Transitioning from a swaddle to a sleeping bag - when and how?
Swaddling is a brilliant tool to help your newborn feel safe and secure, along with hampering their startle reflex, to improve the quality of their sleep. However, there comes a time when weaning off the swaddle becomes necessary due to age, or developmental changes include increased mobility.
The AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) have no firm recommendation on when to stop swaddling, other than suggesting that from around 2 months old, infants start to work on rolling. While this is the case for a small number of babies, the majority of babies will not show signs of rolling from back to front until 4 months plus. From this age, starting the transition to arms out is a good idea, as if they aren’t yet showing signs of rolling, it will happen in the near future!
If your baby is still swaddled arms down in a muslin wrap, Miracle Blanket or similar, switching to a SmartSleeper with the domes done up across the arm holes helps with a smoother transition. The arms in nature of the SmartSleeper allows your baby a lot more freedom of movement than a traditional arms down swaddle, but continues to hamper the startle reflex.
After a week or so, when your baby is accustomed to being a little less ‘contained’ you can start the transition to arms out!
I usually recommend start with naps - put one arm out for all daytime sleep (you can switch up which arm is out, but keep one inside the SmartSleeper.
Once naps are going well, you can start leaving one arm out for the first half of the night. Have one arm out at bedtime and pop it back in when your baby first wakes for a feed.
After a few nights, this should be going well, and you should be able to leave one arm out for a full night.
From here, when nights are going well, you can start with both arms out, following the same process!
Remember, it can take a few days for your baby to acclimatise to the change, and if they’re not yet showing signs of rolling, you can take this nice and slowly.
If your baby starts to roll during the transition, just go cold turkey with both arms out - safety is paramount!
For babies under 3 months of age who are already rolling, I recommend using a Safe-T-Sleep. Unswaddling under 3 months can cause sleep to really fall apart for some babies, as their Moro reflex is still strong. The Safe-T-Sleep will prevent your baby from rolling, and you can start the transition to arms out without having to go cold turkey!