Swaddling helps keep babies asleep when they still have their Moro reflex. And, swaddling your newborn is almost always a great idea! But, unfortunately, all good things come to an end and it’s eventually time to stop swaddling. This post will help you decide when it’s time to stop swaddling and share 3 easier ways to transition based on my many many years of experience as a sleep consultant working with thousands of parents just like you.
What You’ll Learn In This Article:
- Age and Reasons to Stop Swaddling Your Baby
- How to Stop Swaddling – 3 Ways to Transition
- Will Your Baby Sleep Worse Without the Swaddle?
- What about unswaddling at nap time first?
- 3 Products to Help Stop Swaddling
- Sleep Sacks or Wearable Blankets To Use
- How Long Will It Take To Stop Swaddling?
When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby
Swaddling is a great way to soothe and comfort your baby, but it can become a habitual sleep association that prevents your baby from sleeping through the night. By keeping your baby swaddled, they may struggle to learn a way to self-soothe. And, if they have a pacifier, they won’t be able to put the pacifier back in themselves. This means you could be up all night with the baby!
While most people use swaddling as a soothing technique for newborns, and then phase it out around 3 or 4 months old, some babies still enjoy being swaddled when they are 6 to 9 months old. Unfortunately, it’s not always safe to do.
Here are a few general guidelines to help determine when to stop swaddling your baby:
Age and Reasons To Stop Swaddling Your Baby
- The average age to stop swaddling baby is around 3 or 4 months old, after the 4 month sleep regression begins. Most are being unswaddled by 5-6 months old at the latest. If your baby still enjoys the swaddle, and it’s still safe to swaddle, you can consider one of the products below.
- Newborns are born with a startle reflex, called the Moro Reflex. Most babies don’t outgrow it until 4 or 5 months of age. So be careful about stopping the swaddle too early. If your baby’s Moro Reflex is still strong, she may startle herself awake at night and during naps.
- If your baby is able to break free of the swaddle, this isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s time to stop swaddling. However, if your baby is consistently breaking free of the swaddle every night, and if that means you have loose blankets in the crib, then it’s time to either STOP swaddling or switch to a safe swaddling option. We recommend The Miracle Blanket if you’re trying to keep the swaddle a bit longer. Alternatively, you might consider the Nested Bean or Love To Dream Swaddles.
- Swaddled babies should NEVER sleep face-down. So if your baby is trying to roll or starting to roll over onto their tummy while they sleep, it’s time to stop swaddling your baby immediately. Remember, when it comes to swaddling, safety first! Some babies are rolling from back to tummy as early as 2 months old so keep that in mind.
- Make sure that your baby is not swaddled all day long. Swaddling for sleep is fine, especially during the newborn stage, but babies need lots of time to move freely as well. This is so that they can grow stronger and develop their motor skills. If your baby spends all of their time asleep AND awake being swaddled, it might be time to gradually stop swaddling during awake time.
- If you are getting ready to start sleep training (also known as sleep coaching), you will likely want to stop swaddling. Part of the sleep training process involves helping your child learn to self-soothe. Babies usually need to be unswaddled in order to learn to self-soothe.
We personally stopped swaddling sometime around 4 months old with both of our boys. This was mainly because we started sleep training and the Moro reflex was virtually gone.
You May Also Be Interested In:
- 3 Easy Ways to Swaddle Your Baby
- Zipadee Zip vs Love To Dream SwaddleUp
- Top 10 Best Sleep Sacks for Baby’s Sleep
How to Stop Swaddling – 3 Ways to Transition
1. Start With the Legs
The majority of babies struggle the most with having their arms free, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to have your legs out. Kicking the mattress can be fun (and too distracting to sleep!).
So, sometimes you can test the waters by swaddling with your baby’s legs out, arms in, for a couple of nights. If that goes well, you can then swaddle with one arm out for a few nights. And, then you can try to stop swaddling all together.
2. Start With the Arms
This is probably the most common method to stop swaddling a baby. First, swaddle your baby with one arm out but one arm swaddled. You can do this for a few nights and then unswaddle both arms. At this point, most people would simply stop swaddling all together. See below for recommendations for what baby should sleep in after you stop swaddling.
3. Cold Turkey
If safety is an issue, you should NOT take a slower, gradual path to stop swaddling. Is your baby rolling onto his or her tummy or breaking out and having loose blankets in their sleep space? If so, you need to unswaddle immediately.
