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Annette Faamausili, August 9 2018

When can I stop swaddling my baby?

Let’s take a look at some swaddling safety tips, when's a good time to stop swaddling and how to transition your baby to a sleep sack.

Why Swaddling?

Swaddling your baby means snuggly wrapping them in a blanket or sheet for warmth and security. It mimics the snug feeling of being in the womb, helping them stay calm in the big wide world. By wrapping your baby’s arms, it helps them to stay asleep for longer and not be disturbed by jerky movements caused by the startle reflex. You can also keep them feeling warm in the first few months of their life until their internal thermostat is functioning as it should.

Swaddling Safety

It is important that if you are swaddling your baby you follow the correct methods so that your baby remains safe and healthy. Tightly wrapping and restricting your baby's leg movements can lead to hip dysplaysia, so ensure their legs can bend and extend within the swaddle. Also ensure that they do not overheat, signs that they are too warm can include being sweaty, having damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, or rapid breathing.

Swaddling can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), so always ensure you place your baby on their back in their bed. If your baby is beginning to show signs of rolling over, then I would recommend transitioning out of the swaddle.

When Should I Stop Swaddling?

I would usually recommend making the transition out of a swaddle around 16 to 20 weeks of age. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first being that their startle reflex sholud have faded so will disrupt their sleep less. The second reason is that by 4 months of age your baby will be very aware of their hands - they will be grabbing toys, bashing things, and often putting their fingers or fists in their mouth.

Of course they cannot do any of that if they are swaddled! If their hands are constantly restricted then your baby may become frustrated and you will face an ongoing battle of them trying to get their hands free during sleep time.

If you find that your baby’s hands are always trying to get out of the swaddle, or the hand area of the swaddle (if swaddling arms up) is quite wet, then that is your baby trying to tell you they want access to their hands so that they can self-settle.

How Should I Make The Transition?

When you first transition your baby into a sleepsack, they will find it a little bit alien as their arms are suddenly free. They may even look like a windmill as their arms flail around. This is completely normal. What can help to ease the transition is introducing a comfort toy as it gives their hands a purpose - a way to utilise them for self settling.

The best way to do that is to place the comfort toy by their face or chin so that they can grab hold of it with their hands. They will probably suck on it, play with it, rub it on their face, sniff it… basically discover what this new snuggly thing is. If your baby can go to sleep by playing with the comfort toy, then they will have found a great way to self settle.

A really good tip to help your baby attach to the comfort toy is to place it down your top for the first couple of weeks so that it absorbs your smell. Then, before every nap time you can take it out and place it with your baby. It will be warm, snuggly and smell like you.

If you prefer to transition more gradually, then you can pop your baby into the sleep sack and swaddle over the top from the chest down for a few days. If you have been swaddling with the hands up method then try releasing one hand first, then the other a couple of days later.

The Benefits of Using A Sleep Sack

Why transition into a sleep sack? There are a number of reasons that I would recommend a sleep sack, they are:

Comfort and warmth without the danger of loose blanketsThey cannot kick them off so will keep a warm, consistent temperature, preventing waking coldLittle feet cannot get stuck in the cot barsYou can increase or decrease warmth by adding or removing layers of clothes under the sleepsack, preventing overheatingYou can choose the thickness or tog rating of your sleep sack to match the temperature or season.Your baby will begin to associate the sleeping bag with sleep so can be a great bedtime cue even if you are away from home

If you are ready to stop swaddling and transition your baby to a sleep sack but aren’t sure where to start, then feel free to get in touch with me here at Serene Sleep. I am happy to provide you with some advice on how best to handle the transition.

Written by

Annette Faamausili

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