The practice of swaddling a baby has been used for centuries by many different cultures due to its various benefits.
- Swaddling mimics the structure of the womb and helps ease a baby’s transition into the world.
- Newborns need extensive nurturing during the first 3 months of life, which swaddling can provide; this time is commonly referred to as the fourth trimester.
- Swaddling helps babies spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be necessary for the extraordinary development happening in their brain. Since REM sleep is lighter than non-REM sleep, and more easily disrupted, swaddling helps prevent baby from waking during this valuable sleep time.
- Research demonstrates that when swaddled correctly, babies are safer since they are more likely to stay asleep on their backs and less likely to get caught in loose blankets.
- Swaddling produces a calming effect that soothes a baby.
- Swaddling helps regulate baby’s body temperature.
- Swaddling helps prevent scratching.
By two years of age, a child will have spent more time asleep than awake. A healthy amount of sleep is essential for babies as it directly impacts their mental and physical development, as well as happiness. Just as you ensure your baby has a safe play environment, it’s important to establish a safe sleep environment. Proper sleep conditions will help your baby rest better, longer, and safer…so you can sleep better too.
– Sourced from the National Sleep Foundation
- Place your baby on her back. Babies up to one year of age should always be placed on their backs while sleeping.
- Make sure your baby sleeps on a firm surface. Cover a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. Clear the area of pillows, blankets, and stuffed toys.
- Swaddle your baby. A swaddler not only eliminates blankets and loose fabric from the sleeping area, but also helps keep your baby safely on his/her back. Stop swaddling once your baby can roll on his/her side or stomach to prevent suffocation.
- Ensure your baby is at a comfortable temperature. Keep his/her room slightly warmer during the day and cooler at night. Do not overdress your baby.
- Verify that your baby’s crib complies with current safety standards. Check to make sure your baby’s crib isn’t on the recall list by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov). Do not use a crib that is older than 10 years. Many older cribs may not meet current safety standards and can have a variety of problems.
- Place crib in a safe spot. Distance cribs or playpens away from windows, window covering cords, and baby monitor cords to avoid strangulation hazards. The AAP recommends your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed
Seriously, though, that’s a question worth asking. Even though swaddling your baby and offering your baby a pacifier are very different activities, there are some similarities, aren’t there? Specifically, both swaddling and pacifiers are designed to comfort to fussy babies, and help them to relax (and hopefully, to fall asleep!)
And here’s another similarity – while both swaddling and offering a pacifier are great ways to soothe and comfort your baby, both can quickly become habitual sleep associations. Parents who initially love swaddling their babies, or popping in a pacifier, may not be feeling the love when they find themselves getting up every 20 minutes at night to re-do the swaddle, or to replace the pacifier!
And so, with both swaddling and pacifier use, there comes a time when parents start asking themselves, “Can I stop doing this yet? Should I stop doing this yet?” We’ve answered this question already, when it comes to pacifier use – check out our article How And When To Help Your Baby or Toddler Stop The Pacifier for tips.
Today, we are going to answer that question for swaddling. Specifically, we’ll look at how to stop swaddling your baby, and when to stop swaddling your baby.
When To Stop Swaddling Your Baby
The first question many parents have is, “When can I (or should I) stop swaddling my baby?” The good news is that there is no hard-and-fast answer to this. You “can” stop swaddling your baby whenever you feel it’s best. You know your baby best, after all!
Remember that while most people use swaddling as a soothing technique during the newborn stage, and then start to phase it out around 3 or 4 months, it’s not uncommon for babies to be swaddled when they are 6, 7, 8, even 9 months old. Most older babies will eventually start to reject swaddling, but that’s not true for all older babies; some will continue to sleep better while swaddled well past 6 months.
That said, here are some general guidelines you can use to help determine when to stop swaddling your baby:
The average age to stop swaddling baby is around 3 or 4 months of age.
Newborns are born with a startle reflex, called the Moro reflex, and most babies don’t outgrow it until 4 or 5 months of age. So be careful about stopping the swaddle too early; if your baby’s Moro reflex is still strong, she may startle herself awake at night and during naps.
If your baby is able to break free of his swaddle, this isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s time to stop swaddling. However, if your baby is consistently breaking free of his swaddle every night, and if that means you have loose blankets in the crib, then it’s time to either stop swaddling or to switch to a safer swaddling blanket. We recommend the Miracle Blanket.
Swaddled babies should NEVER sleep face-down. So if your baby is starting to roll over on to her tummy while she sleeps, that is a strong sign that it’s time to stop swaddling your baby. Remember, when it comes to swaddling, safety first!
Make sure that your baby is not swaddled all day long. While swaddling for sleep is fine, especially during the newborn stage, babies need time to move freely as well, so that they can grow stronger and develop their gross motor skills. If your baby spends all of his sleep AND awake time swaddled, it might be time to gradually stop swaddling during his awake time.
If you are getting ready to sleep train, or sleep coach, you will likely want to stop swaddling first, before you begin sleep training. Part of the sleep training process involves helping your child learn to self-soothe, and babies need to be unswaddled in order to learn to self-soothe.