Becoming a Mother: How Long to Swaddle a Baby

You've been swaddling your baby like the cutest little sushi roll since bringing them home. This makes for great Instagram photo ops and it helps them sleep through the night like a tiny champ. But you're probably starting to ask yourself: when should I stop swaddling my baby?

It's a question every mother asks. You don't want to stop too soon and have a sleep deprived angry baby on your hands. But you also don't want to stop too late and put your baby's safety at risk.

Don't worry, we're here with answers to your questions. Read on for our new mother guide on how long to swaddle a baby for.

Why Swaddling?

Swaddling is a great tool to use with your newborn to help them sleep, especially in the first few months. One reason it works so well is because it helps calm the Moro reflex

The Moro reflex is also referred to as the startle reflex, because it's what causes babies to startle themselves awake. If you've ever seen your little bean suddenly wake up and reach out before tucking their limbs back in, then you've seen their Moro reflex in action.

By swaddling your baby and keeping their limbs close to their body, you're preventing them from moving too much and startling themselves awake.

Swaddling also keeps their body temperature regulated while sleeping which is important. The snugness and warmth of the swaddle can also mimic the coziness of being in the womb, which helps calm them down and eases them into sleep.

But baby swaddling is only a temporary solution. No matter how much your baby enjoys being wrapped up tight, you will have to wean them off the swaddle.

How Long to Swaddle a Baby?

As you know by now, every baby is different when it comes to swaddling so every baby will have a different timeline for transitioning from it. You know your baby best though, and you should trust your knowledge. But if that makes you nervous, there are some indicators you should pay attention to.

Most babies will be ready to wean off the swaddle between 3 and 6 months. One reason for this is because that's when they tend to outgrow their Moro reflex. Once that reflex is gone, they should be able to sleep without being swaddled because they will no longer startle themselves awake with their own movements.

So, pay attention when your baby is napping. If you see them suddenly wake up and reach out as if looking for something to grab onto, then their Moro reflex is still strong, and you should give them more time before transitioning. 

It's also important to follow safe sleep guidelines for your baby. These will play a huge role in guiding you towards the best time to move away from baby swaddling because they tend to reflect your baby's natural development towards sleeping swaddle free.

Let's take a closer look at these developments.

Strong Movement

As your baby's motor skills develop for daytime play, they will also become stronger at night. This can lead your baby to breaking free from their swaddle while sleeping.

This will usually manifest through your baby struggling to pull one or both of its arms out of the swaddle during sleep. They'll either be strong enough to do this on their own, or they will become fussy and cry until you unwrap them.

Your baby may also be strong enough to kick the swaddle blanket off entirely during sleep. If this is happening, you should definitely transition away from baby swaddling. You do not want your baby to get tangled in their blanket during sleep and be at risk for suffocation or other dangers.

Rolling Over

Your baby's ability to roll over goes hand in hand with it developing stronger motor skills. But it is even more important to keep an eye out and pay attention to whether or not your baby has started rolling over in its sleep.

Swaddled babies should never roll over or sleep face down. This can be incredibly dangerous as it increases their suffocation risk. If they're swaddled and face down, they can also struggle to roll back over if they need to. This also poses a risk to your baby's safety.

If you notice your baby trying to roll over while swaddled, it's a good sign that it's time to start transitioning away from baby swaddling. 

Increased Fussiness

If your baby had been sleeping fine through the night while swaddled, but they're now starting to fuss and wake up regularly, then it can mean they're ready to sleep on their own.

This increased fussiness usually means that they're ready to start exploring new sleep behaviors and patterns. They may want to kick their legs more or roll around freely. They obviously can't do this while swaddled.

If you're starting to see new fussy behavior around bedtime, then it may be time to move away from swaddling.

Sleep Training

Maybe you're ready to start sleep training so that you can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits. Sleep training is a great way to help your baby learn to self soothe so that it can begin to sleep through the night independently.

In order for your baby to learn these vital self-soothing methods, they need to be free to explore what feels best during sleep. This means they must be free from their swaddle blanket to explore this movement. And since swaddling is helping to soothe them to sleep, they need to be without it in order to develop their own self soothing methods.

Ready for Sleep

Now that you know all the details on how long to swaddle a baby, it's time to stock up on goodies to help your baby transition to free sleep. Check out our newborn essentials page to find the highest quality products to help your baby get the sleep it needs!