Weaning Your Baby Off Swaddling
When to wean
Once your baby becomes frustrated with being swaddled or her sleep deteriorates, it is time to think about weaning her off being wrapped.
Also as your baby starts to roll, she may be unsafe swaddled as tummy sleeping/swaddled babies have a x7 SIDS risk compared to back sleep/swaddled babies.
There is no specific age that you need to stop swaddling, but once your baby is over 4 months it can be good to start the weaning off swaddling process very gradually. Some babies may be ready earlier, while others still enjoying their swaddles for many more months!
If your baby is over 5 months, still swaddled and waking in the night, she may need at least one hand out. This would enable your baby to hold a blankie, suck her fingers or put a dummy back in herself. If you keep both arms in the swaddle past 5 months of age, you are likely to continue to need to help your baby back to sleep!
Sleeping on the tummy while swaddled can be dangerous, so if your baby still needs to be fully wrapped to settle once she can roll over, we strongly recommend you use a Safe T Sleep over the swaddling to keep her safely on her back. Click here for more info on the Safe T Sleep.
What comes after swaddling?
Once you are ready to begin the process of weaning your baby off swaddling, think ahead and plan for your baby to sleep without swaddling.
What will she sleep in and how can you keep her snug all night?
We recommend you replace the swaddling with a baby sleeping bag. This ensures she stays warm all night and there is no risk of suffocation with loose bedding.
The most gentle transition is to gradually introduce a sleeping bag by wrapping over the top for a while or you can use one of our transitional wraps that combine well with a sleeping bag or gradually allow more movement.
Transitional or Convertible wraps:
The following wraps are ideal for making the transition from swaddling:
Miracle Blanket - Works well over a sleeping bag, see below
ergoCocoon - You can use it with one or both arms in or out! Allows a bit more movement for the arms.
50:50 Love to Dream - Similar shape to the Love to Dream but with zip-off arms! It is also wider in the legs, so wriggly babies have some additional movement.
Love To Dream - Provides some control of the startle reflex but gets your baby used to sleeping arms up.
Sleepy Wings - A small 'jacket' style swaddle that provides some startle control and a feeling of snugness. This works very well over a sleeping bag.
Halo Swaddle/Sleepsack - Has a detachable swaddle that can be used firmly with both arms in, one arm in, both arms out or detach the swaddle completely!
Swaddle Grobag - Like the Halo Sleepsac swaddle the Swaddle Grobag aims to be a 2 in1 swaddle (and as baby grows) a sleeping bag to give you the best of both worlds!
Watch Video - All About Swaddling
In the video below Louise from The Sleep Store will guide you through the different types of swaddles available with a focus on transitional & summer swaddles.
This video is from our Facebook live post, if you'd like to join our Facebook community click here for details.
Watch Video - Use a Muslin Wrap to Transition from Swaddling
In the video below Louise from The Sleep Store shows just how easy it is to use a traditional muslin wrap to help baby transition from a swaddle to a sleeping bag by demonstrating how to wrap baby with one arm out.
Can I use a wrap inside a sleeping bag?
In most cases it is much safer to use your wrap over a sleeping bag, as your baby gets used to sleeping in a bag.
This is because sleeping bags need your baby's arms to be out the arm holes, rather than swaddled completely and reliant on the neck hole to stop baby slipping inside the sleeping bag.
The only times we think you can safely use a swaddle inside a sleeping bag are as follows:
- ergoCocoon when at least one arm is out of the cocoon arm holes and out the sleeping bag arm hole.
- Love to Dream when both arms are out of the sleeping bag arm holes while inside the Love to Dream.
Wrapping over a sleeping bag
We recommend combining the swaddling and sleeping bag to begin with, so your baby becomes used to a baby sleeping bag, while she still experiences the familiar security of her wrap.
A swaddle is a very strong sleep association for your baby and it takes time to replace this association with something else, such as a sleeping bag.
We find that this process works best with a fitted wrap, such as a Miracle Blanket. These are shaped to prevent the wrap coming up by baby's face, which is especially important when you are using a wrap with a sleeping bag (rather than wrapping baby's legs). Miracle Blanket in particular is perfect for this transition, as the arm flaps are so effective and safe when used over a sleeping bag.
The Halo sleeping bag/swaddle is specifically designed as a sleeping bag with detachable swaddle.
The Sleepy Wings are perfect for using over a sleeping bag. These are suitable for babies without a strong startle reflex, as they will have a reasonable degree of arm movement.
Swaddling over a sleeping bag
Miracle Blanket over sleeping bag
The Miracle Blanket is the best option for wrapping over a sleeping bag for babies who still have a strong startle reflex or need very firm swaddle. It can be used with one or both arms inside the wrap, and is also excellent for gradually weaning baby off being wrapped.
This combo also works well for babies who still need firm swaddling but are too long for the leg pouch on their Miracle Blanket.
The Miracle Blanket is one of the warmer fitted wraps so we recommend a slight change to the way you use your Miracle Blanket over a bag in the summer months:
- Put the shorter wing down by baby's side, rather than wrapping it over the chest
- Only wrap the long side round baby once rather than twice.
You will need to judge if this gives sufficient security for your baby and doesn't become unravelled while he is sleeping. If the wrap becomes loose, please ensure you revert to the usual Miracle Blanket instructions for safety reasons.
Choose a sleeping bag in the right size for your baby and appropriate weight for the season.
Place your wrap open flat, then place sleeping bag on top of the wrap.
Place baby into the sleeping bag, doing up any domes and zippers. Most newborn size sleeping bags have domes under the arms for a snug fit.
If you are using a Miracle Blanket (which we recommend) secure your baby's arms into the wrap arm flaps.
Once you are wrapping with one arm out, just wrap one arm into the arm flap.
Wrap the first side of the wrap over your baby. If you keep this arm wrapped straight down by baby' side, it is much more likely to stay wrapped all night.
If you are using one-arm out swaddling, wrap this side of the swaddle under the baby's arm and across the chest.
Wrap the other side of the swaddle securely over and around your baby.
If you are wrapping with one arm out, the 2nd side will be wrapped across the baby, under the 1st arm and round the body.
Once your baby can settle easily and sleep well with one arm out, try a few sleeps with just the sleeping bag.
If she continues to sleep well, congratulations - your weaning is complete!
If your baby starts to catnap or wake more in the night, continue with your wrapping for a couple more weeks.
You may find that your baby still needs swaddling for some sleeps in the day - in particular babies often sleep all night in just a sleeping bag but need swaddling during the day to have a longer sleep. Just take your time and let your baby adjust to life without her swaddle gradually.
Transition from using a Love To Dream swaddle
Use the Love to Dream 50:50 swaddle as an option for transitioning your baby from their swaddle up. The 50:50 has removable arm flaps that can be unzipped one by one, or both at the same time. This allows baby's hands and arms to be up and out of the swaddle. Essentially slowly turning the swaddle in to a small sleeping bag and lets your baby get used to having their arms free when sleeping
The 50:50 comes in a range of sizes and warmth options. If baby is ready to transition away from their Love to Dream swaddle, choose the size of 50:50 that's right for you baby now, rather than getting a large size for them to grow in to. Too large a size can be a safety risk and too small will be uncomfortable.
Once your baby is used to having their arms free in their Love to Dream 50:50 then you can transition to a dedicated sleeping bag such as a Woolbabe or our own organic cotton option, for example.
Love to Dream swaddles can't be used at the same time as a sleeping bag and loose bedding and blankets are not recommended from a sleep safety point of view too. If the temperature is cold then warm Love to Dream swaddles are available, likewise lightweight versions are available for the summer months or when the room temperature is warm.