How To Get Baby To Sleep Without Swaddle – 4 Methods Recommended By MD

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without Swaddle

Article By Edna Skopljak – Medical Doctor (MD)

Whoever made the phrase “sleep like a baby” a synonym for good sleep – probably didn’t have a baby. Newborn sleep is nothing like peaceful or restful, I know you know it.

Parents, especially brand new parents, are often sleep-deprived, tired, and overwhelmed by so much pieces of advice from different places – on how to get their (newborn) baby to sleep.

Swaddling is one of the keys to a peaceful baby sleep. It mimics the comfort of the womb and helps your little one to calm down. Plus, it prevents waking upon startle reflex (aka Moro reflex). But, swaddling your baby is only a temporary solution. Unfortunately, you can’t do it forever.

Once your baby becomes more mobile, swaddling becomes risky! Once your baby starts rolling over, it is dangerous for them to sleep in the swaddle blanket, so this all begins being a safety issue. And – you surely don’t want that risk. Besides, it is not good for their development, either.

And this is where the stress begins – how to “teach” your baby to fall asleep without the swaddle? And when is the right time to start doing so?

The best time to stop swaddling your baby is somewhere around 2 months of age because it gives you and your baby some time to adapt. Sleep sacks will probably give you some courage in the beginning.

For the sake of a good baby sleep, you need a gradual approach. For the same reason, many parents are seeking solutions for swaddle-free sleep.

This article will surely help you in the process of stopping swaddling. You will find at least one effective method that suits you and your baby in the swaddle transition, so make sure you read it until the end.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

When To Stop Swaddling

You may stop swaddling once your baby starts showing signs they’re ready to start sleeping without the swaddle. But, you may now wonder how do the babies show they’re ready for such a transition? Here are these signs:

1. Roll (The Swaddle) Away

First and the most important sign you should stop swaddling your baby is – rolling, and trying to roll! So, when you notice any clue or any early signs that your baby is trying to roll, let the swaddle go. And, if your baby rolls already, stop swaddling immediately1! Yes, this means stop swaddling cold turkey, but it’s necessary. Why?

Safety! Once your baby starts rolling, it becomes a safety hazard. If they roll on their tummy, they are not being able to roll back over. Consecutively, they will sleep face down, which poses an extreme risk for SIDS, due to airway obstruction.

To avoid the need for sudden transitioning, and stressful swaddle transition for both of you, it’s best to start it earlier, to have enough time to get used to it.

2. Baby Says No, No, No

If your baby starts rejecting the swaddle blanket and resisting their swaddle, it is the perfect moment to make a switch.

What does it look like? If you notice that your baby cries or squirms while being swaddled, or wakes up crying, or wiggle themselves out of their swaddle blanket during nap time or during the night – those are the signs they’re not liking the swaddle (anymore).

By the way, here is my other article on why babies hate swaddles. I also included some alternatives to swaddling, which you can also try out during the transition time!

Besides the fact that your (wiggly) baby is obviously not so content with the swaddle – loose blankets are also a safety issue. Loose blankets in a baby’s crib or bassinet are against safe sleep guides. Do you need more reasons?

When to stop swaddling

3. Two-Month Birthday

This is not a sign, but rather some sort of guide. When your little one turns two months, it is time to teach your baby to sleep without the swaddle.

Babies usually become more mobile after they turn 2 months. And, many babies start to roll at approximately three months of age, or so. Most of them are rolling “like wild” between three and five months of age. So, for safety reasons and to make this easier and stress-free, allow some transition period for both of you and start getting your little one used to sleeping without the swaddle.

It is exactly why is a good time to do so – turning two months of age – of course, if they are not already rolling. For those of you who are wondering, should you start it even earlier, I would say – there is no need. Swaddling is great for newborns. And only for newborns.

4. No More Jerk Arms Open In The Air

The startle reflex, also known as the Moro reflex, is a normal reflex in newborns. You will notice that your baby suddenly jerks their arms open, like they’re scared. But, although normal, it also causes sleep disruption in little ones. That’s where the swaddle blanket jumps in.