Even if safety isn’t an issue, some babies’ personalities do better simply by making changes quickly. It might make for a couple of rougher nights, but better sleep faster is always a good thing.
To stop swaddling cold-turkey, simply transition right away to a wearable blanket or sleep sack. See below for our recommendations. It might be a few rougher nights, but your baby will adjust. And, many times, babies adjust faster than we expect!
Will My Baby Sleep Worse Without the Swaddle?
For babies who are not highly dependent on swaddling for comfort and are great self-soothers, it could be easy to stop swaddling. Your baby may sleep just as well, or maybe even better, without being swaddled! For babies who are becoming increasingly resistant to the swaddle, maybe they will welcome it!
If your baby is very dependent on being swaddled to sleep, it may be tough to stop swaddling.
There’s no way to predict it, but just give it a try and you can always go back to the swaddle if things take a bad turn.
In general, the best way to stop swaddling a baby is to do it gradually. Eventually, you will build-up to the point where you are not swaddling at all. The idea is that this slow, gradual transition makes it easier for a baby to get used to sleeping unswaddled without losing a lot of sleep. This helps you avoid a lot of sleep loss, too!
But, seriously? What if Sleep Is a LOT Worse Without the Swaddle?
If safety isn’t a concern, yet, consider keeping the swaddle a bit longer. No need to rush.
Or, you can stop swaddling in an even more gradual fashion!
Just because you unswaddle your baby at bedtime does not mean he has to stay that way all night!
Consider swaddling both arms and/or legs after the first night-waking. Although he might start the night sleeping just an hour, for example, that can quickly increase over a few nights as your baby adjusts to having his arms and/or legs free.
What about unswaddling at nap time first?
Another option is to start unswaddling at nap time. Although you might feel it’s “inconsistent,” keep in mind that day and night sleep are handled by two different parts of the brain. Let your baby get used to “freedom” one step at a time.
Of course, you should note that 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.
And, what about the Moro reflex?
If your baby’s 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. Keep in mind 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. I find that even some babies who still have the Moro reflex adapt very quickly over a period of a few days to a week. You might just give it a try!
3 Products To Help Stop Swaddling
Anna & Eve Swaddle Strap
There are also some products on the market that can make the transition from swaddling easier.
The Swaddle Strap, by Anna & Eve is honestly the coolest swaddling product. (Those Amazon reviews don’t lie!) The Swaddle Strap works well in its own right as a swaddling tool. It’s great for warmer months when a full swaddling blanket is just too heavy, and it also makes diaper changes so much easier. You can use it as a tool to wean from the swaddle as well. By using the Swaddle Strap, you can swaddle your baby’s arms snugly while leaving her legs free. This is a great first step to transitioning away from the swaddle altogether!
Love To Dream Swaddle Up SwaddleUp Blanket
The Love To Dream SwaddleUp Blanket is one of my favorite products to recommend. I never got to use it because either I didn’t know about it or it didn’t exist when my boys were babies. But, we’ve had many families recommend this product to us in the past 15+ years we’ve been around. My favorite part about this blanket is it helps you transition away from swaddling in a more gradual fashion so you can do it when your baby is truly ready. When your baby is ready to stop being swaddled, simply zip off one or both of the “wings.” It’s that simple!
Very similar to the Love To Dream SwaddleUp Swaddle blanket, the Woombie offers you to keep your baby’s arms in or keep them out for a nice transition away from swaddling when your baby is ready. It’s comfortable and breathable for your baby and we hear from families who use this one all the time, too!
Of course, I wouldn’t purchase a product that you didn’t already have JUST to transition away from swaddling! If your baby is older, don’t bother. Buy a wearable blanket instead.
What Should Baby Sleep In After You Stop Swaddling?
For safe sleep, your baby should sleep in a wearable blanket or sleep sack. And, we have recommendations for the best products to consider!
Another product we love? The Zipadee-Zip. This awesome blanket is specifically designed to help you stop swaddling your baby, and make the transition away from the swaddle an easy one. The Zipadee-Zip offers babies a bigger range of motion than a traditional swaddle. This means that babies can practice self-soothing and can be a little ‘squirmier,’ but it also provides enough constraint that it helps babies feel secure. This is a great product for older babies who may be attached to being swaddled but who are just getting too big, and too mobile, to be swaddled at night.
Of course, if you don’t want anything fancy, we find the Halo Sleepsack works great! They aren’t too expensive and have a nice variety of styles and sizes.
