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How To Transition Your Baby Out Of A Swaddle

Written by Brittany Poulton

Photography by Photo Via Katy Odell

You finally feel like you and your swaddled little babe have an understanding. She’s sleeping through the night (sleeping better, anyway) and you’re starting to feel like a person again. And then…you discover that you can’t swaddle your little one forever and realize eventually you’ll both have to face a big transition. Not to worry! We’re here to save you from those anxiety-filled internet searches and late night blog-holes. Below, we’ve tapped Ingrid Prueher, a.k.a. “the baby whisperer,” to tell us exactly what you need to know when transitioning your bundle of joy out of her cocoon.

1. First of all, every baby is different. “There is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Prueher. It’s important for parents to trust their instincts—since they know their child best—when making the decision to wean their baby from the swaddle. Some children are ready to be weaned at 4 months, while others, typically babies who startle easily, can remain swaddled up to 10 months of age, as long as they don’t tend to roll over while sleeping.

2. Signs it’s time to stop swaddling. There comes a time (typically around 4-6 months) when the swaddle stops being the little miracle it once was. Your baby starts busting out of her swaddle like a little Houdini, getting her arms or legs free in the middle of the night (goodbye, rest!), and you feel like you’re back to square one.

This may be a sign your little one is ready to move on from the swaddle, especially is she’s straining to free herself from the moment you wrap her. Not simply cranky due to overtiredness, but if she’s consistently rejecting the swaddle. This could mean she’s no longer soothed by being tightly wrapped and is ready for more mobility at night.

However, busting out of a swaddle could also simply mean you need to employ a better swaddling technique, or get a better swaddling blanket. A swaddle with a few extra bells and whistles, something that keeps your little one safely and snuggly wrapped, like the Miracle Blanket, can be helpful in getting your little bundle wrapped soundly.

One of the most important signs, however, is when your little one starts rolling over consistently. Prueher says this is the time when she typically recommends parents begin to wean their child from the swaddle. However, she does note once again, every baby is different, and as a Dr. Harvey Karp Happiest Baby on the Block educator, she does recommend in very specific cases that even a baby who is rolling remain swaddled. We recommend reaching out to your doctor or a pediatric sleep consultant to help you make that decision, however.

3. How to make the transition. Okay, you’ve made the decision that it’s time to wean your baby from the swaddle, and you’re ready to make the leap, but you don’t know where to start. Rest assured! We’ve got you.

You may not need any specialty products to successfully transition your little one from a swaddle. You can try swaddling her, using your good ‘ol swaddle blanket, with her legs out at first. By wrapping only her arms (which is typically what our little babes find so soothing about the swaddle) for a period, you can gently ease her into the feeling of not being completely wrapped. When ready to move on from there, you can swaddle her with her legs free, and then one arm free—eventually freeing her completely from the swaddle.

Why, that’s so easy! We’re all good now, right? For some it’s a relatively seamless transition (our hats are off to you!), but for others it’s a struggle. And the struggle is real. If that’s the case for you, as it is for most of us, there are a variety of products that can be worth investing in.

Ingrid recommends using a transitional swaddle, like Zipadee-Zip, which is specifically designed for weaning babies from their swaddles. The Zipadee-Zip allows a full range of movement, allowing the baby to roll over safely, while still offering a comforting womb-like environment so your little one can sleep well. We also like the Woombie and Love To Dream Swaddle, which have a similar effect.

However, if you want to try weaning step-by-step, the Swaddle Strap by Anna & Eve can be an effective tool. The Swaddle Strap allows you to swaddle just your baby’s arms, leaving her legs free. This can trigger the calming reflex, allowing your little one to relax into a good night’s sleep while also introducing the feeling of not being completely cocooned.

4. Remember, safety first. Swaddled babies should never sleep facedown. If your little one is consistently rolling over, it’s probably time to stop swaddling. We know this can be a daunting prospect, but safety must always come first when it comes to sleep. If you feel you need extra guidance, consult your pediatrician or find a sleep consultant in your area.

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