There are many benefits to swaddling during the first months of life; it provides security and comfort, aides in settling and establishing sleep patterns.
It has been shown that swaddled babies sleep better and experience less anxiety. Swaddling suppresses the startle reflex (also called the Moro reflex), which can cause newborns to jolt themselves awake.
Some parents start to phase out swaddling at around 3 or 4 months age. Some babies enjoy being swaddled beyond 6 months, whilst others start to fight it much earlier than 3 months. There isn’t a ‘right age’ to stop swaddling a baby.
Signs it’s time to ditch the swaddle
Red Nose recommends placing babies on their backs to sleep. As babies get older they start to move around their cot and sleep in different positions. At this stage, it is important that they are able to use their arms to push themselves back or move around safely. If they are still swaddled with arms restricted, they will not be able to move freely and this becomes a safety issue. If you don’t think your baby is ready to stop swaddling, try some hands-free sleep suits.
Does your baby fall asleep all nicely wrapped up in their swaddle wrap and then (just as you’ve sat down to enjoy a cuppa), starts screaming, and they have managed to squirm their way out of their swaddle. If this is your baby, it’s definitely time to ditch swaddling! Loose blankets or swaddles in your baby’s cot can be a safety risk.
Squirming fuss bucket
Some babies will start to whinge and wriggle every time you start to put the swaddle on. This is the only way your baby can communicate so this is likely to be their way of saying ‘time to ditch the swaddle’.
This is when your baby wakes within 20 minutes of their first sleep cycle and can’t re-settle themselves back to sleep. These babies often wake up upset and crying because they do not really want to be awake. You might be successful in re-settling them only to find they wake up again shortly after. Although, this behavior can be caused by a lot of things, including sleep regression, it might be a sign that your baby’s swaddle wrap is no longer providing the comfort and security they need. It might be time to try another swaddling option.
What is the alternative to swaddling?
Transitioning away from swaddling doesn’t need to be hard on you or your baby.
Look for sleep suits that gently help your baby make the transition and are soft and loose fitting. A transitional swaddle should encourage your baby to sleep in their natural sleeping position without restricting their arms to any one position. This is also a great way to keep your baby warm in the winter if they don’t keep sheets or blankets on.
Below are two examples of sleep suits that will help your baby transition out of swaddling.
Original Sleepy Hugs Sleep Suit
Hands In & Out Sleep Suit