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Swaddle Success: Knowing When to Stop and a Clever Transition Trick!

Who doesn’t love a burrito-looking baby all wrapped up tightly in a swaddle? This adorable sight could melt anyone’s heart! Swaddles are used right from birth and are one of the best ways to calm a tired or fussy baby. And they look so comfortable swaddled! Of course, it is also important to know how to swaddle a baby properly so that they are comfortable and safe. But a stage comes when you start wondering what is the right time to stop swaddling your baby and how to transition them, and we have just the answers for you.

What is Swaddling

Swaddling is when you wrap up a baby tightly in a blanket or swaddle sheet to simulate the warm and tight environment of the uterus. It is a safe practice and gives a lot of comfort to babies at a time when they are trying to adapt to the world outside the uterus. If you know how to swaddle a baby properly it results in longer stretches of sleep and fewer wakeups due to the startle reflex.

Swaddling has many benefits but it is good to be aware of some potential risks. Whether you swaddle your baby or not, they should always be in a safe sleeping environment at nap or sleep time. Always place your baby on their back to sleep, on a flat surface that’s free of stuffed toys or any clothes. Another safety concern is the proper positioning of the baby’s legs. If you swaddle a baby tightly with their legs straight for long periods of time they can have an increased risk of hip problems like developmental hip dysplasia. It is essential to swaddle a baby with enough space for them to move their legs.

When Do You Stop Swaddling A Baby

Though babies love being swaddled, there comes a time when you will have to stop wrapping your baby like a bug in a rug. It is advised to stop swaddling once they attempt to roll over which is usually between 2 to 3 months. A lot of their movements get restricted by the swaddle so they are not able to practise the movements necessary to roll over. As a result, when they approach the rolling-over stage, the swaddle may cause them frustration rather than give them comfort. Also, self-soothing may not be possible when their hands are restrained for too long. Swaddling can also be perilous if the baby rolls over and is not able to reposition themselves because of the swaddle.

  • Age Milestones
  • There are usually signs that it is time to stop swaddling your baby. When babies start wiggling from side to side, attempt to free their arms from the swaddle, sleep with their arms above their head or lift their heads to follow objects, it is time to stop swaddling.

  • Individual Readiness
  • You can’t follow the rule of one size fits all when it comes to transitioning from swaddling as every baby is unique. Their readiness to stop swaddling for every child might be different so you will have to look out for cues.

How to Transition Out of Swaddle

Once you see that your baby is sleeping more freely, you can start transitioning them out of a swaddle. You may have the urge to avoid this as swaddling usually means longer stretches of sleep. Though there may be a temporary regression, transitioning eventually causes less sleep disruptions for you and your baby. It is best to transition gradually from swaddling so that your baby can adjust to the new situation.

  1. One Arm Out
  2. You can start the transition by swaddling them as usual but leave one arm out. This allows them to gradually get used to having more freedom of movement.

  3. Alternate Arm
  4. After a few nights of sleeping with one arm out, switch the arm while swaddling. This helps your baby to adjust to having both arms free while they still enjoy the comfort of the swaddle.

  5. Use a Sleep Sack
  6. Once your baby is comfortable with having both their arms free, you could ideally transition to a sleep sack. They allow movement and give your baby a sense of security. You just need to be careful that the size is suitable for your baby’s age as if it is too big, loose fabric could cover the face. Alternative sleep options could also be used like wearable blankets or sleeping bags.

  7. Reduce Swaddle Tightness Gradually
  8. If your baby doesn’t want to stop being swaddled, you can reduce the tightness of the swaddle gradually. It slowly helps your baby to adapt to less restriction and then sleep without a swaddle.

  9. Use Other Soothing Techniques
  10. While making the transition, you could use other soothing techniques so that your baby feels comfortable and secure like a pacifier, rocking or white noise.

  11. Be Consistent
  12. Every baby has their own pace for adapting to something new. It is important to be consistent and patient while transitioning as it is not going to happen overnight.

How to Get Baby to Sleep Without a Swaddle

Once you stop swaddling your baby, there are a few tips you can follow to help them fall asleep more easily.

  • Make use of a white noise machine as babies find that soothing.
  • Use black-out curtains to darken your baby’s room at nap time.
  • Dress your baby comfortably.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in your baby’s room
  • Create a consistent and calm bedtime routine.
  • You could pat or rock your baby during the transition phase if required.

A blanket isn’t recommended for your baby’s sleep time while transitioning till they are at least a year old as it poses a suffocation risk. But you could use a sleep sack once you stop swaddling them.

Swaddling is highly recommended for newborns as it makes them feel secure and comfortable in a way similar to what they felt in the womb. You need to be particular that the sleep environment is free of hazards.  It is essential to follow safe sleep practices like placing your baby on their back to sleep on a firm mattress with no loose objects in the sleeping area. Once your baby is able to roll on their tummy, it is necessary to stop swaddling them as it interferes with their developmental milestones and more importantly can be a safety hazard. There is no one age to stop swaddling your baby as every child is different. You need to be perceptive about your baby’s cues and act accordingly. If you have any questions or apprehensions regarding swaddling or the transition from it, you could consult the EuroKids website for advice and guidance based on your baby’s individual requirements.

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