How Do I Know When To Stop Swaddling My Baby?

Updated 
June 13, 2023
 | 
8
 minutes read
Written by
Mandy Treeby
Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Medically reviewed by
Arik Alper, MD
Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Aerodigestive Specialist

Transitioning from swaddling is a big step for babies and parents. It’s one of their first big milestones – a transition from newborn to baby! As with so many big moments, you may have some big questions about how to stop swaddling your baby.

Well, you’re in luck -we’re here to answer the most common questions about the swaddle transition, like “When do I stop swaddling?,” and help you dress your baby after swaddling.

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Why Should I Swaddle My Baby?

First, some out there may be wondering about why you should swaddle your baby. In addition to being adorable, there are two important ways swaddling helps your baby.

Warm and Safe: Swaddling is cozy and warm, keeping your sensitive newborn comfortable, and swaddling is snug, creating an effect that mimics the womb and makes your baby feel secure.

Halts Unwanted Movements: It takes months before your baby has full control of their limbs – that’s one of the many developmental milestones you’ll celebrate – but newborns are particularly unique because they have the Moro Reflex.

The Moro Reflex is involuntary movement of arms and legs in newborns. Almost all newborns have it, and though it’s natural, the Moro Reflex can disrupt your baby’s sleep, which they need a lot of. Swaddling holds your baby’s limbs in place to prevent the Moro Reflex and help your baby sleep.

Leave Wiggle Room When Swaddling:

Even though your baby should be snug as a bug in their swaddle, leave enough “wiggle room” for breathing and so that they can move their hips. Swaddling too tightly around your little one’s hips can lead to problems later.

When Do I Stop Swaddling My Baby?

You should stop swaddling your baby when they can roll over from back to front, which typically happens between 4 and 6 months. Swaddling your baby after that point can lead to injury, suffocation, and worse because if your baby rolls over while swaddled, they may become tangled in the swaddle or not be able to roll back over.

If you’re struggling with your baby’s sleep, take this free sleep assessment and get a personalized plan that will help you get your baby’s sleep back on track.

Stop Swaddling If Your Baby’s Overheating:

Swaddling is great because it keeps your newborn warm, but sometimes your baby gets a bit too warm. That said, even if your baby isn’t rolling over, unswaddle if you see your baby’s overheating. Signs your baby is overheating can include the following:

  • Flushed cheeks
  • Damp hairline
  • Sweating
  • Heat rash
  • Rapid breathing

If you see any of these signs, unswaddle your baby. If they are very hot, use a cool, wet washcloth to cool them.

Are There Risks to Swaddling?

While swaddling is typically safe, it can be dangerous if your baby sleeps too deeply while swaddling, especially if they are sleeping on their tummy or side. This can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If you notice your baby has trouble waking up when swaddled, consult with your pediatrician.

The ABCs of Baby Sleep Safety – Plus an F:

You may know these rules of baby sleep safety, but it’s always good to review.

A: Your baby should sleep alone in their crib or bassinet.

B: Your baby should always be put on their back to sleep until they’re 1 year old.

C: Keep your baby’s crib clear of blankets, stuffed animals or pillows.

F: Your baby’s crib mattress should be firm.

Should I Room Share with My Baby?

Since your baby is so young, you may be wondering if you should room share – that is, have your baby’s crib in your room. The answer is “yes, you should room share.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sharing a room with your baby until they are at least 6 months old, though up to 12 is great. In addition to making night feedings or diaper changes easier for you, room sharing is proven to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, by up to 50%

How Does Room Sharing Prevent SIDS?

No one’s exactly sure what causes SIDS, so it’s hard to determine precisely why or how room sharing prevents SIDS. It may be that the background noise of parents’ sleeping prevents babies from falling asleep too deeply, or it may be because parents are more in tune to their babies in the same room and catch a problem before it arises. Again, no one knows.

What are the Best Fabrics for Babies?

Whether for a swaddle or for post-swaddling wear, these are the best fabrics for babies. The common denominator here is that these fabrics are warm, soft, and breathable.

Muslin: A loosely woven fabric that’s also natural, muslin is a great option to keep your baby cozy but ventilated.

Jersey knit: More fit for colder rooms or climates than muslin, jersey is soft and – here’s the key – stretchable: that means jersey allows your baby to move more easily and won’t tear.

Fleece: One of the softest, warmest materials out there, fleece is a popular option for baby onesies and blankets.

Is Polyester Safe for Babies?

Though very common, polyester is a petroleum-based fabric, which leads many parents or guardians to wonder if polyester is safe for babies. The answer is “sometimes”. While polyester is fine for stuffed animals and blankets and other outer layers, it’s not the best for clothes that are directly on your baby’s skin. In addition to irritating your baby’s sensitive skin, polyester traps heat, which can lead to overheating.

How Do I Transition from Swaddling?

When your baby can roll over one way or you are personally ready to stop swaddling, we suggest transitioning from swaddling with a sleep sack. A sleep sack is like a wearable blanket that is either armless or has arm covers. It’s warm and snug but also loose enough to accommodate your baby’s movements so they can roll over.

What Should Babies Wear After Swaddling?

If you’re transitioning your baby from the swaddle, you may wonder what they should wear next. Here is a list of baby clothing options, as well as a guide to your baby should wear based on the room temperature.

Remember: babies sleep best in rooms that are between 68-72°F.

What Do Babies Wear to Sleep?

