How do you successfully swaddle transition a baby who loves falling asleep feeling snug and comfortable? After months of swaddling your little one, this can be an intimidating new milestone.
Transitioning your baby out of a swaddle is easier than you think – sometimes all it takes is a cold turkey approach but even if this doesn’t work, most babies respond to a gradual transition where they start by sleeping with their arms out.
Even though you might be worried about how your baby will sleep now (especially if she has been sleeping well), swaddling can’t last forever. It poses a danger to your precious one once she starts learning how to roll over on to her tummy.
Plus, you will notice your baby becoming more active, and she will need the room to do so without being constricted by a tight wrap. As an alternative to a traditional swaddle, you can transition to using sleep sacks or wearable blankets that are safe to wear while the baby sleeps.
I know – you’re going to miss your little burrito baby. That’s why I’ve prepared a handful of my favorite sleep suits and sacks for you to choose from on this exciting new chapter of your motherhood journey.
3 Signs Your Baby Is Ready For Swaddle Transition
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the first signs that a baby should be transitioned out of their swaddle should appear around the 2 to 3 month mark.
But considering that every baby is unique, you can start transitioning out of the swaddling stage when you notice some of the following signs.
1. Your baby is starting to roll over on to her tummy
Once your little one starts developing the necessary skills to roll over on to her belly, that’s a surefire sign that you need to say goodbye to swaddling.
A swaddled baby who can roll over is at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) so, to prevent suffocation, start the transitioning process as soon as you notice she’s getting more active.
Besides, after a certain point, a swaddle blanket can actually inhibit the development of your child, making it even more necessary to let the baby sleep without one.
However, your child still shouldn’t sleep with loose blankets in her crib until her first birthday because that also puts her at risk of SIDS.
2. Your baby’s startle reflex is not as strong as before
The Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is a normal response to outside stimuli such as loud noises, the sensation of falling, or an unexpected movement.
This reflex causes the baby to arch her back and stretch out her legs and arms, and she might also cry when this happens.
A swaddling blanket helps reduce the sudden sensations that come about as a result of this reflex so your little one can sleep better.
When your baby is between 3 to 6 months of age, the Moro reflex will start tapering off until it disappears completely.
This also coincides with the swaddle transition period when your little one no longer needs their swaddle wrap.
3. Your baby doesn’t want to be swaddled anymore
If you have noticed that your little one no longer likes to be wrapped up like a baby burrito after weeks of problem-free swaddling, then it’s time to transition out of the swaddle.
Your baby can wiggle out of the swaddle blanket while sleeping, which is also a sign that she doesn’t like it as much anymore.
4 Best Swaddle Transition Methods
When it comes to sleeping unswaddled, some babies adjust to the change like nobody’s business, without giving their parents any trouble. However, this isn’t the case with all infants.
After all, the whole point of sleeping while swaddled up is to make the baby feel safe, just like she did in her mommy’s belly.
Once you take away the source of that comfort, it can be difficult for a baby to learn how to sleep comfortably again.
But don’t be concerned – sooner or later, your little one will adjust to the change. Here are some swaddle transition methods that you can try out.
1. Go cold turkey
Whether it’s breastfeeding, using a pacifier, or sleeping in a swaddle, going cold turkey is always a good first method to try out because without trying, you can’t gauge whether your munchkin will protest the lack of a swaddle or continue sleeping as if nothing changed.
I recommend trying this out first during naptime because naps are a good indicator of how going cold turkey will go at night and it’s easier for you as the parents to deal with a crying baby during the day.
Since there’s always a possibility that your baby will belong to the second group (fingers crossed!), first try to put her to sleep without wrapping her up.
If she protests, then you can try other methods that are more gentle.
2. One arm stays inside, one arm goes outside
In a traditional swaddle, the baby’s arms are wrapped snugly underneath the blanket. Suddenly making her sleep with both of her arms free can be too big of a change, so try to take it one arm at a time.
First, swaddle her so that one of her arms goes out, while the other one stays in.
A few days later, let both of her hands out of the swaddle. After the baby has adjusted to this change, stop swaddling her completely.
The final, arms-free stage can be the most difficult one to get passed.
If your baby keeps waking up in the middle of the night or wakes up every hour, you can wrap her back up with both hands (or just one hand) inside the swaddle but make sure to reduce the amount of time she spends sleeping like this every night.
3. Create a soothing bedtime routine
Considering that a relaxing sleep routine is important for adults, you can imagine how beneficial it can be for a baby.
The key is to create an environment that your baby will feel safe in so she can fall asleep on her own.
While some parents rely on rocking to help their baby go to sleep, remember that this is another habit you will need to break later.
Start off with a bath and follow it up with a bottle-feeding or a nursing session.
Then, you can sing a lullaby or read a story – it’s never too early to introduce your little one to children’s books.
Although she won’t understand anything now, your voice will create a calming atmosphere that will help her drift off to sleep.
Some parents also opt for baby projectors and soothers that can play soft music or white noise that helps babies fall asleep.
Others, however, want to minimize the chances of their baby becoming dependent on another outside factor to go to sleep, so keep this in mind if you’re planning on using a sleep device.
If you’re practicing comfort nursing, you can let your baby nurse herself to sleep and then put her in the crib as there are few things more calming to a baby than being nursed by her mom.
