Swaddling is so precious.
When babies are little and swaddled they are snug as a bug in a rug and it just brings out all types of Warm Fuzzies. We often swaddle for months, but there comes a time to swaddle wean. And it can be difficult to know when.
We know swaddles are good for baby sleep, but when do they need to be weaned?
First, the main reasons most people give for swaddling are these:
- to keep baby wrapped snugly as they were in the womb
- to help prevent baby’s startle reflex from waking them
- and to keep them warm and communicate safety
You can use our daily baby logs to help you when you start the weaning process.
When Should I Stop Swaddling My Baby?
If you aren’t sure if you’ve still got a few swaddling months left yet or not, here are some key indicators it’s time to wean the baby from swaddle use.
Psst… my favorite way to wean, FYI, is by using one of these Woombies pictured below. You can wean one arm at a time which helps baby transition to napping and sleeping without being swaddled.
Zips from the bottom, stretchy yet snug, and has swaddle weaning arm holes built in.Learn More
You Should Swaddle Wean When Baby Keeps Rolling on Tummy
When your baby, usually around 4 months or later, starts rolling onto their tummy often during naps or at nighttime, this is a good time to start weaning.
Since they are usually unable to prop themselves up well with a swaddle on (though this depends on the swaddle) you’ll want them to have use of their arms and hands.
They may attempt to roll back on their backs and if they’re packed too tightly they’ll be unable to. At this stage the startle reflex is gone anyway, so this may be your key indicator.
Stop Swaddling When Baby Learns to Push Up
Babies start rolling side to side before they learn to push up. If your baby is swaddled, rolling on his tummy, and attempting to use his arms to prop himself up then it’s a good time to swaddle wean.
Especially if they are used to doing this during tummy time or free play, they’ll want to be able to do the same. Having arms swaddled in will cause a lot of frustration in an otherwise happy baby around the age of 4 or 5 months.
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You Can Stop Swaddling When Baby is 5 Months Plus
You might decide that there is no big “indicator” but perhaps it’s summer and you fear baby getting overheated.
As a general rule, around 5 months or older you can be sure your baby will do fine napping and sleeping unswaddled. There is something to be said for weaning your baby from the swaddle before they are too old.
The longer they’re swaddled the more difficult the transition to napping without a swaddle.
If the above conditions are met then you can feel good about starting to wean from the swaddle.
How to Wean from the Swaddle
I don’t usually go cold turkey on the swaddle, although you can try. Here are a few things you can do to begin swaddle weaning:
- Let the legs free.
- Do one arm at a time. I use swaddles that have a little space for one arm to go free. I’ll do one arm out for a few days then lose the swaddle altogether.
- Give a good wind-down routine. Swaddling is a good sleep association and it’s something your baby will associate with calming down to rest. As you begin swaddle weaning, their naps or night sleep may be affected somewhat, but it will go back to normal soon.
Learn how to space naps, how many a day per age, best times, etc. and get your nap game ON!
You don’t have to wean the swaddle cold turkey
Here’s the thing, you don’t want your baby getting overtired from lack of sleep because of this transition. So you don’t have to go all night- just see what kind of stretch baby can do.
Then put them back in if things start going south. They still got some practice. Although you can go cold turkey and never look back, it can make for a pretty rough 4-5 days. So, unless your baby is already fully rolling while swaddled (in that case, move to a sleep sack and don’t look back) you can give it a few days of practice – and preserving sleep – before you fully commit to unswaddling.
Once nights seem to be going well, move onto naps, 1 at a time, starting with the morning nap.
“Should you swaddle baby from day one?”
I generally do swaddle baby from day one. It’s part of my newborn sleep schedule and newborn feeding schedule. These swaddling for newborn tips explain exactly how I do it.
I think that waiting gets baby “un-used” to that snug womb feeling, and then later they may fight it. But sleeping without the swaddle, when they still have the startle reflex, means baby just doesn’t sleep as well.
What if baby doesn’t sleep as well without the swaddle?
This may happen for a while.
Baby may start rolling over and then you decide it’s pointless to swaddle. And this is basically true. So you may take one arm out or go cold turkey, and it may mean it takes baby a lot longer to fall asleep. They may fight sleep for a while, even up to an hour.
If you keep at your normal schedule (here’s a 5 month old baby schedule, 6 month old baby schedule, and 7 month old baby schedule) then eventually baby will go back to sleeping per normal. It should usually only last a couple of days.
More Q & A
What if baby just won’t go to sleep without it and then rolls on his tummy?
I would try and keep baby in the swaddle with his legs swaddled, but keep the arms out. See if this helps with the positive sleep association enough for baby to calm down and go to sleep on their own.
If the swaddle is loose enough, baby can be swaddled then roll on tummy, then even roll back over. If that’s the case, then the reason to swaddle wean is void (a.k.a. baby getting stuck face down).
Then, if this happens you can get a swaddle in a larger size so baby still has plenty of room to use his arms to roll, but can also feel snug as a bug in a rug.
What if baby is only 3 months old and rolls over? Can I stop swaddling?
Yes, you can. You can stop swaddling baby any time you’d like. The first few months are the most important and they generally will help baby sleep better.
After that period, especially if baby is rolling over and you are worried, then you can stop swaddling.
It may take a few days to adjust, but baby should be sleeping well again soon.
Another good Q
Should I stop swaddling for naps and bedtime sleep? Or one before the other?
This is a great question!
When you change from being swaddled at all naps and nighttime, to wanting to swaddle wean, one theory is be consistent in your weaning. So, if you are going to do one arm for naps, do one arm at night. Don’t go cold turkey at naps then keep it on at night. This will confuse and frustrate baby.
However, some moms start at bedtime. This may be counterintuitive because who wants to mess with night sleep? But actually, bedtime can be the easiest time to start because they have all the sleep pressure from the day built up and melatonin assisting them to sleep.
What if baby starts sucking his thumb when his hands aren’t in a swaddle?
Ahhh…. this may happen!
If baby is teething then he might start sucking his thumb to help him get to sleep, now that it’s available. In this case, a pacifier might help!
However, if you don’t want to use a pacifier because you don’t want to go in and have to put it back in baby’s mouth all night long then you can always use mitts on baby’s hands if they start sucking.
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.