Swaddle Transitioning: Why, When, and How

Swaddle Transitioning: Why, When, and How

September 21, 2020

You may have seen the video of this 3-month-old cutie who enthusiastically starts his day post-swaddle by throwing his hands up with a big stretch (and if you haven’t, you need to!). Can we say, “Awww!” 

For this baby, using a swaddle means waking up happy and well-rested after a comfortable night’s sleep. Why is the swaddle such a great tool for newborns?

Benefits of the Swaddle

A swaddle can help calm infants and improve their sleep quality. It’s important to follow safety precautions to ensure that the swaddle is done correctly to be helpful and safe for your infant. But when you do it right, a swaddle can be a lifesaver!

From their time in gestation, babies feel comforted when they’re wrapped in a snug position that mimics the feeling of the womb. Additionally, babies are born with a moro reflex that makes them startle instinctively. A swaddle keeps the baby’s limbs close to the body so that this reflex doesn’t wake them up at night.

When to Swaddle, and When to Transition?

You can safely swaddle your baby within the first weeks of life. Some parents choose to swaddle their baby for naps and nighttime sleep, while others only swaddle at night. As long as your newborn is free to move during waking periods, either is fine for proper motor development.

For transition timing, every baby is different, and you should make decisions about when to transition according to the development and preference of your child. Parents can look for a few key indicators for readiness, which often come up at a period between 3-5 mos. If your baby does any of the following, it might be time to consider a transition out of the swaddle:

  • Has greater arm and neck strength
  • Shows signs of more movement, but is not yet rolling over
  • Fights a swaddle and wants to keep arms out
  • Breaks out of a swaddle or takes arms out in the night
  • Has increased nighttime movement or activity
  • Sleeps for longer periods at night without parent attention

By the time your baby can roll completely onto their tummy, you should stop swaddling both for comfort and safety reasons; your little one needs hands free to push up off the mattress.

Concerns with Transitioning from a Swaddle

Changes can be difficult for babies, and a swaddle transition can introduce potential issues.

Poor sleep adjustment: Losing the comfort and security of a swaddle can be a difficult change. Without the compression of the swaddle to suppress the moro reflex, this can result in more frequent wakeups or taking longer to fall asleep.

Temperature change: A baby’s optimal room temperature at 68–72 degrees can suddenly feel cold once your baby is without the warmth of a swaddle. As a bare mattress without loose bedding is necessary for safe sleeping, a lack of blankets may make your baby feel cold and wake more often.

Tips For an Effective Swaddle Transition

If you begin seeing signs of readiness to transition from a swaddle, here are a few things that can make the change a little easier.

Use a swaddle transition product

The Magic Sleepsuit is designed specifically to be used in this transitional period. It can help bridge the gap to allow your baby the comfort they need for sound sleep while preventing some of the concerns that might come up in a swaddle transition.

Unlike a regular swaddle blanket, The Magic Sleepsuit can’t be kicked off or wriggled out of to become loose in the crib, and it allows for movement for nighttime safety. The Sleepsuit provides the same cozy comfort of a swaddle, and the snug sleeves calm your baby’s moro reflex to prevent them from startling awake. The Sleepsuit keeps your baby warm while leaving hands and feet open to prevent overheating.

Maintain a bedtime routine

It can help to introduce the change gradually, such as just using the Sleepsuit at naptime to start. As your baby is taking time to get used to the transition, try to keep all other aspects of the bedtime routine, such as a warm bath and singing songs, consistent at night.

Adjust as your baby does

If your ready-to-transition baby is too small for the Magic Sleepsuit, try an adjusted arms-out swaddle until they grow to fit a suit comfortably. For the best fit, make sure to size up your Magic Sleepsuit as your baby grows. When your baby is able to roll over at night fully in the Sleepsuit, it’s time to transition them out. By this point, their startle reflex will have calmed significantly and they will be ready for a new stage in sleep.

You Are Your Baby’s Expert!

Ultimately, you know your baby best! Take note of your baby’s behavior and talk to your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about when transitioning is best for your baby. 

Every child has different sleep preferences and a different timeline for when changes are needed. Figuring it out may take a little bit of time, but it will be worth it for better sleep for your baby—and for yourself.