When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby
Life outside the womb is a big adjustment for some new babies. Swaddling is an effective practice that helps them feel safe and secure in their new environment. It also allows your newborn to sleep better for longer stretches. Swaddling help prevent babies from waving their arms and legs around. This is known as the startle reflex.
But how long should you swaddle your baby for, and when does it become a safety risk?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents should stop swaddling their baby with their arms in the swaddle around two months old. Swaddling becomes unsafe when your baby starts getting strong enough to break out of the blanket. Also, when your baby is showing signs of rolling over onto their stomach while sleeping.
A baby who rolls to their stomach while swaddled is at a 40% increased risk of SIDS.
The Risks of Swaddling
When it comes to swaddling, it’s important to be aware of the following risks:
- As mentioned above, babies who are swaddled can be at a higher risk of SIDS. In the United States, there are around 3400 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) each year. The most reported types of SUIDs include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ‘unknown cause’, and accidental suffocation, and strangulation in bed. Of the SUIDs, 38% is classified as SIDS, which happens during sleep.
- Swaddling too loosely can allow for their arms to come free, leaving excess blanket to cover their mouth or nose. Additionally, they can end up sleeping face down in their mattress. Face covering can causing suffocation.
- Poor swaddling can also cause hip dysplasia. By straightening or wrapping too tightly, the joints can be dislocated. This can cause damage to the cartilage. In the womb, a baby’s legs are bent. Consequently, allowing for their hips to move when swaddled is important.
- Swaddling can overheat your baby. If your baby is showing signs of any of the following; is sweating, breathing heavily, damp hair, red cheeks, or a rash, remove the swaddle. It is likely they are too hot. So, it’s time to unwrap them.
Transitioning Out of Swaddling
Once your baby is showing signs that swaddling with their arms in is no longer safe, it’s time to adjust their sleep routine. Some parents opt to stop swaddling cold turkey. This may work for some. For others, it may cause a whole heap of sleep troubles.
Gradually transitioning out of swaddling may be the better approach. If so, start by trying this:
- Swaddle your baby with one arm out of the blanket.
- After a few nights of adjustment, remove both arms from the swaddle. Make sure both arms are free.
- Once your baby has adjusted to this, remove the swaddle altogether.
If your baby doesn’t enjoy having the swaddle removed, try purchasing a sleep sack. A sleep sack can help them feel secure and safe without the added risk of a loose blanket. Sleep sacks can be worn for the first couple of years.
Here is a cool mom hack; when your infant gets older, you can put the sleep sack on backwards. This prevents them from getting out of it on their own.
Sleeping Without a Swaddle
Transitioning out of the swaddle is the first step. Getting your baby to adjust to this change can be challenging.
At this stage, developing a predictable bedtime pattern or routine can help your baby relax into sleep. This might include a bath, feeding, rocking and a story, or something similar that suits your family routine. Creating a calming space by dimming the lights, having white noise or soft music, incorporating a pacifier, and providing baby with an infant massage can settle an otherwise wriggly baby.
No matter which swaddling stage your baby is at, developing and maintaining safe sleep practices is critical for the wellbeing of your baby. Observing and understanding the needs of your baby is important so that you can proactively transition them at the appropriate time.
Patience and self-care are important during this phase. It will be at least a year before your baby is safely sleeping on their stomach. We realize it can be exhausting trying to implement an effective sleep routine. Try reaching out to other parents for support. Also, take any time you can to get some much-needed rest.
Creating a sleep routine after transitioning from swaddling not only reduces fussing and encourages sleep for your baby, but it can also improve health, stress, and sleep for the whole family.
Want more information about baby rolling over? Read our complete guide on what it takes for your baby to begin rolling over and how to keep your baby safe once they start rolling over.