Transitioning your baby out of a swaddle can seem like a scary thing. Most babies sleep so well when swaddled that many parents wish they could swaddle their babies forever. If you are one of those parents, you are probably dreading the thought of having to transition your growing baby out of your favorite swaddle – but don’t fear, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we will go over two things:
Follow the steps in here, and we assure you that you and your baby will transition out of a swaddle like a pro.
Signs That Your Baby Has Outgrown A Swaddle
If you are a parent wondering “When should I stop swaddling my baby?” we have you covered. Once you know the swaddle transition signs, you won’t need to lose sleep over this question ever again (literally).
Although exact time may vary for each baby, somewhere between 4 to 6 months your baby will show signs that it may be time to stop swaddling. When your baby starts doing any of the following 6 things, it is a good sign that you should start a transition plan from a swaddle:
- Increase in activity and taking arm(s) out mid-sleep.
- Growing too strong or too mobile to stay swaddled through the night.
- Fighting being swaddled and wanting one or both arms out.
- Starting to roll-over due to increased arm and neck strength.
- Waking up in the middle of the night often after a history of sleeping well.
- Decreased or no startle reflex (Moro reflex).
Once you know it’s time to stop swaddling and transition, it is important to have a plan in place to make the transition easy. To guide you, we have created a simple step-by-step plan you can follow each day to successfully transition from a swaddle to a wearable blanket in as little as 7-10 days.
Follow a 4-Step Swaddle Transition Plan
Just like you would take a little time to adjust to a new sleep routine, a new mattress, or a new pillow, babies can take some time adjusting during this transition out of a swaddle.
A gradual transition will work best for you and your baby. Our 4-step plan takes as little as 7-10 days – but every baby is different, so it might take shorter and it might take longer. No matter what, every parent who owes a full night’s sleep to their favorite swaddle should follow this plan before their sleeping beauty outgrows swaddling and disrupts their restful nights.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 1: Swaddle Arm(s) Free
By month 4 your baby may start showing the 6 signs of outgrowing the swaddling phase. Increased mobility, swaddle coming undone or rolling over are some common signs that your baby is ready to transition away from swaddling.
As soon as you see these cues, change your swaddling technique gradually by swaddling with only their dominant arm out. Why only one arm? In case the Moro-reflex (also known as startle reflex) is still prevalent, the closed arm will offer resistance necessary to curb the disturbance caused by the jerking of both arms that comes with no swaddle. Try this for 2-3 nights.
If there is no Moro-reflex present or your baby is used to sleeping with one arm out, you can swaddle with both arms out. Try this for 2-3 nights. Every baby is different, so this step may take only a few days or it may take a week or so. Be patient!
Handy tip: the Zen Swaddle can be used to swaddle with one or both arms out. See the diagram to learn how to swaddle with one or both arms out.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 2: Check if it’s Too Early to Transition
Once you have tried the one arm or arms free solution, your baby will let you know if he or she finds it easy to settle in their new state. Try this option during nap-time at first so you can observe your baby's response.
If your baby still shows signs of Moro-reflex, is unable to sleep at all, or is still waking up multiple times during sleep periods, it might be too early to transition. Try swaddling for a couple more weeks and then give it another go.
It is normal for your little one to take a little longer to fall asleep at first, but this should change after a couple days.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 3: Transition To a Wearable Blanket
Once your baby has taken to the arms-out swaddle style, it’s time to switch over to a wearable blanket. We recommend the Zen Sack - it has a lightly weighted pad, which rests just where you would place your reassuring palm, has plenty of room to move and grow, and eliminates the safety concern of loose blankets in their sleep environment. Moms who have used it report their baby sleeps 2 hours longer on average!
The added security of this gentle weight is perfect for the swaddle transition period. At first, you should place the weighted part on your baby’s chest as your baby sleeps on his or her back. Before your baby starts rolling over, sleeping on their back is the safest.
Once again, consistency is key, so persist for 2-3 days before determining if the solution is working or not.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 4: When Baby Starts To Roll Over
Once your baby is comfortable sleeping in a sack, they might start rolling on to their tummy to sleep. Babies tend to choose one or the other fairly consistently.
If you are using the Zen Sack, reverse it so that the light weight is resting on your little one's back. This feels like your palm on their back and helps them fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
Caught between a rock and a hard place? Your baby may have outgrown your swaddle but not yet ready to have her hands out in the Zen Sack. No worries, this hack will get you moving right along:
Use the Zen Sack over the basic onesie and then on top of the Zen Sack, wrap your baby with a light muslin swaddle just around the arms. Then gradually, roughly one week at a time, take one arm out starting with the dominant arm, then the second arm until your baby no longer needs her arms out.
Here are the 4 steps to transition out of swaddling:
Once you have noticed the signs that it's time to stop swaddling, swaddle with one arm out for 2-3 nights then with both arms out for another 2-3 nights.
Monitor how your baby is receiving this change to their regular sleep circumstances. If your baby is not receiving the change well, try swaddling for an additional week or two.
Transition to a wearable blanket - these are made specifically for the swaddle transition period.
Keep an eye out for when your baby starts rolling on to their tummy. If you're using the Zen Sack, remember to reverse it so the weight is resting on their back.
Remember all babies are different, so make an effort to be patient and consistent. Good luck :)
Be sure to check out our baby sleeping bag-The Zen Sack!