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Swaddling is an age old tradition that both comforts your newborn and helps them to sleep. But when do you stop swaddling a baby? As your baby grows and changes, there will be a lot of behavioral starts and stops along the way, and when to stop swaddling is just one of them.

As your preparing for your newborn or worried about making changes in their routine, there are some things that will help you determine when stop swaddling your baby. Here are some tips to help you make your decision at home.


The Many Benefits of Swaddling

Swaddling as we know it today has gone and in out of fashion over the years. And there are always new ideas from a very old tradition that emerge. Swaddling is a beneficial practice for a lot of reasons, which is why it continues to be so popular.

Swaddling became popular again recently as parents were encouraged to place their babies on their backs for sleeping. Stomach sleeping, which had been very common for a long time, has been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, so is largely discouraged. But, besides encouraging sleepy parents to place their babies on their backs, there are a lot of benefits to consider.

  • It comforts them and encourages them to sleep longer and better.
  • It will keep them on their back as they sleep.
  • It can reduce anxiety for your baby, which is just learning what this world is all about.
  • It keeps your baby from scratching their face in their sleep.
  • It helps with your baby’s ability to develop self-soothing behaviors.

But, with everything in your baby’s developmental stages, the usefulness of swaddling will wane over time. So when do you stop swaddling a baby?


When to Stop Swaddling

In general, most babies will outgrow the need for swaddling by about 3 to 4 months of age. However, watch for their startle reflex. Babies are born with a reflex, called the Moro reflex, where they can easily startle themselves when they wake from naps or nighttime sleeps.

While breaking free of their swaddling isn’t necessarily a sign to stop, if it begins to happen regularly it may be worth considering. Also, once your baby is able to roll over on their tummy, the practice should be halted. If your baby is spending more time swaddled than not, you can start reducing their swaddling time during the day and only do it at night. And you will want to stop swaddling when you’re ready for sleep training to teach your baby the self-soothing behaviors to allow them to fall asleep on their own. If they start fighting the swaddling process, your baby has likely outgrown the process.


How to Continue Your Baby’s Healthy Sleep Habits

So, once you know when to stop swaddling your baby, it’s important to know how. Here are ways to decrease your dependence on swaddling and stop the activity all together.

  1. Try swaddling with one arm out. If your baby is becoming more mobile on their own, their swaddling is coming undone, or they start to roll over, it’s time to make the transition. First, swaddle them with their dominant arm exposed. Start with this for a few nights and if you don’t notice the effects of the Moro reflex, transition to swaddling with both arms exposed.
  2. Determine if it’s too early. If, during this one or two arm out phase, you notice that your baby is having trouble sleeping during naps or waking up frequently, it may be too early to stop. Return to full swaddling for a week or two before trying again. Your baby may not be able to fall asleep right away, but this is normal and it should become easier after a few days.
  3. Consider using a wearable blanket. Rather than a separate swaddle to keep them tucked in and cozy, use a wearable sack that will keep their legs and feet covered all night while still allowing them movement of their arms and legs. There are several on the market designed for the transition away from swaddling. It’s important to remain consistent, so don’t give up on this step too soon. Give them a couple of days to adjust.
  4. Adjust when your baby starts rolling over to sleep. Once your baby becomes mobile on their own, they may start to adjust their sleeping positions all by themselves. If they are able to roll over onto their stomach to sleep, you may need to adjust the sleep sack to offer a different level of comfort, depending on the brand and type you’re using.

The answer to the question “when do you stop swaddling your baby” can be complex. Remember that every baby is different and what works for one may not work for another. But using these methods of transition as a guide can help you and your baby rest easy day and night.

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