How To Transition Out Of Swaddle – 9 Tips For Exhausted Parents

How To Transition Out Of Swaddle

When it comes to swaddling there are generally two types of babies: ones who hate the swaddle and sometimes squirm out of it or fight to be swaddled, and others who love to be a little baby burrito.

Does your little one sleep so well in the swaddle that you may be struggling with how to get them to sleep without swaddling them before each nap?

If your baby sleeps like a dream when wrapped up, you may be concerned how they will manage without being swaddled – and in turn, if YOU will get any sleep!

In this article I’m going to share my tips on how to transition out of swaddle without ruining baby’s sleep schedule.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Benefits Of Swaddling

Swaddling is really good for newborns. When babies are swaddled and laid on their back (remember, always ‘back to sleep’ to prevent sudden infant death syndrome).

Prevent Baby’s Startle Reflex

When baby’s legs and arms are wrapped snuggly in the swaddle, it reduces the Moro Reflex that can sometimes startle them awake or disrupt naps.

Assists Baby’s Sleep

Because swaddling mimics a womb-like environment, most babies feel safe and secure and are able to sleep for longer stretches of time.

How To Transition My Baby Out Of Swaddle - Tips

Transitioning Out Of The Swaddle

As wonderful as the swaddle is at reducing the Moro Reflex and mimicking the womb, as your child grows, they should learn to self soothe and be able to fall asleep unassisted. It is okay that newborn cannot do this, but you should aim for your baby to be self-soothing as they grow.

If your little one loves the swaddles then you might be concerned if he will have trouble sleeping without one. This post is all about the best way to help your child sleep unswaddled and my best tips to help with the swaddle transition.

Signs It’s Time To Stop Swaddling

First of all, do you ever have to stop swaddling? Unfortunately, yes. When your baby can roll over, it is time to stop swaddling.

Rolling in a swaddle presents safety concerns, so it’s a must to stop swaddling when baby starts rolling, or even shows signs of rolling over. This is about safety, because they need the use of their arms to push up and prevent suffocation.

When Do I Stop Swaddling?

Now, you don’t have to wait until your baby starts showing signs of rolling over to stop swaddling – you can begin a gradual transition whenever you feel your baby is ready. This could be at 6 weeks, or based on gross motor skills you observe during tummy time.

I have more transition tips below, but the gradual method helps a swaddled baby learn to sleep sans swaddle by wrapping baby with one arm out, then after a bit, two arms free, until finally baby sleeps with both arms out (the swaddle wrapped snugly at baby’s chest).

This gradual transition can be started very early on, if you think your baby needs plenty of transitioning time.

By the way, Ollie Swaddle is great for swaddling with one arm out.

How Long Can I Swaddle My Baby?

While rolling over is the biggest marker to stop the swaddle completely, you may want stop swaddling before this.

Some babies don’t begin rolling until after 4 months of age. However, at around 8-10 weeks you should start to transition your baby out of the swaddle.

In my experience, by at the very latest 12 weeks old, babies should be swaddle-free. Otherwise, you may find that baby’s sleep is dependent on a swaddle, and that will become problematic once they do start rolling.

Transition out of swaddle - swaddling with one arm out is it safe

4 Best Ways To Transition Out Of Swaddle

Here are 4 methods recommended by sleep experts to help baby transition out of swaddle1.

  • Gradual Method

The idea here is that you have a long transition period, using either daytime naps or overnight periods to expose your infant to having one are free.

Baby starts with one arm out, and as this goes well and your little one is comfortable, you then wrap the swaddle with both of baby’s arms out.

Ensure you’re appropriately wrapping the swaddle at baby’s chest and that its tight enough that there is no risk of baby wriggling out after they wake, because loose bedding is a safety concern.

  • Use A Transitional Sleep Sack Swaddle

There is actually an entire product just for this issue! It’s a transitional swaddle, and it helps parents easily transition baby to be swaddle-free.

Basically, they are swaddle-bags that have special closures at the arms, making it easy to do one arm out (then two) and allow baby to adjust, all with the same baby sleeping bag.

