Swaddling is an old tradition that is commonly used today to make a baby feel secure and to help the baby sleep. Hospitals swaddle, doctors offices recommend it, and other moms swear by it! I love swaddling too! The only catch is that the baby becomes dependent on the swaddle to fall asleep. Once they are starting to roll it is unsafe to swaddle anymore and then comes the process that no one tells you about, weaning/transitioning from the swaddle.
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Why we swaddle…
Swaddling was such a lifesaver for me in the early days of being a new mommy! My daughter slept so much better and longer stretches when she was swaddled. Unswaddled, her little arms would flail and she would startle herself awake. Of course, we all want to sleep and want our babies to sleep so we wrap them up snugly in a swaddle and enjoy our sweet sleeping baby.
Babies are born with a set of natural reflexes that disappear over time. The Moro Reflex is the startle reflex it causes the baby to feel as if he/she is falling. Think of that feeling you get when you feel like you are falling in a dream. Scary! So, of course, your baby flails its sweet little arms to try to catch itself. It is ingrained in the baby to help defend itself. The reflex usually disappears somewhere between 3-6 months of age.
Why we stop swaddling…
I didn’t foresee in the future that my baby would become so dependent on her swaddle to get to sleep and stay asleep. I assumed when it was time, we would just take it off and it would be a couple nights of getting used to it. No one told me I was in for a sleepless week of screaming at all hours of the night!
Once your baby starts rolling over it is time to unswaddle the baby for safety reasons. If your baby flips onto their belly while sleeping he/she may be unable to flip back over. The risks of suffocation and SIDS go up really high. That is why it is important to stop swaddling when your baby starts rolling.
What to use to stop swaddling…
Now that it is time to stop swaddling, I assumed it was just as simple as not putting the swaddle blanket on anymore. My daughter quickly taught me that, that was not how it worked. She screamed for about 3 nights in a row and I was up googling how to wean off the swaddle all night long. I found a few methods and we tried them with no success before we finally found the right method for my daughter. So today I am going to share with you all the methods out there that I found in my searches and the one that worked the best for us.
- COLD TURKEY – This is pretty self-explanatory. Take the swaddle blanket off and attempt to get your baby used to sleeping without it. This can work great for some babies and not work at all for others. We tried it with my daughter and it was a screaming fest for 4 days before I decided that it wasn’t working and we needed to try something else.
- ONE ARM OUT METHOD – The one arm out is a gradual method where you get the baby used to sleeping unswaddled slowly. Start swaddling leaving one of the baby’s arms out of the swaddle and work your way up to getting both arms unswaddled after a few days and then unswaddling the body after a few more days. I have heard of this method working really well for some babies. With my daughter, she just punched herself in the face and cried.
- JUST THE BODY METHOD – Some babies respond well to having both arms out but still having their body swaddled. The secure feeling of being held by the blanket is enough to comfort and soothe them to sleep. For my kids, it was always about the arms flailing, so this wasn’t a good option for us, but it may be for you.
- A SWADDLE TRANSITION BLANKET – After a lot of googling I came across a few different options for blankets that were said to help baby transition from swaddle sleeping. I was a skeptic but at that point, we all needed some sleep so I bought a few different kinds. Here are the results.
- MERLINS MAGIC SLEEPSUIT – This is a suit that helps keep baby’s arms from flying up. It works just fine. My issue with this one was that it was pretty thick and hot. It also really worried me that my daughter wouldn’t be able to move around enough in the night to get the proper development(did you know that babies move/learn a ton of physical development in their sleep?) that she needed to grow and meet her milestones properly.
2. ZIPADEE-ZIP BLANKET – Next up we tried this blanket. When it arrived in the mail, I thought no way this thing works, look how thin it is! Her arms will go flailing just like when she is unswaddled. I was wrong! This blanket is my lifesaver! It is amazing! The Zipadee-Zip provides a safe way for baby to transition off of the swaddle. It allows baby to move their arms but the resistance it offers with its star shape design is just right to keep baby from startling. What we ended up loving about it more is that they last forever! My son is wearing my daughter’s old zippy at this very moment! It kids baby’s hands warm which is such a nice bonus too. My little one loves to suck on his hands but is quite content to suck on them through the blanket as well.
3. COZY BABY SLEEPER – This is a cheaper alternative to the Zipadee-Zip but we felt that it didn’t offer the same resistance as the Zippy does. Since we were already transitioned it did work for us but the quality was lacking as well. The fabric was rough after one wash and it was too hot for summer time use. If you need something on the cheaper side this may do the trick but it probably won’t last you too long.
How to start the transition…
Once you have picked a method that you want to try it has to be something you will stick with. Consistency is so important for babies! Going into making any change for a baby you will want to have your patience stored up in a giant bottle. Also, make sure that it’s a time when you can live without normal sleep for a week. Asking your baby to learn something new is going to take at least 3 days and sometimes up to a full week.
The best way to start is to actually start. At bedtime change out the blanket to the method, you will use and put your baby to bed how you normally would. If baby immediately wakes up, then try again. This may take some repeating but it will get better as your baby get used to sleeping that way.
Good naps lead to good night time sleep. That being said I think that starting the transition at bedtime when your baby is tired and will sleep is a better idea than starting with naps. If you still have a safe way for your baby to nap swaddled I would continue that way for the first week as long as it is safe. When you are into the second week and baby is used to the other blanket then you can make that change at naptime as well.
What to do if it is not working…
Take a look at your method. If you went cold turkey or one arm out it may be too big of a step and consider using a transition blanket. Have you been consistent? If you question yourself and waiver by changing things(like swaddling so you both could get a couple hours of sleep)then your baby will not know what to expect and will not be able to make the transition.
Try, try again. If at first, you don’t succeed try, try again. Be consistent in the way you put your baby to sleep at night and be consistent in the method you use. It is so easy to second guess ourselves as parents. Give yourself some credit, you know your baby best and you are probably making the right decision for your baby! Remember that eventually, your baby will sleep and that a bad week of sleep will be worth it once your baby is sleeping unswaddled and safe.
Remember that SAFE SLEEP IS A MUST not a choice…
As a parent your job is to take care of your baby and keep your baby safe. If your baby is rolling, it is not safe to swaddle. Please don’t wait until you wake up heart racing seeing your baby swaddled on her/his tummy and praying your baby is still breathing. Make the change to keep your baby safe now. I promise you will all sleep again. The baby will sleep unswaddled with some practice and you will sleep again too!
The risk of SIDS and suffocation are much too high in a swaddled baby that can roll. Start the transition today to help keep your baby safe. Also be cautious of loose swaddle blankets as well they are equally if not more dangerous. I promise making a decision to help your baby sleep safe is something you will never second guess yourself on.
Hopefully, you will find that the first method you choose will work for your baby and your family will be peacefully sleeping the night away. Of course, there will still be those midnight feedings but keep in mind that this is such a short and special season of life. Savor those midnight meetings and soak up the snuggles. They happen once in both your lives and a year of time passes so quickly. Soon your baby will be sleeping through the night and you will be missing those sweet sleepy midnight meetings!
Wondering what a schedule looks like for your 3-6-month-old baby? Check out this sample schedule/routine that includes when to feed solids. And if you are ready to break the habit of rocking, bouncing, nursing or holding your baby to sleep then this is a must read.
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