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They say slow and steady wins the race, and in my experience, that applies to transitioning your baby out of a swaddle, too. Yes, you can stop swaddling your baby cold turkey, but that’s not going to work for every baby. Luckily, getting rid of a swaddle blanket isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, and there are lots of swaddle blankets and sleep sacks that help make it simple!
Obviously, there are two different options for transitioning your baby out of a swaddle, and you really just have to pick the one that’s best for you and your baby. Some parents try option one first, and some parents go right to option two first. Every baby is different, so you just have to experiment. And if you try option one and it completely throws off your baby’s sleep schedule (and yours!), it’s absolutely fine to switch to option two!
A quick note: I have heard different things about when to stop swaddling. Some say before your baby starts trying to roll over, and some say when your baby starts trying to roll over. So you can decide. My kids have been on the later end, but if you’re worried about it talk to your pediatrician and they can give you the latest AAP guidelines and help you make an informed decision. We all just want what’s best for our kids!
Option 1: Stop swaddling cold turkey. Basically, just stop swaddling your baby! Some babies have no problem completely quitting the swaddle in one move. And hooray for them! That’s so easy! But of course every baby is different, and some babies need a more gradual transition. We tried this with our daughter at around 4 months, and it was a nightmare! Factor in the 4 month sleep regression that hit at the same time, and I’m sure you can imagine how tired and cranky everyone in our house was. That’s when we moved on to option two!
Option 2: Stop swaddling gradually. The idea here is that you start with a full swaddle, then gradually transition your baby to sleeping without one! There are several steps, and it’s really not that complicated. You can use a traditional swaddle, a velcro swaddle, or even a sleep sack (you can see some of my favorite swaddle blankets here).
If you decide to use the gradual method (which, I’m assuming is why you’re here reading this post), here are four easy steps:
1. Start by leaving one of your baby’s arms out when you swaddle him. It will be free to move around, and his other arm and legs will still be secure in the swaddle.
2. Once you feel like your baby is sleeping fine with one arm out, swaddle him with both arms out left out, with only his legs tucked in tight.
3. Move to a sleep sack where your baby’s legs aren’t completely free, but they can still move a little more. We used this sleeveless one with our third baby and he slept in it past his first birthday!). If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, you can also use a long-sleeved sleep sack like this. I also had a friend who swore by the Zipadee-Zip sleep sacks, so you can try those if you want, too!
4. Take the sleep sack away! There will probably be a few months between steps three and four, and that’s fine. But once your baby is big enough to sleep with a loose blanket (at least 12 months old), you can finish the transition from a swaddle!
Transitioning your baby out of a swaddle doesn’t have to be hard, although depending on your baby, it might take some time! Just be patient with your baby, be open to trying something different than you expected (like maybe a new swaddle blanket), and you’ll figure it out. Good luck, and I hope you don’t loose too much sleep during the process!