Is the swaddle no longer working well for your baby? Are you constantly re-swaddling throughout the night, or is your baby starting to roll from back to belly, making you worry that she’ll be stuck in a face down position? Do you get the sense that your baby would like to have access to his hands for self-soothing? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, it’s time to think about transitioning your baby out of the swaddle and helping them to learn to sleep without it. Don’t worry – it’s not as scary as it sounds! Most babies adjust easily if you use one or more of the following strategies:
1. Go cold turkey: In conjunction with a gentle sleep coaching strategy, most babies can learn to sleep without the swaddle in two or three days. Offering other forms of comfort can minimize crying and help to ease the transition.
2. Take a gradual approach: Begin by swaddling with one arm out of the swaddle. Start with the non-dominant arm out for a night or two, then swaddle with both arms out.
3. Transition from swaddle to sleep sack:
- a. Place your baby in a sleep sack with both arm holes sewn closed.
- b. After a few days, undo the stitching on one of the armholes, allowing one of your baby’s arms to slide into the open sleeve.
- c. After a few more days, undo the stitching on the second arm hole, allowing your baby’s other arm to slide into the other sleeve.
(note: you can go even more slowly by placing your swaddled baby in a sleep sack and following the steps from suggestions #2, then suggestion #3.)
4. Use a lovey: Place a small, safe lovey next to your child’s cheek or one or both shoulders. This strategy can help if your baby tends to reach up for her face or has a startle reflex. Many babies will grab the lovey and hold it or rub it against their cheek.
5. Create a “nest”: Rolled up towels can be placed under the crib sheets below your child’s waist to re-create the snug feeling of the swaddle. Important: This technique should be used only if you plan to stay nearby and check on your baby throughout the night.
6. Create a new sleep association: Instead of swaddling, pat or sing to your baby to create a new cue for sleep. Don’t worry about creating a new “sleep crutch.” The new sleep association can be eliminated slowly over time.
Alison Bevan – Sleepytime Coach
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant – The Center For Advanced Pediatrics