Last Updated on April 23, 2022 by Ray
The swaddle is one of those magical mom help secrets that are a complete lifesaver during those first few months. Swaddling or wrapping a newborn in a blanket to provide a supportive, comforting environment mimics the womb. Your infant is already struggling to adapt to a brand new world, and this one little thing makes things a little easier.
The point of swaddling is that it restricts movement and creates a snuggly cocoon to help lull your newborn into dreamland. But that also means that as your baby grows and gains more motor function, it eventually becomes unsafe. Around the three-month mark, you will want to transition your baby to sleeping without a swaddle. This can mean a few more sleepless nights. While every baby is different, here are some tips for nailing the transition like a boss mom.
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Choose Your Method
We’ll say it again. Every baby is different. That means that there are a few different approaches, and some work better than others with different babies. Let’s take a look at your options and some pros and cons of each method so you can choose the one that works for you.
Quit Cold Turkey
It’s fast, and it’s effective—but there will likely be some dramatic wailing. Giving up the swaddle cold turkey is best suited for babies who seem to be adaptable to change and may even have begun to show some self-soothing skills. Or, maybe if you have nerves of steel. But many mothers are bound to find this method a little too aggressive. The process is simple, skip the swaddle and put your baby to bed. You will know pretty quickly if this is going to work or not.
Partial night swaddling is another option for babies who aren’t ready for the cold turkey approach. Essentially, you will start off the night with a swaddled sleeper, and then after your baby gets into their sleep routine, you will remove it. With this method, they still get the security of the swaddle as they are drifting off to sleep, but they are also learning to sleep without it.
The biggest drawback is that if your baby frequently wakes throughout the night, you will be swaddling and unswaddling all night long. Ultimately, the goal is to see longer stretches of sleep in between swaddles with this method.
Half In, Half Out
Another half-way-there approach is to swaddle with one arm in and one arm out. With this approach, your baby gets the best of both worlds. They will experience the security of the swaddle with the freedom of movement while they learn that they can sleep without the swaddle. This method is usually done in a progression of one arm out, then both arms out, followed by removing the swaddle altogether.
Try the Swaddle Strap
If you are looking for a product to ease the transition, a swaddle strap can do the trick. This gadget is effectively an arms-only swaddle that provides the baby with the security of a swaddle while allowing the legs and feet to be free. The swaddle strap can only be used short-term. Once the baby can roll over, it is no longer safe to use the strap.
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Use a Snuggle Suit
The next best thing to a swaddle that still provides your baby with secure comfort while providing a safer alternative for mobile babies is the sleepsuit. These are sometimes called are wearable blankets that have arms and a zippered pouch for the legs. These suits are warmer than onesies or pajamas and come in a variety of thicknesses for every season. One of our favorites, that both new and experienced mom alike have found great success, is the Miracle Blanket®.
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Tips and Tricks from Seasoned Mamas
If you have tried all of the methods and you are still struggling to swaddle transition, rest assured that plenty of mamas have been where you are now. And they have a few more tricks up their sleeve to help you and your baby get through those first few nights without the swaddle.
Daytime or Nighttime
Just because babies frequently sleep around the clock doesn’t mean all sleep is the same. Babies tend to sleep a little more comfortably and deeply at night than they do during the day. While they still need frequent napping, their little bodies are beginning to adjust to a circadian rhythm based on daylight. Feel your baby out, and don’t fight it. If swaddle-free sleep comes easily at night but not during the day, this is why. It is ok to use the swaddle a little longer for daytime naps until your baby has time to adjust.
Substitute Swaddle for Another Soother
The swaddle is an effective soothing aid, and taking it away completely can cause some anxiety. Consider alleviating these feelings by swapping it out for another soothing mechanism that is appropriate for older babies. This could be the addition of soothing sleep music or a noise machine in the background while they sleep. Or, you could give rocking a try as they fall to sleep.
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Common Questions About Sleep Sacks
Are They the Right Option for Your Baby?
As you transition out of a swaddle, you may want another option to keep your baby warm without the risk of blankets. This is where the sleep sack comes in.
While sleep sacks and swaddles are different, some people use the terms interchangeably. A sleep sack is a bodysuit-style garment made of thicker fabric with a hole for the baby’s head and two holes for the arms. The sack fits their body loosely and allows them to move their legs but slightly restricts mobility. The closure method for most sleep sacks is either snaps, Velcro, or a zipper.
Are Sleep Sacks Safe?
Most parents want to ensure the sleep sack is a safe option for their baby. Sleep sacks are safe and present no risk to your little one when used properly. They also eliminate the need to use loose blankets, which present some risk for younger children.
Can Sleep Sacks be Used for Newborns?
Some parents want to avoid swaddling completely when they have a baby and may consider sleep sacks for newborns. Before deciding if this is a good idea, you should pay attention to where your child is developmental. For example, a sleep sack is definitely a safer option when they begin rolling over.
How Long Can Your Baby Use a Sleep Sack?
Sleepsacks can be used for babies and toddlers. The time when you stop using them largely depends on your child and personal preferences.
Takeaway on the Best Swaddle Transition
Swaddling is great while it lasts. The problem is that as soon as your infant starts to roll over, it’s time to transition to the next stage in sleep. For some babies, the transition will be effortless. And for others, there is another round of sleepless nights ahead. We recommend picking a method based on your baby’s personality and giving it a try. Like every step in raising babies, it takes some patience to get through it. But swaddling babies that can rollover isn’t safe, so it is one of those necessary hurdles to climb.
Ray of Solace provides empathetic postpartum coaching to help families navigate difficult transitions. We are a beacon of light in your time of need. Contact us to get started today.