Swaddling babies is a almost like magic. One minute they’re fussy, refusing sleep, and the next minute, they’re swaddled up and ready for a good rest.
But sooner or later, they have to transition out of the swaddle and it can be rough as they learn how to sleep without the swaddle.
Learn how to transition baby out of the swaddle and solutions to help you make the process go easier!
When do I stop swaddling baby?
Pay attention to your baby’s skills during the day. Are they showing signs of rolling? As soon as they begin to show signs of rolling, you must transition out of the swaddle. Baby needs their hands free at night as soon as they start rolling.
Typically babies start rolling around four months of age. It’s pretty common for babies to learn how to roll from back to tummy first. It may take weeks or months before they can master rolling from their tummies to their backs, though.
Your baby may start rolling before four months of age, just know that as soon as they show signs of rolling–regardless of whether or not they are four months or older–it’s time to stop the swaddle.
Even if baby hasn’t started to show signs of rolling, most parenting experts recommend you drop the swaddle around four months of age, to be safe.
Beyond baby’s ability to roll, if your baby shows signs of breaking out of the swaddle, go ahead and get rid of it.
How to get baby to sleep without the swaddle
Hopefully you have time to take a more gradual approach to dropping the swaddle, as that tends to work best. Here are a few ways to help drop the swaddle without too much of an interruption to baby’s sleep.
Use a product like a sleep sack that has the option to keep arms out
I loved these sleep sacks, as I knew I would get more use out of them than the traditional swaddles because there was the option to let baby sleep arms out. Sleep experts recommend that you start the transition by swaddling baby with one arm out for a couple nights and then the other arm.
Try the Zipadee Zip
I really like the Zipadee Zip, as it is designed as a product to use after the swaddle and is still safe to use when baby starts rolling over. Many babies have not lost the Moro reflex by the time it’s time to transition out of the swaddle and the tightness of the Zipadee Zip works to calm that startle reflex helping baby sleep better and for longer periods of time.
Go cold turkey
If you don’t want to mess with a transitional period and think baby can just go without the swaddle go cold turkey. This will likely work best at night first, rather than naps, as naps are just harder in general. This method will work best if baby is already really good at self-soothing and putting themselves to sleep.
Try the merlin magic sleep suit
Some babies love the swaddle and it really disrupts them when you remove it. For those babies that are pretty partial to their swaddle, you may want to try the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit. This is essentially a miracle worker in the baby sleep department and it helps to calm those startle reflexes that typically wake baby up in the middle of the the night.
The Merlin Magic Suit was designed to help baby transition out of the swaddle by providing warmth and a snug environment. Although many sleep experts praise the Merlin Magic suit, an equal amount say it isn’t safe once baby starts rolling. It may be best to use instead of the swaddle as more of a transition item before baby starts rolling.
Make sure you set the sleep environment
If you aren’t already using blackout curtains and a sound machine, now’s the time to invest. I didn’t think the sound machine was necessary with my first baby, but after 6 weeks of no sleep, I changed my mind. It’s a miracle worker and she still loves it as a toddler!
Make sure you get a sound machine that has a consistent noise (nothing that has a pattern like the ocean) and don’t set it on a timer. If it turns off at night, it’s likely to wake baby up.
How to keep baby warm at night without a swaddle
Baby may have a hard time going from a warm, snuggly swaddle to nothing, so it might be a good idea to add an extra layer to keep them warm.
You can either dress them in a short sleeve onesie and put cotton footed pjs over top or you can invest in one of the many sleep sacks (these are arm-free sleep sacks/blankets) or products like the zipadee zee. If your baby doesn’t seem to miss the swaddle, you may be able to get away with just dressing them with a onesie and cotton pjs.
However, if baby’s sleep is really interrupted without the swaddle, I’d recommend using the zipadee zee or sleep sack. Remember no loose blankets of any kind in cribs is recommended before age 1, so using sleep sacks is best.
Baby still having trouble without the swaddle?
Getting adequate rest during the day greatly affects night time sleep. If your baby is still having issues sleeping without the swaddle after a couple of weeks make sure to look at their schedule. Are they getting enough sleep for their age?
Here’s some helpful sample schedules: