A swaddle is a source of comfort and familiarity for babies because it makes them feel like they’re in their mother’s womb again.
However, there comes a time when swaddling already becomes uncomfortable and unsafe for babies!
As a parent, knowing when and how to transition your baby away from the swaddle is essential.
By the end of this article, you’ll learn when is the best time to stop swaddling your baby and the best methods to make their swaddle transition easier!
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby: 3 Signs Parents Should Look Out For
Before starting your baby’s swaddling transition, it’s important to know if it’s already the right time to do so.
The American Academy of Pediatrics mentioned that babies should not be swaddled past 2 months of age. This is because some babies can already start to roll over to their stomachs after they reach the 2-month mark, making swaddling already dangerous.
However, keep in mind that every baby is different. Some babies might need to make the swaddling transition sooner, while some babies could need a couple more weeks before it’s time to stop swaddling!
Once your baby starts to show any or all of these signs, that’s when you should consider starting the swaddling transition process!
1. Fewer Occurrences of the Moro Reflex/Startle Reflex
Babies have a startle reflex wherein their bodies react unexpectedly due to different stimuli. One startle reflex is when they suddenly raise their arms and even legs while they sleep. This is also known as the Moro reflex.
This startle reflex can interfere with their sleep and suddenly wake them up. It’s important to use a swaddle blanket to keep their arms and legs secure and prevent this from happening.
When Does the Startle Reflex Go Away?
These reflexes naturally go away the older your baby gets, so it should already disappear after 3 to 6 months.
Take note that as long as your little one is still showing signs of this startle reflex, it probably isn’t the best time to stop swaddling your baby yet.
Once your baby stops or has fewer occurrences of startle reflexes, this is a good sign that it’s already time to make the swaddle transition and stop swaddling your baby!
2. When Your Little One Starts Rolling Over
Once your baby starts to roll over to their tummy while they sleep, that’s a clear indication to stop swaddling your baby immediately.
Like we said previously, the AAP mentioned how dangerous it could be for swaddled babies to roll over!
Since their arms are still tucked inside the swaddle, they won’t be able to use them to push themselves up or go back to a safer sleep position.
This could cause breathing problems and contribute to the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) occurring! They should definitely stop swaddling once they’re better at rolling over and moving.
3. If Your Baby is Always Trying to Break the Swaddle
Swaddling isn’t always a pleasant experience. There are times when your little one will make a fuss whenever you try to swaddle them!
This is normal and isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s already time to stop swaddling your swaddled baby.
However, if they’re ALWAYS trying to break out of the swaddle and show no signs of stopping, it could be an indication that it’s already time to make the swaddle transition and stop swaddling.
4 Methods to Transition Your Baby Out of a Swaddle
If you notice your little one is already showing these signs, it could be time to finally start making the transition!
These methods might not be the most comfortable for your baby at the start, but they’ll gradually get used to them and make it easier for them to transition to sleeping without the swaddle.
1. Swaddle With One Arm Out
The first method you can try to make the transition is to swaddle with one arm in and one arm out.
Switch up your baby swaddling technique and only tuck in your baby with one arm inside the swaddle. This is a good first method because it still offers enough resistance if ever they still have a startle reflex.
It’ll expose their bodies to what it feels like to sleep with a free arm for the first time.
Do this for 2-3 nights and observe how your little one will react.
If your baby isn’t showing signs of fussiness and discomfort, try swaddling them with both arms free next!
2. Swaddle Your Baby Every Other Night
After trying the one-arm technique, you can start to help your baby feel more familiar with sleeping with both arms free.
You can either stick with your standard swaddle blanket or upgrade to a swaddle transition suit instead.
Swaddle your baby every other night and observe if your baby will react differently. Try this for 1 week first!
If you notice your baby is more comfortable with free arms, then that’s a good indication that they can sleep comfortably without a swaddle.
3. Use a Swaddle Transition Suit
Like what we previously mentioned, you can make the transition easier by using a swaddle transition suit.
The best ones should give your baby a snug fit while still containing both arms. The only difference is that these swaddle suits don’t tuck your baby’s arms to their sides.
Instead, they have added short sleeves or covers that only slightly contain the arms while still giving more freedom of movement.
Here are some of the best swaddle transition suits you can consider buying:
Zipadee-Zip Baby Swaddle Blanket
The Zipadee-Zip transition swaddle blanket has a unique star-shaped design. It has pointed sleeves that give your baby’s arms freedom of movement while still giving them a snug and secure feel!
However, this transition swaddle is made of a polyester-spandex blend. This synthetic material might not react well to the gentle skin of your baby, especially if they have sensitive skin!
Make sure to find out first if your baby will be fine with this kind of material before making a purchase.
