There really is nothing like newborn cuddles. But when exhaustion hits, every new parent is looking for the best ways to get their baby to sleep. It's a delicate balance between comfort for your baby and optimal safety.
One of the best ways to keep your baby comfortable and safe in the newborn stage is with a swaddle. But what comes after? Is it difficult to learn how to stop swaddling? If you're trying to get better sleep for your baby and yourself through swaddling and the swaddle transition, this article will show you everything you need to know.
WHAT IS SWADDLING?
Swaddling is defined as wrapping your baby tightly in a soft blanket for warmth and comfort. It's been used for centuries to help babies fall asleep, stay asleep, and feel safer in the world around them.
Swaddled babies tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer than non-swaddled babies. This is because they are not disturbed by their twitching arms and legs during sleep time. Newborn babies experience the Moro reflex, which makes them feel like they are falling and startle awake. Swaddling prevents your baby's arms and legs from flailing and scaring them out of sleep.
The feeling of the swaddle also mimics the tight, warm feeling of being in the womb, which helps your baby relax. Research shows that infants cry less when swaddled, and that swaddling leads to more self-regulatory ability, meaning they can put themselves back to sleep better! What parent doesn't want that?
How to Safely Swaddle Your Baby
We say "safely" because some parents have expressed concerns about their baby being able to move while swaddled. Swaddling is safe until your baby can roll over or attempt to roll over while swaddled. According to Healthy Children, “Some babies start working on rolling as early as 2 months of age, but every baby is different.” Follow these steps for a safe, comfortable swaddle:
- Use a light blanket, such as a muslin cloth.
- Spread a blanket out and fold one corner down so you have one straight edge and 3 points. Instead of a square, the blanket should look like an upside-down triangle.
- Place your baby's head above the folded edge.
- Take the left corner of the blanket and pull it across your baby's chest, tucking their left arm in by their side.
- Tuck the fabric under your baby's right armpit and under the rest of their body.
- Bring the fabric at their feet up. Make sure your baby's legs can bend and straighten and that the blanket isn't wrapped too tightly.
- Finally, take the right corner of the fabric and tuck your baby's right arm at their side. Pull the fabric across their chest and under the rest of their body.
- You should be able to tuck the right corner of the fabric (that you've now pulled over to the left side) into a space at the back of your baby's head.
By following these steps, you should end up with a snuggly, comfortable baby! Keep in mind that like anything, swaddling takes practice. You might have to try it a few times before you get the hang of it but before you know it, you'll be a pro.
Guidelines for Safe Sleep
Of course, one of the most important things to remember when it comes to your baby's sleep is safety.
ABCs of Safe Sleep
To easily remember the guidelines for safe sleep, think about ABC.
B: on their BACK
C: in their bare CRIB
It's recommended that your baby sleep by themselves, not with you, a sibling, a twin, or anyone else.
Your baby should always sleep on their back, not their stomach or side. This helps to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Make sure that the mattress and crib are both safe and free from hazards. There should also be no blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in their space. Their crib should be completely empty. If you feel like your baby might be cold, dress them in another light layer of clothing.
By following these guidelines for safe sleep, you can give your baby a comfortable and healthy night's rest.
When Should You Stop Swaddling?
When your baby can roll over on their own, they'll need access to their arms and legs to move freely. At around 3 months old, they'll start to learn how to roll over and you should stop swaddling them at this point.
You can also look for these signs:
They get less startled when you lie them down
They’re fighting or breaking out of the swaddle
They’re moving more in their sleep
They’re waking more often without being able to settle back down
If you're still unsure about when it's safe to stop swaddling your baby, talk to your pediatrician or schedule a visit with a sleep specialist. They can help you decide the right time for your baby and provide additional tips and tricks for getting even more comfortable sleep!
How to Stop Swaddling
Ultimately, there is no hard-and-fast rule for the swaddle transition. It depends on how your little one responds, and what you find works best for both of you. Here are some techniques for how to stop swaddling.
If you decide to do it all at once, you'll transition directly into just their pajamas or a sleepsuit. This takes some of the guesswork out of the process, but it might also be a bit jarring for your baby and make them more restless.
If you want to do your swaddle transition more slowly, you can move them into their pajamas or sleepsuit over several days or weeks. Start with just one arm out of the swaddle first, then both arms after a few nights or so. You'll then do the same things with one of their legs. When it's time to take both legs out of the swaddle, you'll move them into a sleepsuit instead.
Keep A Consistent Routine
Here are a few more tips for helping with the transition:
- Try a white noise machine
- Keep the baby's room at a comfortable temperature
- Consider a pacifier
- Do relaxing activities like reading a book, singing lullabies, and giving them a warm bath or massage
- Avoid blue light the hour before bedtime.
How the Baby Merlin Sleep System Helps with Your Swaddle Transition
Going from the tight comfort of a swaddle to sleeping without it can be a big adjustment for your baby. But the Baby Merlin Sleep System makes that transition easier by supporting their developing muscles and helping them find their own comfortable sleep position.
Made from soft, breathable fabric, the Baby Merlin Sleepsuit mimics the snug feeling of being swaddled while also allowing your baby to move around freely. With its patented design features, it's fully customized to meet your baby's needs as they grow and develop.
The Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit and Dream Sack are perfect for providing the right amount of support to help your little ones sleep better. And with the Dream Sack’s easy two-way zipper, you can put your baby in or take them out quickly and easily.
When your little one becomes more mobile, the Magic Sleepsack Walker is a wearable blanket with holes for the baby’s feet so they can move around easily but still sleep comfortably.
So, when it's time for that swaddle transition, Baby Merlin is there to make it easier and more comfortable for your baby—and you!