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How (and When) to Transition Out of the Swaddle

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Your little one is sleeping like an angel, all snuggled up nice and tight in their swaddle...

But you know it's short lived, right?

For a few reasons...

They'll eventually outgrow it.

They'll eventually be too strong and break out of it.

They'll eventually start rolling, and then it becomes a safety concern.

So, while the swaddle has helped many newborns stay calm and cuddly while sleeping those first few weeks of their lives, it's inevitable that they'll eventually need to get out of it.

Ideally, we would like to start transitioning your child out of the swaddle around 8 weeks of age. I know, you might be reading this and thinking, "What?! My baby is 12 weeks (or 16 weeks! or 20 weeks! or 6 months!) and we're still swaddling her!" IT IS OKAY. I'm here to help! Just keep reading.

If you're a newborn parent and reading this, a soft transition can start around 8 weeks. I'd recommend starting by removing one arm (for the sake of my writing, let's say, the right arm) first. You'll leave the right arm out for a few nights and naps. After a few nights of having one arm out, you will bring out the left too! Now your baby has both arms free, but is still feeling the swaddle sensation around their chest/abdominal area. You'll do this for a few nights, and then completely remove the swaddle.

"But what do I put my baby in now?" --> a sleep sack! Yep, a plain old sleep sack.

I'm sure you've heard of those magic suits or those sacks that are enclosed...the ones that promise a full night's rest for your little one...until they grow out if it or hit the wight limit...

You'll have to transition out of those as well, and you don't want to risk any of those other items becoming a "prop" that your child needs to sleep well. So let's just get right into a cozy sleep sack. Your child might even find their fingers for soothing! A sleep sack is the way to go until it's time to make the transition to a bed around age 3.

Now, if your child is already beyond 8 weeks of age, you could start with the soft transition as long as they're not yet side-lying or rolling either way. If you start to see these developments occur, you'll need to get them out of the swaddle immediately to avoid the risk of them getting themselves into a compromised position that they can't get out of while sleeping.

You could also choose to go cold turkey right from the start if that's your preference. I like this option because it's kind of like ripping off a band aide. It might be painful for a short bit, but it won't last long, and before you know it, your baby will be sleeping soundly without the swaddle!

I'm all about no. 1, safe sleep, and no. 2, teaching independent sleep skills. If you have questions about either of these things, don't hesitate to reach out! I'm happy to help guide you.

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