Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Swaddling: When, Why and How to Wean

You’ve spent so much time getting your baby to sleep and swaddling, now you might be wondering how do I wean my baby from the swaddle?   Keep reading and I”ll give you 6 simple steps.

The purpose of swaddling:

  1. To restrain the arms close to the body and stop the Moro reflex from disturbing your baby , especially if she’s about to fall asleep and then gets startled.
  2. Swaddling is also used to keep baby warm and feeling secure, simulating conditions seen in the womb.

The Moro Reflex which is an involuntary reflex of the arms in response to stimulation.   It is sometimes described as the “startle response”.

You may have noticed it when baby seemed peaceful the

n all of a sudden her arms jump up and startled her.

This can often happen just as babe is dozing off… and then “bam” she’s awake again!   This is an involuntary reflex in response to stimulation.

This reflex is seen at birth and normally disappears after 3 – 4 months.

The moro reflex is different from a general lack of control of her arms.  Parents often describe their child’s arms as “going up” and startling her.  For it to truly be the moro reflex, her arms will go out and then recoil back into her body.  There’s a difference between lack of motor control and a true reflex.

My number 1 recommendation for parents of n

ewborns is to swaddle to help your baby sleep.  You can read more 10 Ways To Help Your Newborn Sleep .

Does your baby hate the swaddle?

Many new parents will tell me that their baby does not like to be swaddled.

Here’s the truth: a newborn is really not that discriminating at this age.  He has no opinion about being swaddled.

The parents usually have an overtired baby on their hands who is fussy and inconsolable, yet the parents interpret these tears as a dislike to a swaddle.

If you have tried the swaddle before and found your baby didn’t like it, I urge you to try it again when your baby is not exhausted. For example, the first nap of the day is the easiest to get baby down for so try swaddling for this nap.

How to swaddle?

There are some great you tube videos out there demonstrating a good swaddle. You can also buy helpful tools such as “The Miracle Blanket” which take the skill out of swaddling and make it easy, consistent and fuss free.

When do you stop swaddling?

  1. When she starts to roll.  You want your baby to be  swaddle free by the time she is rolling since you wouldn’t want her to roll over and not be able to roll back because of restrained arms. This could cause an injury.  This information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding Safe Sleep.
  2. You’ll also want to stop swaddling when you start sleep training your baby.  She’ll need her hands available when she’s learning to self soothe.

How can I wean baby off the swaddle?

  1. Start at night time when the drive to sleep is the strongest and there is less stimulation compared to the daytime.
  2. Be gradual.

6 Days to Wean from the Swaddle

Bay Area Sleep Consultant

Therefore, start weaning from the swaddle with night time first. Here is a sample schedule that I used with my daugther and my clients. You can speed it up if the weaning is going well for you.

Day 1 – Naps remain swaddled. Nighttime – the dominant arm out of the swaddle.

Day 2 – Same as above

Day 3 – Naps leave one arm out, night time one arm out

Day 4  – Naps leave one arm out, night time both arms out.

Day 5  – Naps leave both arms out, night time both arms out

Day 6 – No swaddle.

Once you have both arms out, it’s time to move to a sleep sack.  I prefer the Woolino Sleep Sacks because they are a quality product that suit a child’s needs in 4 seasons.  They are more expensive than a simple cotton sleep sack but you can use them all year instead of having to have different weights of sleep sacks for different seasons.

3 Benefits of Sleep Sacks:

  1. The sleep sack offers continuous warmth throughout the night compared to blankets that can be kicked off and lost.
  2. Sleep sacks provide a degree of security that one feels with having blankets on.
  3. How well do you sleep on top of the sheets?
  4. Sleep sacks help decrease the amount of activity your child can have at night.
  5. Yes, we want our children to practice their motor skills but there is plenty of time to during the day when this can be achieved without compromising a good nights sleep.

I teach all of this and more in my online class A to Zzzs: for Babies 4-24 months.  This class is 2.5 hours of video and will guide you through how to get your baby to sleep and the sleep regressions that accompany your child’s growth and development.  Teething, illness and travel are all addressed.


Online Sleep Class for ages 4-24 months: Tell Me More

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