In addition to sleep sacks, there are other popular clothing types for babies to wear to sleep after swaddling. Here are the most common:

Baby Gowns: This classic baby garment has stood the test of time for a reason: a baby gown is almost like a large shirt you put on your baby. It keeps them warm, allows for arm movement, and the open bottom is convenient for diaper changing and you can tie it closed to lock in heat in cold months, or leave it open to make the baby gown more breathable.

Footed Sleepers: A onesie with sewn-on feet, footed sleepers are an excellent way to keep your baby safe, warm, and snug after swaddling.

Onesie: A full-body garment that covers your baby’s arms and legs, a onesie is like a leotard that keeps your baby toasty after swaddling.

How Do I Keep My Baby Warm?

The general rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you’re wearing. For example, if you’re wearing a t-shirt, your baby should be in a t-shirt, plus another layer.

For more specific guidance on how to dress your baby, follow this guide:

80 °F: Diaper

78 °F: Onesie  

75-77 °F: Onesie + Sleep Sack .5 tog/Swaddle

71-74 °F: Sleep Sack/Swaddle (.5 tog) + Long-Sleeved Pajamas

69-70 °F: Onesie + Long-Sleeved Pajamas + Sleep Sack/Swaddle (1 tog)

64-68 °F: Long-Sleeved Onesie + Long-Sleeved Pajamas Sleep +Sack/Swaddle (1 tog)

61-63 °F: Socks + Long-Sleeved Onesie + Long-Sleeved Pajamas Sleep +Sack/Swaddle (2.5 tog)

Under 60 °F: Mittens + Socks + Long-Sleeved Onesie + Long-Sleeved Pajamas Sleep +Sack/Swaddle (2.5 tog)

Note: “Tog” refers to how heavy a garment is.

Can Babies Sleep with Weighted Blankets?

No. The American Academy of Pediatrics advised that it’s unsafe for babies to use weighted blankets or hats.

How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep After Swaddling?

Swaddles are so wonderful because the snugness helps babies feel secure and reduces the Moro Reflex, helping newborns sleep a bit more soundly.

So, what do you do after swaddling? A 2-month-old baby is still too little to sleep train – the best age to start sleep training is 4 months, once your baby’s circadian rhythm develops and they understand patterns.

That said, while you can’t sleep coach your baby yet, you can use some of the same sleep coaching principles and techniques to help your baby sleep without swaddling.

Create a Sleep-Nourishing Environment: The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ can help you here, but generally a baby’s sleep environment should be:

  • Dark: Even a little light can disrupt your baby’s sleep, so we recommend installing blackout curtains in the room where your baby will be sleeping.
  • Temperature-Controlled: Babies sleep best in rooms that are 68-72° F. If you’re able to control your thermostat, set it in that range before your baby goes to best. (Bonus: We adults also sleep best in rooms that are 68-72° F.)
  • “Quiet”: We put quiet in quotation marks because you do want some noise in your baby’s room – specifically, white noise or another calming “sonic hue” from a sound machine. White noise like that both mimics the sound of the womb, which soothes your baby, and blocks out outside noise, like barking dogs, which means your baby sleeps through more.

Create a Calm, Consistent Bedtime Routine for Your Baby:

Calming, consistent bedtime routines are the bedrock of sleep coaching – the calming nature relaxes your baby ahead of bed, while the consistency creates a pattern that creates a healthy habit.

While you can’t sleep coach a 2-month-old, creating a bedtime routine will both help calm your baby before their sleeps and acclimate them to the practice for when sleep coaching begins.

Watch for That Social Smile:

Newborns and other young babies may smile, but those smiles are usually gas-related (Sorry if you thought otherwise!)

By 3 months, though, your baby will clearly smile because they see you or another person they love. This is the social smile, and it’s more than just a smile.

A social smile shows your baby is recognizing patterns: a person they love appears, they know that person brings good things – hugs, food, kisses – and it makes them happy. When this happens, you know your baby is almost ready to sleep train.

To get started on your sleep training journey, take the free sleep assessment at the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ website. This will help us recommend a sleep plan that fits your and your baby’s unique situation. From there, the Smart Sleep Coach app will walk you through the sleep coaching process every step of the way, helping you lay the foundation for a health habit will lifelong positive results .  

Step-by-Step Gentle Sleep Training

Few Parents Know, falling Asleep is a learned skill. Just like rolling, crawling, walking and talking – babies need help to master sleep.

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Studies show new parents can lose as much as two hours of sleep every night after their baby comes!

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Studies show new parents can lose as much as two hours of sleep every night after their baby comes!

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Thanks to the Smart Sleep Schedule, I’ve been able to follow my baby’s natural rhythm, and stick to the wake windows. This makes a huge difference in her ability to nap longer.

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FAQ:

Yes, swaddling is a great way to keep your newborn warm and feeling secure. Plus, swaddling your baby helps prevent sleep disruptions from the Moro Reflex, involuntary limb movements that happens in almost all babies.

Yes, you can absolutely swaddle your baby at night, but should stop when your baby can roll over one way, either front-to-back or back-to-front.

Swaddle your baby until they can roll over one way, either front-to-back or back-to-front. This usually happens at around 2-months.

While swaddling is 100% safe, if you’re looking for an alternative, sleep suits provide many of the same results as swaddling. One note, though: whereas a swaddle can be made out of any soft, breathable blanket, you have to purchase sleep suits.

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How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources:

“Newborn Sleep: Patterns, Interventions, and Outcomes,” Pediatric Annals .

“Risks and Benefits of Swaddling Healthy Infants: An Integrative Review,” MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing .

“Safe Sleep For Your Baby: Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Causes of Infant Death,” Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development .

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