Swaddling is one of the best ways to settle a newborn baby and help them to sleep; read more about it in this post. But, like all good things, swaddling cannot last forever! Sooner or later, usually around the age of six months onwards, you will need to think about weaning from the swaddle. Here is a guide to doing it the gentle way.
Why wean from the swaddle?
Swaddling provides comfort and security to your baby. It helps her to sleep, to feel protected and calm. So imagine taking that away. No more swaddle, no more soothing hold as you sleep. Just like that. Some babies will be fine with this, and some will not. Weaning from the swaddle slowly is a more gentle way to change sleep habits without upsetting baby and throwing your sleep schedule off track.
Why stop swaddling?
Swaddling helps to emulate conditions in the womb, by holding baby close with her arms wrapped so that the startle reflex is controlled. This means that newborn babies are less likely to wake themselves with their arms flailing uncontrollably as they sleep. The problem that occurs as baby gets older, is that the startle reflex disappears, and your baby gains better control of her arms. She also starts to become more mobile to- rolling over is usually the first major accomplishment. And when baby rolls over, if she is swaddled she may be unable to roll back again. For this reason swaddling is not recommended as a long term sleep solution.
How to wean from the swaddle
If your baby is ready to stop being swaddled, there is no need to go cold turkey. Take it slowly and wean her gently!
- Start with one arm out of the swaddle. It might help to go for the dominant arm (if you have noticed which hand she tends to prefer to use for grasping and reaching) and leave that one out of the swaddle for at least 3-4 days.
- Once baby is settled with just one arm in the swaddle, move on to the other arm.
- After another day or so, remove the swaddle completely.
If baby protests at having her arms out of the swaddle, and seems unable to settle- arms flapping and obviously unsettled- try this approach instead:
- Pop baby swaddled into a sleeping bag, with arms inside. Make sure that the room temperature is not too high, and don’t use any other bedding so that baby does not over heat.
- Unswaddle one arm, keeping baby in the sleeping bag.
- After 3-4 nights, remove the other arm.
- After 2 more nights, remove the swaddle altogether.
- Baby can continue to sleep in the sleeping bag without distraction.
If baby’s arms are still an issue, pop some scratch mitts on while she sleeps so that she doesn’t catch herself. You can also introduce a lovey or comfort blanket for her to hold on to to keep her arms still, and to replace the comfort of the swaddle too.
If baby is still not happy, try swaddling a little looser each time so that baby can get used to the feeling of not being swaddled so tightly. Each night swaddle a little more loosely and after around a week you should be able to remove the swaddle all together.
If baby protests a LOT then she may not be ready give up the swaddle just yet, so try again in a couple of weeks. Many babies will end up telling YOU when they are ready to cut loose! Do let us know how you get on.
Take a look at Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit to help weaning from the swaddle.