If you have decided to swaddle your baby, the time will come to wean your baby out of the swaddle.
Most babies don’t need to be swaddled past 4 months of age, although some will want to be swaddled
If your baby is rolling over or close to rolling over, swaddling can present a safety issue.
Babies who are swaddled with their arms in will have more challenges repositioning themselves when
they get in an uncomfortable or unsafe position.
For most children the arms are the key component of swaddling. If your baby is swaddled with his arms
out, you may find that switching to a sleep sack or just pajamas is not a problem at all.
Here are some ways to help your baby learn to sleep without being swaddled:
This technique allows your child to learn a new way of soothing and sleeping all at once. Many children who are ready to be weaned off are already attempting at self soothing techniques (such as rubbing the face or suckling on his fingers) but are unsuccessful due to the swaddle.
Cold turkey can work well when paired with a sleep coaching strategy which encourages your child’s self-soothing skills. If this method is not helping your child to fall asleep, due to excessive arm movement, try swaddling one arm and continue.
Start this approach by swaddling one arm out. You may want to start with the non-dominant arm out first. You can often figure out which arm is dominant by watching your child suckle and self sooth; he will usually suckle on his dominant arm.
For most children it will be the right arm. If this goes well with one arm, you can gradually work to swaddling both arms out, just wrapping the swaddle around their chest, to provide that comfort.
Using a lovey
Placing a safe lovey or attachment object on the shoulder or beside their cheek, either on the dominant side or on both sides, can help your child especially if he reaches for his face or has a startle reflex. If he wakes himself up, he can grab his lovey and may rub the soft item on his face, providing comfort.
Transitioning from swaddle to sleep sack
This is a gradual approach that can be taken that might include these steps:
- Swaddling your child and then placing him in a sleep sack. You may want to swaddle the arms using the triangle swaddle. Make sure that his room is at a cool temperature (between 16-21 degrees Celsius) so that your child doesn’t overheat.
- One arm out in a sleep sack with the arm holes of the sack sewn closed temporarily.
- Two arms out in sleep sack with arms sewn up (a woombie can also be used or another sleep sack design which allows arms to be loose inside).
- One arm out of the sleep sack (unstitch one arm hole of the sleep sack).
- Both arms out of the sleep sack.
Parental presence and transitional support while you are close by you can help your child make the transition from swaddling to no swaddle.
During playtime it is important to encourage rolling from back to stomach and vise-versa. Babies often practice their new techniques at night, especially if not given enough time to practice during the day. The “swaddling issue” is often resolved once your baby is able to roll on to their stomach.
The Joint Statement on safe sleep states that “Once infants are able to roll from their backs to their stomachs or sides it is not necessary to reposition them onto their backs.”
If you baby is able to roll he will have an easier time repositioning himself if he gets in an uncomfortable position.
Use a Transition Product
There are many products that you can find in stores or online that will help transition your child out of the swaddle. Including a sleep sack, Woombie and Zipidee-zip, and the Baby Merlin Sleep Sack.
Create a New Sleep Association
Your baby may be associating sleepy time with being swaddled up. One way to help transition out of the swaddle is to help your child create new associations. Some that you may want to try are singing, reading a short story, music, or something else that will help cue your child that it is time to sleep.