Transitioning Your Baby Out of Swaddling

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Your baby is growing up so fast! Before you know it she’ll be walking and talking back to you!  It may seem like your baby was only just born but little milestones come up very quickly. Your baby may be used to being swaddled snugly since birth, like a little burrito! The aim of swaddling is to try to simulate the experience of the womb.  Swaddling provides comfort as baby adjusts to life outside the womb. It takes some time for babies to become accustomed to the world. In fact this phenomenon is often referred to as the 4th Trimester and we have written a whole blog about it here.

In time, your baby will need to be transitioned out of the swaddle and adjust to a different environment. I know how scary this can be – losing the swaddle that helped save your sanity in the first few months of life!

Swaddling Baby - both arms in Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle

When to stop swaddling?

There are several signs that you may need to stop swaddling your baby:

Rolling from back to tummy

-Baby is showing signs of rolling. Your baby may first roll when they are in bed and you are not watching. Once baby starts to learn to roll, swaddling becomes unsafe because baby can’t get their arms out. This usually happens around 4 months of age but could be earlier or later depending on your baby.

Sleep Quality

-The quality of your baby’s sleep is deteriorating. Perhaps your baby is moving around more in their sleep or is becoming aware of their body. Your baby may want to suck her thumb or hold her dummy and therefore needs to get her arms out to do this.

Baby is Developing

-Your baby prefers to be out of the swaddle and can escape because she is getting stronger. Maybe she likes having her arms out. My son Jacob fell into this category. We would swaddle Jacob to calm him and settle his startle reflex but he’d always manage to escape! I nick named him Houdini because he could get out of anything!  Jacob inspired me to develop Australia’s first swaddle product – the Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap.

Startle Reflex has Settled Down

-The startle reflex also known as the Moro Reflex starts to settle down as your baby grows, usually around 4 months of age.

Maybe all of the above apply to you or you just feel like it’s time to move on. You will know when it is time. If your baby is not handling the transition well and is still not rolling over, then perhaps they are not quite ready. Keep an eye on things and maybe swaddle for a  couple more weeks.

Your baby may require extra attention and assistance to settle during a transitional phase. You can gradually wean off this assistance as baby gets used to the idea. It may take a little time for baby to get used to the sensation of not being confined in the swaddle.

Managing the change – step by step

If baby is showing signs of not needing to be swaddled any more then you need to transition them out of swaddling. You may want to do this gradually so your baby gets accustomed to the change.  Alternatively, you may want to try the “cold turkey” approach. You will need to go cold turkey if your baby is already rolling from their back to their tummy because it’s no longer safe to swaddle. If you would like to implement the gradual approach then we would recommend a 3 Step Transition plan similar to the below before you’re forced to go cold turkey.

3 Step Transition Plan to Stop Swaddling

STEP 1 – Swaddle with one arm out

For a gentle transition, you may need to keep in mind that change is gradual for your baby. Swaddling can become part of a sleep association for your baby so when your baby feels you wrap them snugly it cues them off to sleep. You may need to gradually introduce baby to being unwrapped. Hence we suggest starting with one arm out of the swaddle for 3-5 days. Our Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle bags are the next stage for baby’s sleep and can be used in 3 ways.  First, as a swaddle, then one arm in one arm out whilst transitioning or with both arms out like a baby sleeping bag. So you could transition to the Joey Pod as a swaddle before transitioning to one arm out.

One arm out to transition out of swaddling

STEP 2 – Monitor your baby & how they’re adjusting

We suggest persevering for the first few days. If your baby is just not settling or is now waking up multiple times then it may be necessary to swaddle for an additional week or two.  Swaddling may need to continue if their startle reflex hasn’t settled down yet. After a week or two you may feel that the time is right to transition baby before they can roll. Start with Step 1 again, swaddling with one arm out for 3-5 days. Once your baby is accustomed to one arm out then you can move to STEP 3.

STEP 3 – Transition to both arms out

Transitioned to both arms out with muslin blanket draped over

Joey Pod with a bamboo muslin draped over

You can use the Joey Pod to transition to both arms out. Starting with a daytime nap, with one arm in the Joey Pod.  You could leave the invisible zip of the Joey Pod open.  Then part way through the day time nap you could take your baby’s one arm that’s in the Joey Pod out of the Joey Pod via the invisible zip opening. If you’re feeling confident then start with both arms out and see how your baby adjusts.

If your baby just isn’t coping with both arms being out then we suggest lightly wrapping one arm with a light-weight muslin wrap  (also available as a single muslin baby wrap).  Then drape the muslin wrap over your baby, as shown in the image to the right.

Other Handy Tips

We recommend that you start your baby’s night time routine with a warm bath.  Then pop baby in their transitional swaddle or baby sleeping bag.  Finally some quiet time or read a book in baby’s room and then into the cot or bassinet. A bedtime routine is like a “countdown” for your baby so they know what to expect after each step. It means that your baby will learn the routine regardless of whether Mum, Dad, grandparents or a nanny/babysitter put them to bed. Now that your baby is getting older a routine should start to prompt sleep for them. Even if it is subtle now at the current stage, rest assured that your baby’s bedtime routine is becoming part of the conscious sleep pattern.  This will set up your baby’s sleep routine as they grow older.

