition swaddle product for several reasons. First, it’s a non-weighted transition swaddle, with 3 layers of polyfill, that provides the comfort of a swaddle but ability to adjust and move. Your baby is placed on their back, on a hard surface like a crib to sleep, they have access to their fingers to soothe, they can adjust themselves to a spot in the crib that's best for them and, it protects them from waking as the startle or moro-reflex can still be strong at this age. 



About the Author: 

Courtney Zentz, an award-winning speaker, author and expert baby & toddler sleep coach. She founded Tiny Transitions a decade ago and is the creator of the Sleep Steps® Program. Courtney is on a mission to change how well the world sleeps, by providing quality, evidence-based sleep education to families through private sleep coaching or her one-of-a-kind sleep coaching membership. Through her work and the work of her team of Certified Sleep Consultants, the Slumber Squad supports thousands of families around the world to help babies take longer naps, settle independently at bedtime and sleep through the night, with their no-cry-it-out sleep training programs. 

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