Swaddling your newborn to sleep can be very beneficial. Many people wonder if they can ever swaddle their baby like the nurses did at the hospital. I admit, my husband was better at making our little burrito than I was until we bought The Miracle Blanket. This article is your swaddling how-to, including deciding when to stop swaddling and how to stop swaddling.
Why Swaddle Your Baby?
The reason why you swaddle your baby is to make her feel like she did when she was in her mommy’s tummy. She didn’t have room to stretch out and, for months, found comfort in being tightly “held” in your belly and the movement, when you walked, lulled her to sleep. Harvey Karp in The Happiest Baby on the Block suggests that babies actually need more time in the womb (a fourth trimester), but if they had that time, they’d never get through the birth canal because their head would get too big, so swaddling extends the womb feeling for them. When they are first adjusting to this big, cold world (compared to your belly), swaddling helps a lot to keep them calm and relaxed (especially when they haven’t outgrown the moro / startle reflex where their limbs “jump” uncontrollably). You might also want to read more here for recent information about swaddling and tips to safely swaddle.
What if Your Newborn Doesn’t Like Being Swaddled?
Sometimes it appears your baby doesn’t like to be swaddled. This could be true, but sometimes, they are just so overtired and wound up that they resist the swaddle only because they are agitated and fatigued. It does not necessarily mean he doesn’t like it. After you swaddle your newborn, try swaying him and soothing him to see if he will calm down. My son loved to be swaddled, but at first he’d still cry once he was swaddled. Contrary to the video you’ll see down below, he did not calm down instantly once he was swaddled (just his personality). But, he did sleep better and longer once he did fall asleep and he was swaddled. If your baby just never calms down or if swaddling used to work and now it doesn’t, it might be time to stop swaddling. More on that later.
How to Swaddle Your Baby
It is pretty difficult to describe, in words, how to swaddle your baby. Some people call it wrapping up a burrito and if you’ve ever made a burrito, it is a little similar. You want to fold the bottom of the blanket over her legs and then wrap up the sides, so the “contents” don’t fall out. Better yet, let’s just watch a video on how to swaddle your baby:
How to swaddle your baby video -
When to Stop Swaddling
From my research, it does not harm your baby to swaddle them for months and months unless they are not getting free play time during the day. They need to be able to move their limbs to grow big and strong, so you don’t want them swaddled all day and night. But, swaddling while your baby sleeps until 6, 7, 8, and even 9 months is not unheard of and if your baby likes it and hasn’t learned to break free, this should be fine (check with your pediatrician for any doubts you might have about your own baby). Once your baby starts breaking out of the swaddle very often and especially when it becomes a hazard where she might suffocate with the blanket, it’s time to stop swaddling. The average age seems to be around 5-6 months. Again, all babies are different. We stopped swaddling sometime around 4 months with both boys, when we taught them to self-soothe.
How to Stop Swaddling
The most common method to transition away from swaddling is to swaddle with legs out, then one arm out, then to stop swaddling all together. Some swaddle one arm out, then both arms out and then stop swaddling. A baby who was once sleeping through the night may not do that while adjusting to sleeping without the swaddle. Keep in mind that it might take a week or two for her to get used to not being swaddled and getting used to having her limbs out. If her moro or startle reflex hasn’t stopped, it might be especially difficult and you might swaddle her again and try again a few weeks to a month later. Babies change very fast in the first year that something that didn’t work at one time might work great just two weeks later. You must be patient and give your baby time to adjust.
You might also want to read more about these two products that can help with the transition from a full swaddle.
Can you sleep train while baby is swaddled?
A common question is whether you should sleep train while your baby is swaddled. It never hurts to try to let your baby fall asleep unassisted, even while swaddled. Some babies simply will fall asleep within a few minutes when they are put down awake. Other babies (like mine) will not. So, in general, I do NOT recommend sleep training while your baby is swaddled, especially if you are using a variation of cry it out. Your baby needs to find a way to self-soothe whether it’s sucking on her fingers, thumb, or holding on to her sleep sack. But, if you put down your baby and he fusses or cries for 5 minutes or less and he’s swaddled, it appears you have a very good self-soother and you can continue swaddling and when he’s ready, you can probably stop swaddling fairly easily.
What if stopping the swaddle is not easy?
You’re in luck! This whole site is dedicated to when things don’t come easy when it comes to your baby’s sleep! Make sure you get your FREE guide and helping your baby sleep through the night, check out our Facebook Fan Page, or consider our baby sleep consulting services, where you can get a custom sleep plan for your family that you can feel good about.