However, when your baby gets older and the startle reflex goes away, there is no need for swaddling anymore. So, it is another sign of baby’s transition from the swaddle.

What If My Baby Can't Sleep Without A Swaddle

How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Without A Swaddle – 4 Methods For Swaddle Transition

Here are the best methods to get baby to sleep without a swaddle2 – tested and recommended by hundreds of parents.

1. “Arms Out”

This one is a popular and effective method to get your baby sleep without swaddling. Babies love the feeling of security in the swaddle, with their arms swaddled, so make this transition period gradual.

Begin with one arm out of the swaddle and one arm in the swaddle. When you see your baby got used to it, try with arms-free swaddled. Gradual approach with one arm test first will probably be helpful.

2. “Legs Out”

The same goes for legs. Instead of arms, you can try keeping the legs free, out of the swaddle3. If your baby experiences frequent waking by flailing arms, this method is great for you. This will help them in the weaning process – and is also good for their hips.

Having hips for too long in the swaddle blanket could be bad for your little one’s hip health.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that – in any case, make sure your baby has enough room in their crib, to prevent the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

3. Part-Time Swaddling

Another great way to make the swaddle transition gradual and successful is – as its name implies – part-time swaddling. Swaddle your baby some of their sleep time and see how it goes.

Start for example with nap time without the swaddle, particularly daytime naps, or try partial night swaddling, until you are ready for a nighttime sleep without the swaddle.

Most parents find this approach convenient, as it doesn’t cause sleep disruption, and you are able to monitor your baby’s reaction to swaddle-free sleep.

Day by day, you may increase the time your baby spends sleeping without their swaddle until you go entirely swaddle-free.

What Can I Do Instead Of Swaddling

4. Cold Turkey

Yes, this is one of the methods of starting weaning the swaddling. How will this transition go is really variable, and you can’t anticipate it. That is why some (if not many) parents decide on a “cold turkey” method. They simply just remove the swaddles, put their baby into a crib or a bassinet, and see how the baby responds.

Actually, some babies take it well and adjust – immediately and the parents start sleep training. However, other babies don’t like abrupt changes, especially with their bedtime. So, unless your baby knows how to self-soothe, rather take some transition period for both of you, to avoid unnecessary sleepless nights.

To make the transition easier for the baby, when you stop swaddling using the cold turkey method, put your baby in a sleep sack instead4.

PRO TIP: If ditching the swaddle got really difficult for your baby (and you), read my article about transition out of swaddle with tips how to do it more smoothly.

Other Tips And Tricks For Good Sleep Habits (Swaddle-Free)

Swaddling your baby is only one way to help your baby sleeping soundly. There are many other ways to help them develop good sleep habits.

In fact, having a sleep routine is the key to “sleep training”. Once your baby associates sleep with a calm evening routine, you are a winner. By creating consistent sleep associations, your baby will surely adapt to swaddle-free sleeping more easily. And this continues even later, as your baby grows.

Also, watch out for wake windows to prevent overtiredness. If your baby gets too tired, it is less likely for them to fall asleep easily.

You can help yourself (and your baby) with rocking, using white noise, or whatever works for both of you. Having plenty of tummy time is also helpful. They get tired more easily, and that means – they will fall asleep more easily. Logical, right?

As for the transitioning, it would be best to incorporate the abovementioned methods step by step. The gradual approach will make it easier to transition your baby from the swaddle, to make enough time for both of you to adopt changes.

So, of course, unless your baby rolls already, you don’t need to get rid of the swaddle overnight, cold turkey.

If you note persistent difficulty sleeping in your little one, you may want to talk to sleep consultants, to figure out the ways to help your baby sleep. You may need to make further adjustments if it takes too long.

How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Without A Swaddle

What If My Baby Can’t Sleep Without A Swaddle?

I know that baby sleep is a constant worry. However, note that any change to the baby’s routine takes some time. The same applies to sleeping without a swaddle.