You May Also Be Interested In:
How Long Does It Take To Stop Swaddling?
In my 15+ years of experience as a sleep consultant, I have found that most babies adjust to sleeping without a swaddle blanket within 1-2 weeks, on average. If they are younger babies who learned to roll early but still have the Moro reflex, these babies sometimes take 3-4 weeks or more, depending on age and development. All babies develop at their own pace. Some things just can’t be rushed.
A final word, remember that any time you are weaning from a sleep association, the process can disrupt sleep. This means that if you decide to stop swaddling your baby for sleep, your baby may stop sleeping through the night initially. The process of transitioning away from swaddling can take a week or so. During that time, your baby’s sleep may be affected. This is normal! (Hang in there!) Once your baby is used to sleeping unswaddled, sleep should return to normal.
Hope this gives you everything you need to know about when and how to stop swaddling your baby!
107 thoughts on “When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby and 3 Ways to Transition”
My twins are 5 1/2 months and have been sleeping though the night since they were 3 months old fully swaddled. I’m transitioning them to not be swaddled so I swaddled them with one arm out last night. They were up throughout the night and my one baby rolled over on her tummy (face turned). Is it ok for her to be swaddled with one arm out if she’s rolling over? I wanted to slowly transition them, especially since last night was so rough
Hi @Amanda – Thanks for writing, and congrats on the recent arrival of your twins! As you’ve likely been learning, transitioning away from a swaddle can be rough, and can bring on some sleep issues! Since they are starting to roll, for safety’s sake, it’s time to remove that swaddle! We love this product as a transition to help babies sleep safely, but also give the swaddled feel:
Good luck (with both babies) Amanda! Please contact us if you find that you would like more assistance at any time!
I had my daughter’s two month appointment this morning. I told the doctor that she rolled from tummy to back three times. He told me to stop swaddling. She’s so young though! I tried it once and she couldn’t sleep. She kept jerking herself awake. Don’t you stop swaddling when they go from their backs to their tummy, and not tummy to back? Thanks!
Hi @Megan – Thanks for writing! We’d recommend taking your doctor’s instruction, since he knows your baby and her development best! Yes, you should stop swaddling once baby rolls from back to front, but please feel free to ask your Dr and his recommendations to get clarification! This product may help as you wean from the swaddles too:
Hi my son is almost 4 months. We took away the transition swaddle and purchased a halo sleep sack his arms are flying everywhere he is very fuzzy and just won’t sleep for his normal 8-10 hours when he wa swaddled or in the transition swaddle do I put him back in the transition swaddle or just wait it out. My husband and I just don’t know what to do next. He needs his sleep and so do we. He wakes up crying and just can’t grt comfy to fall back to sleep.
Hi @Jessica, thanks for writing to us. Transitioning from the swaddle can certainly be challenging so hang in there. The most important question I’ll ask is if your son is able to roll from back to belly? If so, do not put him back in the swaddle unless his arms are out, as it would be unsafe if he rolled to his belly with his arms restricted. It may take a week or so for him to learn how to sleep without that particular sleep crutch, so hang in there! Here is a link to a free guide that has tips to help break sleep associations (which in your case would be the swaddle) and get your baby sleeping longer stretches again: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
If you need more help, let us know! I hope this helps.
How do you suggest transitioning out of miracle swaddle? And any advice for Increasing napping time? She sleeps well until she is put down and then awakes very easily and when she does nap it is for approximately 30-45 min intervals.
I know the advice is to do it one at a time, but this swaddle is so compact I can’t figure out how to do that. My daughter is 3 months old and highly reliant on swaddling, but I want to transition to hopefully increase her ability to sleep without this assistance especially during nap time as we don’t swaddle her at nap time and her naps are very poor.
Hi @Maria – Thanks for writing!In addition to the tips in this article, for help with weaning the swaddle, here is a link from the Miracle Blanket swaddle with some additional help for their swaddles:
Regarding her short naps, these are still common at this age, but here is a link to an article that should help!:
Good luck Maria!
My son is two weeks away from being three months. He has started getting both arms out of his swaddle and gets turned on his side with his head bent backwards very far towards his back. Should I start leaving his arms out in case he rolls onto stomach?
@Caitlin – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. If your little guy appears to sleep more comfortably with his arms free of the swaddle (many babies do!), this is perfectly fine to let him do. Just keep safety first – if he’s rolling over at all, then it’s time to stop swaddling and to start considering another alternative for keeping him bundled up and cozy while he sleeps. Hope this helps!
