IS IT TIME TO STOP SWADDLING YOUR BABY?
A Gentle Guide To How and When To Stop Swaddling your Infant
We all understand that by the time our children go to university they will have learned how to sleep without that well rehearsed swaddle wrapped around them. However, how and when to stop swaddling your baby can feel confusing and overwhelming, especially if you have found it to be a useful tool in improving the quality and quantity of your child’s sleep. It may be that it is a practical decision. Babies are super strong and it isn’t long before they can wriggle their way out. Or perhaps you feel it is a safety issue because your child is becoming more mobile. Current guidelines urge parents to stop swaddling around the 8 week mark so its not long before your baby needs to learn how to make the transition.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS YOUR BABY IS READY TO TRANSITION OUT OF THE SWADDLE?
1. Your once happy baby is fussing every time you try to create that well rehearsed burrito wrap.
2. You know you put it on correctly but your little Houdini still managed to bust his way out anyway.
3. Your baby is learning how to roll from his back to front.
4. Your baby is 8 weeks old. Your little one may not have learned how to roll yet but at any point from here he could master this skill. Lets face it, our children reach new developmental milestones while we aren’t looking and it’s often at night in the crib. If your baby begins to flip in his crib or bassinet he will need those arms free to push his face out of the mattress.
WHY IS IT SO CHALLENGING FOR SOME BABIES TO MAKE THIS LEAP?
When a baby is first thrust into this world they have no idea what to do with those crazy things attached to the sides of their bodies. Weeks turn into months and they begin to learn how to control and refine the movement in their arms and hands. If your baby has been swaddled for many weeks or months it is going to take some time for them to get used to this newfound freedom. The great news is that given the opportunity, many babies will actually begin to thrive when you stop swaddling and use their hands to sooth themselves at bedtime.
NOW YOU KNOW IT’S TIME, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT?
THE SLOWLY DOES IT APPROACH: 4 GENTLE OPTIONS
1. You can start by freeing just their legs while keeping the swaddle snug around the arms. A velcro swaddle works best to ensure the swaddle cannot become loose.
2. Alternatively you can begin by freeing only one arm and then if this goes well free both arms and just swaddle under the arm pits. I find it is easier to start with the non-dominate arm out first.
3. I love Sleep Sacs! You can transition straight into one by placing them into a sleep sac that has the arms sewn up. This way baby has some wiggle room but not a full range of movement yet. Then just as with the swaddle, you can start by freeing one arm then move both arms out. Always make sure you are using an appropriately sized sac for your baby’s weight and height.
4. If your little one is over 12 months of age or your doctor has given you the go ahead earlier, you can use a ‘lovey’ or transitional object. Place the lovey near your baby’s shoulder. When they reach up for their face or startle they may grab the soft object and use it to rub on their cheek, which provides comfort.
THE JUST DO IT APPROACH
So maybe you just want this done as quickly as possible. Perhaps you feel that the gradual approach will result in as many tears as a cold turkey approach. Many babies can learn new ways to sooth and fall asleep at the same time.
If you give this a try and the resulting tears or multiple wakings are not improving, then try one of the gradual approaches.
Pop your child on to their tummy during the day and encourage lots of rolling. The swaddling challenge is often resolved once babies know how to roll onto their own.
IT’S OK TO SUPPORT YOUR BABY WHILE THEY LEARN A NEW SKILL
Learning a new skill takes time, parental patience and consistency. If your baby is having a hard time, sit right next to them and place your hand onto them providing a little reassuring pressure along with some soothing sounds. Over the next few days gradually reduce the pressure and support you are offering.
KNOW IT WILL GET EASIER
The more opportunities your baby has to learn this skill the easier and more natural it will become.
By the time your child goes to university I feel confident that he won’t need his room mate to roll him up in a giant blanket at bedtime. Hold the faith!
Just a little side note….if you are still using a traditional method of swaddling then check out this video to ensure you are protecting your babies hips while they sleep How to Hip-Healthy Swaddle Your Baby