If you read my last article about the “Why, When & How” of Swaddling, you’ll already know that a great way to help your baby sleep is to start swaddling from day one. So WHY would you transition your baby out of swaddling when you and bub have a good sleep routine going? For many parents (including myself!) this is a terrifying idea! A question I receive all the time is WHEN is the best time to transition? So,let’s talk through this. And once you figure out why and when – I’ll explain HOW do you do it too.
Having gone through the experience myself with my second-born Polly,as well as having taught thousands of parents in my antenatal classes how to prepare for birth (and beyond), I have learned many great techniques on how to successfully transition your baby out of their swaddle, and I’m excited to share them with you.
WHY should I transition my baby out of their swaddle?
Generally speaking, between 3 – 6 months of age your baby will develop enough muscle strength to roll over. For some babies it can be as early as 8 weeks but for some, a lot later. This is just a spectrum and you should always consult your healthcare practitioner for advice around your bub’s own unique development. The number one reason you need to transition your baby from swaddling is for their safety. If your baby rolls over onto their tummy whilst swaddled, they may find it difficult to roll back over onto their back. Not only is this uncomfortable and distressing for your bub, but according to the Red Nose Foundation there are serious risks involved too; including restriction of their breathing. When you notice your baby showing signs of starting to roll, which I talk about a bit further down, it is best to begin the transition away from swaddling to “arms-free” sleep in order to avoid those risks entirely.
It can be daunting at first, but this is an exciting milestone for both parents and bub alike, and an important step in their motor development, which enables your little one to continue to build strength in their arms, neck and back. As parents, we want to encourage our baby’s motor development – any opportunities for them to move their arms incidentally (for example, when they are lying in their cot just after they wake up or the moments just before they fall asleep), are great, and we really want to see more of this. So, now you understand why it’s important, let’s talk about the next question I hear all the time, and that is WHEN?
WHEN do I transition my baby out of swaddling to “arms-free” sleep?
The signs I ask parents to look out for are:
- Starting to roll over during play time
- Using hands to push up during tummy time
- Decreased or no startle reflex
- Lifting their legs and flopping them to the side
- Ability to Houdini out of a traditional swaddle
- Resisting being swaddled traditionally
If your baby is showing one or more of these signs, then it’s time to transition to “arms-free” completely.Again, it’s important to note that for some babies it can happen as early as 8 weeks while for other babies, this happens much later.
HOW do I transition my baby?
Firstly – don’t worry if you are not finding this easy; anything that disrupts babies sleep can be stressful for all parents. Personally, I was very worried when it came time to transition Polly out of her Swaddle Up™!
There are products that can make transitioning your baby to arms-free sleep a lot easier,but generally speaking, there are a few tips you should follow, no matter what transitioning product you’re using:
- Kick off the transition process with baby’s day naps (to avoid disrupting night sleeps too much to begin with).
- Once your baby is asleep, gently release one arm from being swaddled.
If you’re using a Swaddle Up™ Transition Bag or Suit, zip off one wing so that one arm is completely free.
If using a traditional swaddle you may need to swaddle your baby in the way they are used to and then gently unwrap an arm.
- After a few nights of letting your bub wake up with one arm free, release the other arm from the swaddle during sleep time (zip off the other wing if using a Swaddle Up™ Transition Bag or Suit, or unwrap if using a traditional swaddle).
- Ta-da! You’re all transitioned!
Some babies will transition to arms-free sleep easier than others. If your little one is taking a little longer, or you aren’t experiencing the smooth transition you had hoped for – don't fret! Stick with it and your bub will get there.
More information on why, when and how to transition your baby can be found in the video above - as Hana Krawchuk (founder of Love To Dream™) and I provide more in-depth, helpful answers to the questions above. Watch the video to learn more!
Edwina Sharrock, the founder of Birth Beat, is a registered midwife and nurse. Birth Beat offers a great range of classes for parents, specialising in child birthing classes as well as baby & first aid classes. All courses are online and you receive full access straight away to watch from the safety and comfort of home at a time that suits you. Find out more