Many parents swaddle their newborn baby during their first months and reap the benefits of doing so! Swaddling is a way of wrapping a baby up gently in a light blanket to help them feel calm while they sleep – the practice can form a crucial part of many babies sleep routine, as they feel snug and secure.
In this blog, I’m going to talk through everything you need to know about swaddling and how to transition from swaddle most safely for you and your baby.
Why Should You Swaddle Your Baby?
Swaddling creates positive sleep cues for your baby, as they learn to associate the sensation of being swaddled with sleep. Many babies who are swaddled from birth immediately begin to doze off as soon as they’re wrapped up safely.
Research has confirmed a significant range of sleep benefits with swaddling. An in-depth review of swaddling research, published by Pediatrics in 2007, found:
- Swaddling helps babies to sleep settled for longer periods.
- Babies cry less when they’re swaddled, including babies who have experienced brain injuries, which helps parents feel less anxious and sleep better.
- Swaddling has no detrimental impact on motor skill development and can even improve neuromuscular development in premature babies.
- Swaddling helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
How Do You Swaddle Safely?
Swaddling has received some controversy, especially around how to do it safely and ensure you’re not putting your baby at risk. It’s something I get asked a lot, especially by first-time parents. Here is my general advice for ensuring you swaddle your baby safely:
Step One: Place your baby slightly off centre on the wrap or blanket you’re using to swaddle, with their shoulders level with the top of the wrap. Choose a climate-appropriate wrap or blanket so your baby will not be too hot or cold.
Step Two: Gently fold your babies arms across their chest, one at a time.
Step Three: As you fold their arms, bring the shorter side of the wrap across and tuck firmly under their body, then bring the longer side of the wrap across and tuck firmly too.
Step Four: Next, fold the bottom of the wrap up across your baby, and tuck under. Remember not to swaddle too tight around their legs, as full hip flexion is recommended for healthy hip development.
Step Five: Ensure your baby’s face and head are completely uncovered, and the wrap is not too tight around their neck. Lay them gently on their back and ensure there are no other loose blankets or toys that could cover their nose or mouth accidentally while they sleep.
These guidelines are based on research-backed instructions from Red Nose, who have a helpful video on their site to show you how to work through the steps you can watch here.
If you’re ever uncertain about swaddling your baby, make sure you speak with a baby sleep consultant or health professional.
When Do You Transition Out of Swaddle? Timing is Key
While swaddling keeps your baby snug and safe in their newborn months, you’ll need to rethink how to keep them safe as they grow and become more mobile. Another big question I get from parents is knowing when it’s time to transition out of swaddle.
It’s time to start transitioning out of swaddle once you notice your baby is beginning to roll over. Your baby may begin to show signs of rolling, from back to front or tummy onto their back, from as early as 8-10 weeks old and anywhere up to 6 months of age. Every baby is different, so it’s vital you’re aware of how your baby is developing at this time so you can be proactive in transitioning them out of swaddle when they’re ready: bear in mind timings of potential sleep regressions.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Your baby is pushing up on their hands during tummy time and lifting one hand off the ground.
- Fussiness or fighting to get out of the swaddle when you put them down for sleep.
- Attempting to pull arms out of the swaddle during being wrapped or while wrapped.
- Their Moro/Startle Reflex stops (this is the involuntary motor response infants develop shortly after birth. The reflex involves the infant suddenly splaying their arms before bringing them back in front of their body).
Safe Swaddling Transition Steps
After ‘when’, the next question on most parent’s lips is how to transition from swaddle!
Once you’ve picked up on the cues from your baby, they’re ready to begin rolling; it’s time to transition them from swaddle to arms-out sleeping. I like to recommend a three-step process to help this transition:
Step One: Start gradually by introducing arms out during their day sleeps. You can wait until they have fallen asleep and then gently let one of their arms out, or keep one of their arms out and stay with them, holding their hand, as they fall asleep to help them get used to the transition. You can remove this support after a few days as they adjust.
Step Two: Repeat this process after a few days, with both of your babies arms out. Again, you can do this once they have fallen asleep or stay with them for comfort and reassurance as they fall asleep and get used to this new routine.
Step Three: Once you feel they’ve adjusted during the day, you can introduce arm-out sleeping to their nighttime sleeps too.
To help with the transition to no swaddle, make sure you choose an appropriate sleeping bag. A sleeping bag offers you and your baby better safety during this change. I recommend the Ergo Pouch and their range of swaddle transition sleep products.
How to Transition From Swaddle FAQ
- What product do you recommend when you stop swaddling your baby?Answer: I recommend the Ergo Pouch and their other range of swaddle transition products to help your baby during this change. You read up about their products on their website here.
- How long does it take to transition out of swaddle?Answer: All babies are different, and some adapt more quickly to changes in their sleep routine than others. It’s more important to work with your baby and their needs as they work through the transition. And get support if you need it.
- Can I swaddle my baby with their arms out?Answer: If you’re a confident swaddler, swaddling your baby with one or both arms out is safe. Continue to wrap their blanket securely, ensuring it is snug but not too tight and not too loose so it may cover their face. If you’re not confident, a baby sleeping bag may be a safer and more appropriate option for you.
I hope that’s helped clear up some of your questions about how to transition your baby from swaddling to safe sleeping. As parents, we want the very best and safest options for our babies. I also know there’s often a lot of confusing information out there online and from well-meaning advice-givers.
I want supporting your baby with their sleep to be as stress-free an experience as possible for you as a parent, which is why I’m on hand to help, no matter what stage your baby is at.
Book a completely free chat with me today here, and let’s help your baby on their way to better sleep.