Removing the swaddle can cause a lot of anxiety for parents. They worry about what is going to happen to the quality of their baby’s sleep.
Let’s start by looking at WHEN…
When is the best time to unswaddle your baby?
Swaddling is a great settling tool for babies under 4 months as it helps contain their startle reflex and makes them feel nice and snug. Once your baby starts rolling from back to belly then it’s no longer safe for them to be swaddled. Luckliy, this usually happens around 5-6 months which is a good age to make the transition. However, there are some clever little one’s who start rolling as early as 3-4 months.
If you have an early roller on your hands you may consider investing in a Safe-t-sleep which prevents baby from rolling in bed, and buys you a couple more months before needing to take the leap to unswaddle.
If by 6 months your baby still isn’t quite rolling yet, then I would suggest this would be a good time to unswaddle. Swaddling beyond 6 months can become a strong sleep association much like feeding or rocking to sleep and it can be harder to remove as time goes by.
So, HOW do you go about removing the swaddle?
If you are able to start the transition of removing the swaddle before your baby is rolling onto their tummy, then you can benefit from taking a more gradual approach. This is often best compared to going cold turkey as they may not have mastered full coordination of those arms which can be quite the distraction at sleep time.
Removing the swaddle gradually can be done over 1-3 weeks and involves letting one arm out for a few days, then the other, then both. This can be done with naps first, then for overnight. There are plenty of transitional swaddles available on the market including the Love to Dream 50/50 which are great tools for moving from swaddle to sleeping bag.
You may find that your little one has some difficulty settling and resettling at first. If this is the case, they may need a little encouragement from you. If they have already learned how to self-settle, try to avoid assisting them all the way to sleep so you’re not introducing any new sleep associations.
Is it safe for your baby to sleep on their tummy?
If your baby is able to roll onto their tummy on their own and they are unswaddled, then yes, it is safe for them to sleep in this position. However, it is always best practice to lay your baby down for all their sleeps on their back first.
If your baby rolls onto their tummy and becomes upset, try leaving them for a few minutes to give them the chance to find a comfortable position before going in to roll them back over. It’s important to allow your baby the opportunity to move around their sleep space to find their most natural and comfortable sleeping position. Lots of practice during the day will also help them become more confident rollers.