When do you stop? Is there an age? Is their signs?
One of the first techniques you are shown in hospital after delivery is how to swaddle your baby. Swaddled babies generally sleep longer and more deeply.
But when should you stop swaddling, exactly? Some babies only last a month and fight until they get their little hands out of the swaddle, other babies love swaddling and can’t seem to get enough of it.
A common question I get from parents is “When should I stop swaddling my baby?” There is no exact answer to this. You “can” stop swaddling your baby whenever you feel it’s best. Most parents use swaddling as a soothing technique during the newborn stage and then I advise to start to phase it out around 3 or 4 months, it’s not uncommon for some babies to be swaddled when they are 6 months old. Most older babies will eventually start to reject swaddling, but that’s not true for all older babies; some will continue to sleep better while swaddled well past 6 months.
That said, here are my guidelines so you can work out when to stop swaddling your baby:
Your baby’s startle reflex tends to disappear around 4 or 5 months of age, so it is very common to stop swaddling around this time. The startle reflex is strong and your baby may startle himself awake at night or during naps. Often I notice parents have stopped swaddling around 3 or 4 months of age.
If your baby is able to wriggle and squirm and break free of his swaddle, this isn’t necessarily a sign that it’s time to stop swaddling. However if this is constant then having loose wraps in your baby’s cot becomes a safety risk.
Just to be clear, swaddled babies should NEVER be face-down on their tummy to sleep. So my big warning is that if your baby is starting to roll onto his side then now is the time to stop swaddling or wean out of this sleep cue. You can simply change to a sleeping bag or remove the swaddle altogether. You must have your babies arms free when they roll over, as they need their arms to lift their head and roll themselves back. This is impossible with their arms in any type of swaddle.
Another tip to remember is as babies become older they need to self soothe in order to relax and go to sleep. So they need to be able to use their hands and fingers, whether it be to suck, feel fabric or curl up so you baby needs to be unswaddled to do so.
So if your baby is rolling over, breaking out of the swaddle consistently or older than 5 months it is time to wean away from the swaddle and leave it behind or transition to a sleeping bag.