4. Get a sleep sack
Sleep sacks, wearable blankets, or sleep suits are all terms that are used to describe the same baby product – a kind of wearable sleeping bag for babies that has more room than a swaddle, yet still offers the safety and comfort that comes with being swaddled up.
Many parents who decide to wean their baby from a traditional swaddle opt for a sleeping sack, especially as many of them can be used well into the toddler years.
Since toddlers tend to kick off their blankets while sleeping, using a sack of this kind is actually a pretty good idea.
Even the AAP recommends such wearable blankets as a good alternative to a traditional, loose blanket during the first 12 months of a baby’s life.
They’re also good for preventing hip dysplasia since babies can move their legs around freely.
Here are some of my favorite sleep sacks for you to consider:
Halo Sleepsack Cotton Wearable Blanket
The Halo Sleepsack is a cute and affordable model for your little one to sleep in. It comes in six kid-friendly designs while being the perfect safe sleep blanket for your baby.
The bottom of the sleeping sack has plenty of space for your munchkin to kick her legs and move around while sleeping. It’s made from a soft cotton fabric that’s machine washable, too.
Regardless of the weather, you can still rely on this wearable blanket for your baby’s sleeping needs.
It will prevent overheating during the warmer months of the year but will work great with a pair of footie pajamas if you live in a colder climate and keep baby warm at night.
Changing diapers won’t be an issue because there is a zipper at the bottom.
As far as sizing goes, this sleeping sack is available in small, medium, and large.
Make sure to factor in both your baby’s weight and height since this can vary even among babies who are of the same age.
Modern Animals Swaddle Transition Zipadee-Zip
The Zipadee-Zip swaddle transition sack (which also appeared on Shark Tank) is another favorite among parents.
The colorful patterns are a joy to look at and the sleeping sack is available in sizes extra small through to extra-large.
The smallest models are made for 3-month-olds, so this is a perfect sleeping sack for babies who have just grown out of their swaddle stage.
There is plenty of wiggle room for your baby’s legs and she will be able to move around comfortably while sleeping.
The Zipadee-Zip doesn’t have any arm openings, which stops the baby from accidentally scratching herself, and it provides more comfort to babies who are really struggling with transitioning out of their swaddling phase.
Unfortunately, there is no bottom zipper for quicker diaper changes. Still, your munchkin will enjoy wearing her Zipadee-Zip no matter the season and it’s machine washable, too.
Nested Bean Zen Sack
The Zen Sack by Nested Bean will take your baby’s sleep to the next level with its weighted middle that helps the baby have the sweetest dreams ever.
It tricks the baby into thinking they’re being held by a parent, causing them to sleep for longer periods of time.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals and it’s completely safe for your little one.
In addition to including a bottom zipper, this sleeping sack comes with snaps on the shoulders, which allows you to adjust the size as your little one grows, ensuring a perfect fit through growth spurts.
There are three sizes available, from zero to 24 months of age.
It’s made from cotton which will still look brand new even after numerous washes. The bottom of the Zen sack is long enough for the baby to kick and move around while keeping her safe.
As far as warmth goes, this is a sleeping sack that will make for comfy sleep in any climate but Nested Bean also makes sleeping sacks especially for warmer and colder climates, so make sure to check them out, too.
Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit
The Magic Sleepsuit is a product specifically made as a swaddle transition suit.
As such, you should get it when your little one is around 3 months old and discontinue using it when you notice that she’s rolling over or is being more active while sleeping.
The design is adorable and reminds me of a tiny ski suit for babies but it’s very functional, as well. It’s really soft to the touch but prevents your baby from overheating.
It also gives tiny fingers and toes room to breathe.
The neckline of the Magic Sleepsuit is designed to stay away from the baby’s mouth and nose, which prevents suffocation.
There are two zippers so you can easily change your baby’s diaper and get her in and out of the sleep suit.
You can get Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit in four colors – beige, baby pink, baby blue, and soft yellow.
Love to Dream Swaddle UP
Although the Swaddle UP model isn’t designed with any arm openings, the fabric is very stretchy and has plenty of room for your baby to extend her arms in a comfortable sleeping position.
At the same time, she will feel snug and safe inside this sleeping sack by Love to Dream.
There are three sizes available – newborn, small, and medium and it comes in three colors, too.
My favorite feature of this sleep suit is the fact that you can unzip it from the bottom so that you don’t need to take the entire thing off when you’re changing a diaper.
It’s machine washable too, and the cotton material is soft to the touch.
If you are nervous about how your baby will respond to these swaddle transition techniques – don’t be.
However, many parents find that their little one is ready to be weaned off swaddling on their own, so they are encouraging a change their baby is already ready for and the entire process goes by without a big fuss.
Even if cold turkey or gradual weaning doesn’t work, there are literally dozens of swaddle transition products at your disposal to make this change easier for your baby.
They are great because they don’t pose a danger and your child can freely move around in them, while still keeping that comforting feeling of being wrapped by soft fabric.
After your baby celebrates her first birthday, you can opt for loose blankets or you can continue using wearable ones because toddlers are very prone to kicking off their covers in the middle of the night.
It doesn’t hurt that these blankets are very cute, too.
I hope you were able to get the answers you need to successfully say goodbye to swaddling– I have my fingers crossed.
“Swaddling: Is it Safe?” by the American Academy of Pediatrics published on the Healthy Children website on August 17, 2020. Accessed September 8, 2020.
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