The swaddled newborn – so cosy and snug just like they were in your tummy. Swaddling in the early days can really help your baby to sleep better…… but what happens when it’s time to unswaddle? Next up on the blog Sleep Consultants Slumber & Sprout are going to cover 'unswaddling'.
We can totally understand that the thought of transitioning your baby out of the swaddle and sleep potentially falling apart is SCARY. But we are here to tell you that while ditching the swaddle can be a daunting it doesn’t actually have to be disruptive.
When should we be transitioning out of the swaddle?
There is no set age, here your baby takes the lead. We stop swaddling once your baby is rolling from back to tummy, or we begin the transition when we suspect he or she is close to rolling from back to tummy. Typically this occurs between 3 and 5 months, but there is no reason to worry if your little one falls outside of this bracket. We do however recommend unswaddling by about 6 months even if your little one doesn’t look like they are close to rolling, as the swaddle might be hindering them in hitting this milestone.
**Please note If your little one is already rolling from back to tummy they absolutely must be unswaddled immediately for all sleeps where they are unsupervised for any length of time. It is just not safe to keep them swaddled once they can roll from back to front**
Why do I need to unswaddle my baby?
We unswaddle to support safe sleeping. Once your little one is rolling they require their hands free to push up from the mattress and reposition the head in order to sleep safely. If your baby can roll from tummy to back they have the strength and neck control required to safely sleep on their tummy, so there is no need to roll them back (if they can roll both ways confidently and are happy on their tummy). Initially, some babies don’t like to be on their tummy and if they do roll onto their tummy they will cry out for your help, of course go and help your bub and reposition them onto their back. If this is happening for your little one we recommend LOTS of practice in their awake time to conquer rolling back, so that they can reposition themselves without crying out for your help - in most cases a few days to a week and your little one should be able to roll back over on their own.
Is sleep going to fall apart?
This one is a little trickier to answer. Some little ones will be completely unfazed by this change, whereas others will really struggle.
What are my options?
If your baby is actively rolling then you have no choice but to go cold turkey from arms in to arms out. You would move your little one straight into a sleep bag or sleep sack with arms out – and you will support and guide them through these changes until they get used to it. We recommend using the transitional approach below if you have a bit more time on your side (your baby isn’t actively rolling yet but has given some signs that they are nearly there).
1. Move to a sleep bag and initially swaddle with one arm out
2. Cover hand that is out with onesie mitten (this gives baby additional comfort and security)
3. When your baby is comfortable with one arm out take out the second arm out and place one mitten on the second hand (both hands are out at this point and each have a mitten on)
4. When baby is comfortable with both arms out take one mitten off one hand
5. Finally, take the last mitten off.
All of the above can take a couple of weeks (i.e. a few days or longer at each step). The transitional approach is our preferred method as it allows baby the chance to slowly get used to the change and therefore it is less disruptive, however it does require a proactive approach as you need to act BEFORE your little is rolling. REMEMBER safety comes first, if your baby is really getting active you may not be able to use this option.
Kip tip from Kippins! A Baby Comforter is a great tool to keep little hands who have new found freedom, distracted and happy! Lots of parents find a comforter an invaluable tool for babies who have dropped the swaddle.
If you find that sleep falls apart when you unswaddle your little one, or if it was not great to begin with the team at Slumber & Sprout are there to help you and your little one.