Great read. Very relatable!
My son is 4.5 months and now rolling. Last night I saw him roll over with his arms swaddled. He turned his head but nonetheless, it’s time to get him arms out. I’m trying one at a time for naps but he wakes up screaming 20 mins after I put him down. This morning he screamed for an hour until I unswaddled both arms. Is this normal? I’ve never seen him scream/cry like he does when he realizes his arms are out/startles him. Any help is appreciated.
@Alexis – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. Working to stop swaddling your baby can be quite a challenging transition, for sure! Many babies prefer both arms out instead of just the one and won’t sleep well any other way. Working through the startle reflex that comes with having the freedom of limbs movement when unswaddling babies is a process but can resolve itself as your little guy learns this new way to sleep. Hang in there, Alexis and please let us know if we can be of any further help!
My baby is 7 months and loves being seaddled and in rock and play and getting way to big for both. What do i do?
Hi @Krysta – Thanks for writing to us! Yes, it sounds like it’s time to wean your little one from the rock and play and from being swaddled! The Zipadee Zip that we mention on this page might help with the transition, and is available in many sizes, up to three years old! You can check it out here:
We hope that the transition is smooth for all of you! Please contact us if you need any assistance! : )
My daughter is almost 9 months old and we went from a swaddle to a sleep sack that her arms can be in or out of. However I can’t let her arms out because she freaks out crying. I tried the zen sack and she didn’t like having her arms free. She was doing great sleeping but now she’s been waking up every couple of hours and I have to rock her back to sleep or sleep on the couch with her. She also still has the startle reflex. I have no idea what to do.
Hi @Alicia, thanks for writing to us. I’m sorry to hear your daughter has been struggling with her transition from the swaddle. At this age you’ve made the safest move for your daughter, as difficult as it can be! Hang in there and do your best to stay consistent without building any new sleep habits for her she needs you to recreate. My son also had the startle reflex at this age and it is horrible so I feel your pain. I will tell you that at this age my son was able to roll both ways, so I personally felt comfortable putting him to sleep on his tummy which helped with the startle reflex. If you decide to try this I’m sure it would be an adjustment as well, and you could speak to your pediatrician about it as well (or if you are concerned then please feel free to ignore me on this too, I want you to do what you feel is best). Here is an article we have on the subject: https://www.babysleepsite.com/safety/tummy-sleep-baby/
Hang in there and I hope things get better for your daughter soon!
Thank you I will see what I can do!
Hi, my 5.5 month old is still swaddled. We have been trying everything to transition him out of the swaddle but none of these transition items have worked. We’ve currently been able to have his arms out for naps, but at night time he wakes up frantic and crying so hard that he vomits. The only way we can calm him down is to swaddle him and I’m afraid that soon he will start rolling over and it will be unsafe. He isn’t currently rolling over, so we thought we’d try a few more nights swaddled and then try arms out again at night, but I’m so stressed about it. Do you have any advice?
Thank you for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear that you’re having so much trouble weaning the swaddle. There are a variety of swaddle transitioning products on the market that can help babies get from the swaddle to “free” sleeping. Many of the families we’ve worked with like the Zip-A-Dee Zip, or the Magic Merlin Suit. You can check in with your pediatrician for more recommendations, too. I hope this helps!
Hi, my 6 week old squirms for about an hour before waking in the middle of the night. When we get up with him we find he has a hand loose brought up to his face. We also struggle with getting him to fall asleep because he will wiggle and moan as if he doesn’t like the restriction, is it possible he doesn’t like swaddling?
Hi @Valerie! Thanks for visiting us and congrats on your new baby! It could be that your little guy is trying to self soothe/find his hands and/or just prefer them up by his face which is fine! You can always swaddle with one or both arms out of the swaddle, and see if he likes that better! Good luck!
My 5 month old has to have a swaddle to fall asleep but after a couple of hours he starts fight it. He’ll sleep fine without the swaddle after he falls asleep as long as there’s pressure on his tummy. Not sure how to get him to fall asleep without the swaddle. He wakes up with the little of his movements
Hi @Shelly – Thanks for writing! There are lots of great tips on how to wean the swaddle with your baby on this post! Many families find that removing the swaddle very slowly is a great way to go! Check out the other helpful products that are out there for help with this too, like these:
Good luck Shelly!! Please contact us if you would like more assistance with this at any time!
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