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When Do You Stop Swaddling a Baby?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Swaddling your newborn can calm them down and help them sleep better. This is also a great way to lower their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs). Eventually, your baby will outgrow the swaddle. Here’s what you need to know.

When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby

‌You should stop swaddling your baby when they start to roll over. That’s typically between two and four months. During this time, your baby might be able to roll onto their tummy, but not be able to roll back over. This can raise their risk of SIDs.

Transitioning Your Baby Out of a Swaddle

When it’s time to stop swaddling your baby and change their sleep routine, you’ll need to transition them. Some babies may be used to sleeping in a swaddle. Taking them out of it might upset them and cause them to cry more during bedtime. 

Create a brief transition to help them adjust to their new sleeping method. When they’re showing signs of rolling over, you should take the wrap away. You can replace the full swaddle with a wrap that meets your baby’s developmental stage. Be sure to keep their arms free while they’re sleeping. 

You can still wrap your child with the same method you used for swaddling. Just keep their arms out. You can also use a sleep sack or blanket as helpful tools during the transition.  

In a sleep sack, your baby can move around a little. This is different from no mobility with their swaddle. Getting to move around and build their strength is good for their growth. But if they roll over in the night, place them back on their back. Using a sleep sack is also helpful for getting your baby ready to sleep with a blanket when it’s safe.

Once your child is done with the sleep sack, you can transition them to a wearable blanket. This will get them closer to sleeping with a blanket when they’re older. A wearable blanket lets them move their arms and legs freely without hazards. 

How to Get Your Babies to Sleep Without the Swaddle

You may experience a hitch in your transition from swaddle to wearable blanket. If your baby wants to feel “tucked in,” like they did in a swaddle, you can try a different method. 

Put your baby on their back with their feet near the bottom of the crib. Make sure the surface is firm and flat and there is nothing else in the crib with them. Place a blanket over your baby, but make sure it doesn’t reach higher than their armpits. Then tuck the blanket securely into the sides and bottom of the crib. Doing this will make them feel tucked in and reduce the risk of suffocation. 

Dangers of Continued Swaddling

There has been much debate around the positives and negatives of swaddling. Ultimately, it is up to you and your family if you choose to swaddle your newborn.

Ignoring the signs of your baby trying to roll over can be dangerous if you continue to swaddle them. If your baby is fussy and moving more, they can overheat while swaddled. Signs of being overheated include: 

  • Sweating
  • Damp hair
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Heat rash
  • Rapid breathing

After two months, you should reevaluate your baby’s sleeping situation. Stop swaddling if someone is watching your child for you or they’re moving around. Swaddling can be dangerous for babies at any month if it’s not done the right way. Because of this, some child care centers refuse to swaddle babies. Some doctors suggest it could be dangerous for children to be swaddled after 2 months. 

Another danger of continued swaddling is the increased risk of SIDs. It is also possible that your baby could overheat if dressed for bed improperly. Keeping the swaddling blanket too tight can restrict breathing and cause hip problems. If the swaddle blanket is too loose, there’s a risk of the blanket unraveling and suffocating your baby. Following safe swaddle practices can reduce these risks. 

If you have any questions about whether or how to safely swaddle your baby or transition them out of their swaddle, your doctor can help. Together, you'll decide the best course of action. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

AAP News: “Unwrapping the controversy over swaddling."

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Swaddling: Is it Safe?”

Government of Manitoba: “Swaddling Safely.”

Red Nose: “wrapping or swaddling babies.”

Sleep Advisor: “When Can You Stop Swaddling Your Baby — Our 5 Transition Tips.”

University of Washington School of Public Health: “Four Talking Points on Safe Swaddling."

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