Remember that this is a new stage for your baby. It may take a few days for them to get used to the Transitional Swaddle (one arm out, then both arms out) or to the Baby Sleeping Bag if you’ve transitioned directly. Baby will get used to the new routine soon, more than likely within a week. The adjustment could mean that sleep regresses temporarily. Your baby will be back on track in no time.

So is it time to stop swaddling?

Choosing to stop swaddling your baby is a bit like choosing when to get rid of the dummy. It has done its job soothing a restless baby, but now it’s time to start weaning baby off. You may like to refer to our blog “How to get rid of the dummy” if this is another issue you need help with. Although we do not recommend trying to wean off both at the same time!

What should I dress my baby in now?

After the swaddle, Bubbaroo has two options to dress your baby in for sleep. You could start with the Bubbaroo Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle. The Joey Pod was created to allow for an easy and smooth transition from swaddle to baby sleeping bag. Our Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle bags are the next stage for baby’s sleep.

Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle

The Joey Pod can be used in 3 ways – as a swaddle, one arm in one arm out whilst transitioning or with both arms out like a baby sleeping bag.  Your baby can sleep in their natural ‘arms up’ position without forcing them into any particular position.   The unique bell shape of the Joey Pod protects against hip dysplasia as baby is able to move, kick and frog their legs. We have had many “hippy babies” in hip braces use our Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap and Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle.  An example is the gorgeous Jude pictured below.  Jude has used our Joey Pouch and Joey Pod whilst in a hip brace.

In the Joey Pod, your baby can self-soothe and settle by sucking on thumbs, finger or hands. Night time feeding without needing to unwrap baby, bottom opening zip for quick nappy change and safer handling of your baby.

Once baby can roll from their back to their tummy, our transitional Joey Pod helps little sleepers progress to free arm movement like a baby sleeping bag.  There are invisible zips on the side which can be opened so the Joey Pod can be used as a baby sleeping bag.  Just like our baby sleeping bags the Joey Pod can be used when out and about in the pram or car seat.

Transitional Swaddle used in a baby capsule

Baby Sleeping Bag

You may decide to try the cold turkey approach to removing the swaddle. Alternatively, once baby has become used to sleeping with their arms out in the Joey Pod you can move your baby on to the Joey Swag Baby Sleeping Bag. Our range of baby sleeping bags gives you different size and TOG/warmth options to keep your baby at just the right temperature all year round.  You might like to read our blog “Is Baby too hot or cold for sleep” to see what’s right for your baby. Our baby sleeping bags allow baby to move freely and roll over without the danger of becoming tangled up in blankets. Keeping baby safe and comfortably warm no matter what the season.

How to Transition

You can watch our “Transitioning out of Swaddling” video.

Summary

Our 3 steps to transition your baby out of swaddling:

Step 1

Once you have noticed the signs that it’s time to transition out of swaddling, swaddle with one arm out for 3-5 nights.

Step 2

Monitor how your baby is adjusting to the change. If your baby is not adjusting well and is not yet rolling, try swaddling for an additional week or two. Then repeat STEP 1 again. If you’re baby is adjusting well then move to STEP 3.

Step 3

Move to both arms out for 3-5 nights. You could try our Joey Pod Transitional Swaddle.

Keep an eye out for when your baby starts rolling on to their tummy. If this is the case then the swaddle needs to go immediately as it’s not safe to continue to swaddle once your baby is rolling.  This is in line with Red Nose recommendations – you can read more about when to stop swaddling or wrapping your baby here. You can then use a baby sleeping bag as the next stage for your baby’s sleep journey.

Baby Cuddles

As we keep saying, all babies are different, so try to be patient and consistent. You may miss your snuggly sleeping baby, but now those arms can be free to give you a big cuddle before bed or when they wake up in the morning. As a parent those moments are priceless.

We’d love to hear how you have or are handling the transition out of swaddling your baby. Did you go cold turkey or wean baby off the swaddle? How did your baby adjust?

Checkout our complete guide on Swaddling for in depth understanding of swaddling your baby, its benefits, the right way to swaddle and much more.

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Nicole Cassey

written by

Nicole Cassey

Nicole Cassey, Mum to Jacob and Emily, founder and general dog’s body at Bubbaroo. Nicole was inspired to create Bubbaroo and Australia’s first swaddle after the personal experience she had with her first child, Jacob.

Nicole explains "It is such a steep learning curve becoming a parent. Getting to know the baby you created and finding your groove as a parent. You sometimes feel like you need to become a detective to try to interpret your baby's cues, personality, cries and behaviour. This is my passion to help parents on their journey, especially new parents as they transition to parenthood."

Nicole has a passion for sharing knowledge and community, regularly organising and presenting at various expectant parent and sleep workshops. Nicole ensures she is up to date with the latest evidence-based safe sleep and health research. Bubbaroo collaborates with experts in their field that share similar values and philosophies and have a passion for helping and supporting parents and expectant parents.

Nicole’s attention to detail with the creation of her premium quality baby, toddler and child sleepwear is exceptional. Nicole has been committed to ensure that Bubbaroo is not just a mass market brand producing products, Nicole’s focus is on helping your baby sleep safely in products that stand the test of time.

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