I always recommend that parents use a swaddle with their newborns. A snug swaddle helps tremendously with sleep, as it replicates the snug feeling that baby had in the womb. Swaddles help baby feel secure and prevent the Moro reflex from waking baby up. Now, let’s talk about when to stop swaddling baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we stop swaddling at the age of 8 weeks. This is because babies can show signs of rolling by two months AND they often roll for the first time in their sleep. If that happens, we want to make sure baby has access to their arms to prop themselves or to roll to their back.
You have two options:
Option 1: Slow transition
Start by practicing at naptime with one arm out. At the next nap, switch arms. Do this for a few days and then try again at nighttime. If baby has trouble, and has not yet begun to show any signs of trying to roll, you can put both arms back in. The goal is to get them used to the idea of their hands being out and to encourage self-soothing with their hands.
Option 2: Cold turkey
This option means you would stop swaddling baby’s arms completely. You can use a transitional swaddle, like the Zipadee-Zip or you can just go straight to a sleep sack. With this option, the first few nights will likely be a bit rough, but baby will soon adapt.
Babies who are unswaddled before the moro reflex completely disappears may wake themselves up when their arms jerk. Know that this reflex will diminish soon, but in the meantime, try this trick. Stand behind the baby’s crib out of their direct eye line and gently hold their arms by their sides. Wait until their arms are relaxed and they are falling back asleep, and then remove your hands. Do this as much as needed in the first couple of nights.
I know it can be scary to make this transition. You may worry that baby has been a good sleep with the swaddle, and this will completely derail them. The truth is that it may cause some disruptions in sleep for a few days. But it could also do the opposite! Sometimes the swaddle can actually begin to hinder their sleep at a certain point. You may see that once you drop the swaddle, baby actually sleep BETTER. This is usually seen with babies who have learned to suck their fingers or like their hands by their face for comfort. Additionally, once they are able to roll, many parents see improvement in sleep as baby is able to move about the crib and get themselves into a comfortable position.
Zipadee-Zip allows baby the comfort of having their hands covered while also being safe for a baby that can roll.
Halo Swaddle Sack transitions from a swaddle, to allowing one arm out, to allowing both arms out while still being able to wrap baby around their torso. This is what I used for both of my babies, and it worked beautifully.
Halo Sleep Sack is my favorite option for quality and affordability. It comes in cotton, microfleece, and muslin options, goes up to size XL and even offers an option with leg holes for older toddlers.
Kyte Baby Sleep Bags are highly regarded by many moms I have worked with for being the most comfortable sleep sack, although a bit pricier.
If you’ve made the transition out of the swaddle, and a few weeks later your little one is still struggling, I offer 1:1 support packages
If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a complimentary discovery call