Some babies just need more time to get used to it. I know it seems to you like it takes forever, but it is completely normal.

It is best for you to prepare for sleep disruption for at least a week. However, if the issues continue much longer, and your baby just won’t sleep, you may make some other adjustments.

What Can I Do Instead Of Swaddling?

Luckily, you may find different products that may help you make this transitioning easier. For example, you may try the baby sleep sacks. Sleep sacks or a wearable blanket keep your baby warm and cozy while also avoiding all the risks of loose blankets. Babies love the feeling of being snuggled, which is exactly what the sleep sacks offer.

There is also a transition bag, which is a specially designed sleep sack, which helps most babies gradually adjust to swaddle-free sleeping and keeps your baby warm. What is great about it – it keeps babies’ arms nicely swaddled in a natural position, with their arms up in the wings. And, when your baby is ready for the transitioning, you can just remove the wings by zipping them off. And the transition bag is turned into a regular sleep sack. Easy, right?

Another great product to help you ease transitioning is a swaddle strap. This is especially helpful for babies who start rolling over early and still have a strong Moro reflex. The strap keeps the baby’s arms swaddled while enabling your baby to have their legs free. Plus, if you start transitioning during warmer, summer days, this is probably the best option.

Also, for snuggly babies, a sleep suit is also a good option. It is designed to keep your little one warm and snug. It helps you transition your baby from the swaddle, promoting good sleep habits. No worries, sleep suit has a double zip system, for nighttime diaper changes without too much effort.

In any case, whichever product you choose, always think about your baby’s safety. Safe sleep is number one, always! Also, it would be best to choose natural materials, if possible. I think it is crystal clear why.

Keep in mind, that introducing a new sleep product may take some time, so keep persevering with it for at least a week, to help your baby get used to it. Keep calm, you can do it!

How long does a swaddle transition take

How Do You Stop The Startle Reflex Without Swaddling?

Movements like rocking, swaying, bouncing, or simply being close to your baby can keep your little one calm and relaxed. In turn, it will reduce the startle reflex in your little one.

You may want to try a carrier, sling, baby swing, rocking chair, or simply use a baby stroller to take your baby outside for a walk. Comfort your baby if you see the reflex will wake them up. It can be difficult, especially during the night, but – be patient.

Otherwise, the swaddle strap is great to settle your mobile baby with strong startle reflexes between sleep cycles.

But, note that the startle reflex is not forever. It is a normal part of baby’s development, which goes away on its own.

How Long Will It Take For My Baby To Get Used To Sleeping Without Swaddling?

According to some sleep experts, the swaddle transition can take 1-2 weeks5. However, keep in mind that this greatly depends on your baby’s personality and habits.

Be prepared for some sleepless nights in any case. Maybe your baby will need one night, but some babies struggle and need from few nights to – many nights, or even weeks to adapt to the new bedtime routine. It is understandable, your baby is used to be swaddled.

Weaning from the swaddling lasts differently. You will see how it goes. And, unless your baby already started rolling over, you can take it easy with a slow and steady approach. Allow yourself and your little one up to a month of trying the gradual transition.

Will My Baby’s Sleep Routine Be Disturbed If I Stop Swaddling?

Could be – but doesn’t have to be. It is hard to say. Expect at least a few nights of disrupted sleep. As with any change to your little one’s normal routine, it can take a little while. However, if your baby refuses to sleep and takes too much time, you may want to consider further adjustments to your sleep routine.

Your precious one may fuss or have trouble sleeping during this period of adaptation, but don’t give up – and stay calm. I promise you it will get better! Sooner than you think, the time passes and both you and your little angel will be able to sleep nicely and restfully throughout the night. Enjoy every second of the parenting, even when the things get tough.

Article By Edna Skopljak

Edna Skopljak is Medical Doctor (MD) who works in University Medical Centre in Ljubljana. She’s a She also worked as an editor at BJBMS medical journal for several years. She wrote content for several health-related websites and the BJBMS blog. She’s a mom of a 15-month-old.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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