HALO Easy Transition Sleep Sack
This transition sleep sack was specially designed to help control the startle reflex!
It has snug arm sleeves that give a slight feeling of security. Its design is perfect for your baby to transition away from a swaddle for the first time.
This sleep sack has a two-way zipper too, making diaper changes easier for all parents!
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit
This comfy-looking swaddle suit looks like thick pajamas. It will make your baby feel snug and secure like a swaddle!
It has open hands and feet for proper circulation, but its sleeves will still keep your little one’s arms secure.
On the downside, this swaddle suit isn’t made of organic cotton. If your baby has sensitive skin, make sure to wash and clean it thoroughly before making your baby wear it.
Love To Dream Swaddle
This swaddle is different from the rest because it keeps your little one’s arms covered but still allows your baby to keep one or both arms up while they sleep.
If you find the transition still difficult for your baby when using the other transition suits, many parents found success by using this swaddle instead.
If your baby is the type to sleep better with one or both arms up, then this swaddle suit could be the swaddle you’re looking for!
4. Use a Sleep Sack/Wearable Blanket
Once you’re 100% sure that your baby shows all the signs and is already used to sleeping with both arms out, the last thing left for you to do is upgrade your swaddle/swaddle transition suit to a sleeping sack or wearable blanket.
Even if you’re not 100% sure yet, going cold turkey and getting a sleeping sack will be a good idea.
No matter how early or late your baby moves past swaddling, you should still keep in mind the proper safe sleep guidelines!
Loose blankets and other loose items are a big no-no, so the only way to safely get past the swaddling stage until your baby is at least 12 months of age is to use a wearable blanket.
Sleep sacks are perfect for older infants to keep them warm and cozy without adding breathing hazards that loose blankets would give.
For the best safe options, check out our review of the best organic baby sleep sacks.
By the time your baby starts to sleep better with a wearable blanket, it’s time to pat yourself on the back. You’ve successfully completed the swaddling transition process!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do I Do After My Baby Transitions from Swaddling?
You can continue to use sleep sacks for your baby until they turn a year old. By that time, you can already start to consider using loose blankets for your baby.
Although, it would be best to consult with your baby’s doctor first just to be sure. Any underlying breathing problems could mean that it would still be best to keep loose items away from your baby.
Even though every baby is different, there’s no harm in sticking with a sleep item like a baby sleep sack anyway.
Sleep sacks can help your baby stay warm and comfy, and as long as they can still fall asleep in them comfortably on most nights, we recommend using them for as long as possible.
Will My Baby Sleep Worse Without a Swaddle?
Every baby is different. If your newborn is younger than 2 months of age and doesn’t show any signs of rolling over, wanting to break out of the swaddle, and still has startle reflexes, your infant might not be ready to transition yet.
Swaddling is the best way to keep newborns calm, snug, and comfy for their proper sleep. Swaddling helps them feel like they’re in their mother’s womb again, so don’t rush transitioning out of the swaddle if it isn’t time yet!
How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep Without Being Swaddled?
If your little one is struggling to adjust to sleeping without the swaddle, it could be a sign that it’s too early to make the transition. Do make sure that you follow the proper way to swaddle your baby.
However, if you’re just looking for ways to make your infant sleep soundly without a swaddle, there are a couple of best practices you can do to help you out.
First, you can try to create a calming bedtime and sleep routine. The best way is to create a consistent pattern for a few nights until your baby can get used to it.
Some of the things you can do are to have an evening bath time, breastfeeding time, sing a lullaby, pat their tummy, or even read a baby book! As long as you create a consistent pattern, it should help your little one sleep easier.
The next thing you can do is ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is as peaceful as possible. You can dim the lights, speak softly, and even give your baby a pacifier if that can help.
Can I Leave My Newborns Arms Out of the Swaddle?
If your baby seems more comfortable with arms up, no swaddle, but still has startle reflexes, it would be best to continue swaddling them anyway.
Keeping the arms inside a swaddle is the best way to prevent themselves from waking up from their sudden movement.
However, if your baby is already starting to roll over while inside a swaddle, consider keeping at least one arm out of the swaddle first.
Like what we mentioned previously, having one arm tucked in should be enough resistance to prevent the reflexes from disturbing their sleep.
Once their startle reflexes are gone, there’s no harm in having their arms out of the swaddle, so there’s nothing to worry about.
We hope you learned everything you need to know on how to transition your little one away from swaddling!
One way or another, every mom or parent should be able to use any of the methods we mentioned above to benefit their babies. It’ll always be harder to quit cold turkey so transitioning is a good idea.
For the parents with babies who aren’t quite there yet, you can check out our review on the best non-toxic swaddle blankets on the market.
July 22, 2021 – updated article links