Swaddling - how to wean your baby from a swaddle into a sleep sack
If you were swaddling your baby, you may be wondering how to wean your baby from a swaddle into a baby sleeping bag or sack.
One of the most powerful parenting tools is the swaddle. It helps recreate conditions of the womb for your newborn and it helps contain her arms, which little babies have little control over.
By 3-4 months the “moro” or “startle” reflex will start to pass. This involuntary reflex occurs in response to stimulation. You will recognize it as her arms extending out wide (like the Y in YMCA) and then quickly coming back to her chest (like a child hugging a doll). A dog barking, a door slamming, or even a creaky floor could stimulate the reflex. This reflex subsides with time naturally.
This “startle” reflex is sometime confused with a general lack of arm control. Lack of arm control looks like arms flailing overhead or to the sides. This lack of control gets better with practice. One of the reasons you’ll have to move away from the swaddle is to give your child more time with her arms free to learn some control.
The most important reason to move away from the swaddle is to prevent injury if baby starts to roll. You wouldn’t want your child to be swaddled and roll over, and then be stuck in a compromising position.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as soon as your child shows signs of wanting to roll, it is time to wean from the swaddle.
You'll also want to stop swaddling when you start sleep training your baby. She'll need her hands available when she's learning to self soothe.
Simple 6 Day Weaning Program from Swaddle to Sleep Sack
Start with nighttime when the drive to sleep is the greatest and then work on naps.
Day 1 – Naps remain swaddled. Nighttime – the dominant arm out of the swaddle.
Day 2 – Same as above
Day 3 – Naps leave one arm out, night time one arm out
Day 4 – Naps leave one arm out, night time both arms out
Day 5 – Naps leave both arms out, night time both arms out
Day 6 – No swaddle
When you have reached the point where you are swaddling with both arms out and the swaddle is only around the torso it is time to stop swaddling and move into a sleep sack.
When transitioning out of the swaddle I recommend moving into a Woolino sleep bag, a.k.a. baby sleeping bag or wearable blanket, for both night time and naps. Woolino sacks are made with merino wool, which is uniquely breathable and body temperature regulating fabric. It creates a microclimate around baby’s body, keeping them perfectly comfortable year-round; warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Also check natural merino babywear collections.
From my experience teaching babies and toddlers to sleep, kids sleep better when they wear a sleep sack. They induce a sense of comfort, and are a cue that it is sleep time. They can be a great help in establishing an easy bedtime routine.
Hey I’m Sarah! I’m the owner of Helping Babies Sleep. A pediatric sleep consulting company that empowers tired parents to teach their babies and toddlers to sleep by educating parents about their child’s age appropriate sleep needs and sleep training options. I’m the creator of the online course and community Baby Sleep Training Step by Step. I’m a Canadian girl living in Mountain View, California with my husband and kids. Dr. Sarah Mitchell BKin DC