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”
Hi there. My son is almost 4 months old and is showing signs of almost rolling. He hasn’t done it yet but has gotten very close! I’ve tried transitioning him out of his swaddle before, starting with one arm out.. but have not been successful as he wakes himself up by rubbing his face and flailing his arm. But now that he’s close to rolling I’m worried about swaddling and him rolling during the night… what should I do?
Hi @Sofie –
Thank you for writing to us! it sounds like you’ve got an almost mobile baby, and as you suspect, it’s time to start weaning him from the swaddle!! It may take a little time, but he will get used to it, so don’t give up! This is our favorite product for helping with the transition away from a swaddle:
Check it out if you can! The tips on this blog post should help make the transition a smoother one too. Good luck Sofie!
My baby is 6.5 months and been swaddled for every sleep but she is breaking right out of it and wakes herself so not sure what to do. I thought maybe I go cold turkey and she did settle for her naps without but only did 30 mins. She is so overtired. Do I just continue even if she isn’t getting much sleep? And should improve in few days? Or is it cruel as basically hasn’t slept today other than a few 30 mins
Hi @Sophie – Thank you for writing to us! Sorry that weaning your daughter from the swaddle is not going as smoothly as we wish it would! Feel free to slow down and wean it gradually if she is not sleeping well! Since she is breaking out of swaddle, you can try it with her arms out, and of course, you’ll want to consider safety first, so that there are no loose blankets around her. There are great options for swaddle straps and sleep sacks too, which often help. We link to many on this article!
Weaning from the swaddle can cause some sleep disruption, and do feel free to offer an earlier bedtime, or even a catnap to catch up on any lost sleep!
Good luck Sophie, and please contact us if you’d like more help at any time!
My 4 month old daughter sleeps unswaddled at night but swaddled for naps. She sleeps for up to 10 hours straight at night before waking up for a feed. However, naps are a different story: Without a swaddle she will only nap for 30 min. In a swaddle, she will nap for up to 3 hours! She’s starting at a daycare in a few weeks that doesn’t have air conditioning and I’m afraid a swaddle will be too warm. Should I start transitioning her out for naps now?
Thanks for writing! If your daughter is happy in the swaddle, sleeping better in it, and not rolling, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest weaning her unless you absolutely have to. Have you considered using a lighter swaddle, or an alternative like the Swaddle Strap? That one in particular provides some of the deep pressure, but is a lot lighter and won’t hold in as much heat. We have an article with some ideas here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/weaning-baby-swaddling/
I hope this helps, and good luck!
My baby boy is almost four months old and I’ve swaddled him ever since he came home from the hospital. My mom says she doesn’t swaddle him when he stays with her at her house and he sleeps fine. I’ve gotten used to doing it and I’m unsure what is better for him especially since our bedroom can be cold at night ( I keep the ceiling fan on medium or high all night). He has always been very restless and still is. Another reason I’m unsure is because he breaks out of it pretty often.
Hi @Danielle – Thanks for writing to us about your baby! It is common for babies to sleep differently for different caregivers, so it is not surprising that he is sleeping fine with your mom though not swaddled! If he is breaking out of the swaddle quite often, it may become a safety issue. Use the tips on this page to help determine if it’s time to wean from the swaddle, and when it is time, we love this product to keep baby warm and safe and still fee secure:
Good luck Danielle!!
My boy is almost 6months. He rolled back to front a handful of times when hes was about 4months old and hasnt done it since. He has however started to show signs of wanting to roll again, rolling all the way onto his side and almost rolling to front again. He only does this during the day and sleeps well at night on his back with no rolling. He cries bloody murder if I try settle him to sleep without his arms swaddled for naps and when I get him to sleep at night unswaddled he wakes within an hour and wants to play. I guess what I’m wondering is should I keep I’m swaddled at night if hes not rolling at night? Or is it time to unswaddle and will he just get used to being unswaddled…?
Thank you for checking out The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry you’re having some trouble transitioning from the swaddle. At 6 months, we do usually recommend starting to transition out, but how you do so really depends on your family and your baby. Some families do go cold turkey without the swaddle, which usually results in a couple of nights or broken sleep, but then baby adjusts. Other options include transition products like the Zip-a-dee Zip, or the Magic Merlin sleep suit, or similar items. Families have success with all sorts of methods, so we can only assure you that you know your baby best, and will decide what approach will work best for him and for you. I hope this helps, and good luck with the transition!
Hi.. My baby girl is going to be 3 months old and she is showing all symptoms that I should stop swaddling her.. But if I do not swaddle her… She use to moves her hands so much around her face that she wake within 15 minutes. What should I do??
Hi @Akanksha – Thanks for writing and sorry to hear about your baby’s sleep struggles with stopping swaddling! This can be a tough transition, and you may need to give it a little more time! We love this product to help with this transition:
Good luck and please contact us if you need more help with this!
My four month old is starting to roll during the day but only when given s little assistance. She’s not quite rolling herself without a little help yet. That being said, we started to transition by doing one arm out and using a zen sack. Then the four month sleep regression and teething pain hit. We are in the thick of it right now. She will scream bloody murder at night with one arm out or in the sack. Making us go back to swaddling for everyone’s sanity. She is also in a dock a tot in her crib and we are trying to transition out of that as well. My quotation is, is it OK to hold off on transitioning until we are out of the regression phase? I feel like it’s too much as once and is causing her a lot of stress. Since she’s not totally rolling on her own and doing it consistently, I feel like it’s our best option at the moment. Any tips?
Hi @Amanda – Thanks for writing, and sorry to hear that you’re having some sleep issues with your 4 month old! You are not alone, and this 4 month sleep regression can cause even the best sleepers to have trouble! If your baby is still safely swaddled, and not rolling over in her swaddle, you can keep swaddling her for now. However, she may not outgrow this, and you may have to work through the transition very soon! If you need a break, do feel free to give it a week and try again, as long as she is safely swaddled, in a safe sleep space, and not rolling over. I hope that thins smooths out quickly Amanda!!
Comments are closed.