Transitioning Out of the Swaddle

Transitioning from the SwaddleSome babies never seem to need, or want, to be swaddled. Some do, but outgrow the need easily in the first few months. Others, like my daughter, truly need to be swaddled to sleep for an extended length of time to help them sleep. We transitioned away from swaddling when my daughter was 6 to 7 months old. Let me tell you, I was so nervous! She wasn’t a good sleeper as is, and now I was taking away one of my best tools! Thankfully, there actually are a number of good options available to help you transition away from traditional swaddling.

First, make the change gradual. Continue with your typical swaddle routine and blanket or suit, but swaddle baby with one arm out. Give them some time to become accustomed to newfound mobility and the feeling of being able to move an arm as you lower them to the crib, while still providing them with that “hug” the swaddle gives. After a bit of time, move to leaving both arms out while still wrapping their torso. Some swaddle products on the market are particularly well suited for this process. If both of those steps goes well, try putting baby to bed swaddle free! That may be all it takes. At this point I would continue the night time routine you have established, but in the place of getting swaddled, place baby into a sleep sack or wearable blanket. These provide the security and warmth baby has become accustomed to without any of the safety issues of loose blankets in the crib.

For some babies, the swaddle may be necessary for getting to sleep, but not staying there. If you feel that the startle reflex wakes baby when you’re putting him down but that otherwise baby is fine once asleep, try wrapping your baby in a blanket before you rock/feed/lay baby down to sleep and removing it once they are comfortably lying on the mattress. Since loose blankets in the crib can potential increase the risk of SIDS, be sure to remove the blanket as soon as your child is asleep. This is only assistance in getting baby down to the mattress, essentially.

Finally, a third option for babies that seem to struggle with leaving the swaddle behind may be a sleep suit. The sleep suit isn’t a swaddle, but does take the place of any sort of blanket and offers enough resistance to muffle baby’s nighttime movements. The thick fabric creates the cozy, contained feeling that some babies need in order to sleep. This can be used to help move past a swaddle blanket or can be a great resource for parents of baby houdinis who regularly escape their swaddle. As with all swaddle products, this is for use only when baby sleeps soundly on his or her back and is not rolling over in the crib.

Any change in a sleep routine can be a daunting one. Hopefully these tips will help you and have you moving on to swaddle-free sleep in no time!

Kate Cunha is mom to a 3 year old little girl and lives in the Pacific NW.

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