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Dropping the Swaddle: When & How to Do It

Dropping the Swaddle

Sleep transitions can be unnerving, especially if something has been working really well and you have a hunch it needs to be changed!

One of the biggest transitions we go through during the newborn months is dropping the swaddle.

Read on to find out when we need to drop it and they best way to help baby with the transition.

These are common signs that your baby needs to drop the swaddle.

They are at least 3 months old.

Babies still have no grown out of their Moro reflex (startle reflex) prior to this age, so I don’t recommend dropping the swaddle prior to this.

They are consistently breaking out of a tight swaddle.

This is important- don’t let your squirmy baby fool you into thinking they are the next Houdini and don’t want to be swaddled.

Remember where they have been living for the past 9 months…a very tight apartment. If they are younger than 3 months and “breaking out of” or “refusing” a Muslin blanket swaddle, it’s time to upgrade to a Velcro swaddle like this one from SwaddleMe.

They are rolling.

As soon as baby starts to roll, regardless if they fall into the categories for #1 or #2, it is time to drop the swaddle. It becomes unsafe if they roll onto their bellies and do not have access to their hands to lift their heads up.

If your baby checks off the requirements for swaddle-dropping, let’s move on to some ideas for making the transition easy on the entire family. This will be based on your preference and baby’s personality.

Take it nice and slow!

As long as baby has not rolled yet, take the swaddle-dropping gradually by leaving 1 arm out for 1 nap time per day. Every few days, add another nap with 1 arm out. Then practice at nighttime with 1 arm out.

Once you are confident that sleep has not been totally derailed, move both arms out, using the gradual naps then nighttime process previously described and just swaddle their torso. After a few more days, transition to a sleep sack for naps and nighttime sleep.

Drop it cold turkey!

This is the best solution if your baby is rolling. You’ve got this mama! Remember, your baby is smart and adaptable and just may surprise you with how easily they transition to a sleep sack.

Use a transitional swaddle!

I write this only because I know many parents feel more comfortable and confident using a transitional object to help ease the process. As a disclaimer, you will still have to transition out of this transitional swaddle at some point, so options 1 and 2 help you drop the swaddle more efficiently.

However, if you are considering purchasing a swaddle with wings or a magic sleep suit, I have seen some success with clients using these solutions in the short term. In this case, you would drop the swaddle completely for all sleep and just use the transitional swaddle.

Keep these things in mind as you make the transition out of the swaddle and into a sleep sack:

They may not sleep as well at first.

You may need to offer more naps during the day if they are shorter than normal. Always rely on an early bedtime to make up for lost daytime sleep.

It may take up to a week to adjust.

Every baby is different and handles transitions in their own way. It may take several days for your baby to adjust to the freedom that a sleep sack offers. If it’s been longer than 1 week and sleep is still off, you should look into adjusting wake times using the tips in this blog.

Your baby can do this!

You are likely exhausted and still in the fog created by newborn sleep deprivation, but let me remind you that your baby will absolutely learn how to sleep without their swaddle. Be patient yet persistent and hang in there mama!

If you’re still struggling with your newborn’s sleep, check out my 1:1 sleep support packages I offer for newborn families.

Rest Well,


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