I think the best transition swaddle is the Halo Swaddle2 that easily lets parents swaddle with one arm out, using velcro sections, not a loose swaddle blanket. One feature I like is that its sleeve design reduces the startle jerks, without being a weighted sleep sack (weighted sleep sacks or blankets are not advised).

But there are other good choices out there for transition sack too.

  • Get A Snug-Fitting Sleep Sack

You can use a sleep sack (also called a baby sleeping bag) right form the start with your newborn. They are safe to use because they close at baby’s shoulders, but don’t inhibit the use of their arms.

The snug fit resembles a cozy swaddle, but your baby can continue sleeping safely in a sleep sack for up to 2 years or longer. This is a great long-term approach.

I have posts about the best baby sleep sacks for summer and the best baby sleep sacks for toddlers.

  • Go Cold Turkey

Don’t want to transition your baby slowly? that’s completely fine.

Most babies are already pretty adaptable during the newborn stage, since really, everything outside of the womb is new to them.

The Cold Turkey approach skips any transitioning and puts baby straight to sleep with any other safe wearable blanket or warm pajamas.

Transition Out Of Swaddle To Sleep Sacks

Signs That It’s Time For Transition Out Of Swaddle

Some of the clues to look for that it’s time to transition baby to go unswaddled are3:

  • Baby wakes frustrated, squirming against the swaddle,
  • Baby is struggling to ‘break free’,
  • You expect your baby to start rolling very soon.

Why Should I Transition Baby Out Of A Swaddle

Babies cannot use a swaddle forever. Parents need to be transition their little one for safety and developmental reasons4.


If your infant is showing signs of rolling soon, it’s time to transition them out of the swaddle. They need their arms free to push up if they have rolled onto their tummy.

Remember, safe sleep guidelines are always “back to sleep” but if your infant rolls in their sleep, you can allow them to continue sleeping, if they have the muscle control to move their head and neck.

As soon as your baby is rolling, you must stop swaddling your baby.


Swaddling helps reduce the Moro Reflex which sometimes wakes up babies. After the first few months, this startle reflex will naturally reduce.

If you swaddle for too long, you also risk having your baby struggle to sleep well without it. In those first weeks of life, babies are very adaptable and can learn more easily than if you swaddle for months and months.

Swaddling can still be a comfort for your baby, though. And since they cannot sleep in loose blankets, you need to find another safe solution. I prefer sleep sacks, but you could also dress your baby in warm pajamas once you stop swaddling.

5 Tips And Tricks For Transitioning Baby Out Of Swaddle

There are a few more tips for making the transition easy for the baby (and parents!):

  • Little-By-Little

As long as your baby isn’t rolling over yet, you have some time to slowly stop swaddling. You can progress from full swaddle to sleeping with one arm out, then two.

  • Use Nap Time

Try using nap time as a stepping stone for going without the swaddle. I suggest baby’s first nap of the day as the one to start with, that way in case baby struggled to rest, there is still a chance to catch up with other naps throughout the day.

At first, the swaddle overnight will continue, but then you will transition baby entirely to go without it.

  • Nighttime Sleep

While your infant may not easily fall asleep without the swaddle at first, if they do wake up at night, or if you do a nightfeed, this is an ideal time to practice no swaddle.

Since babies can often fall back asleep at night for that deeper nighttime sleep, they may not notice they aren’t swaddled after you did a quick diaper change, and they will become more accustomed to it in the future.

  • Healthy Sleep Routine

Swaddling is not the only factor for a good night’s rest. Maintaining a healthy schedule can help your child sleep better, in general, too.

Set a regular schedule that includes bath time, a baby massage with lavender-scented baby lotion. Dim the lights and play some white noise, and see if this regular routine helps your little one fall asleep, even without being swaddled.

How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep Without Being Swaddled?

Swaddle Transition – FAQ

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions around swaddle transitions and how to help your baby sleep without a swaddle.

How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep Without Being Swaddled?

Along with the tips above, pay attention to baby’s sleep environment: is it dark enough? Are their noises that could wake up your little one? Is your nursery too warm?

Sometimes it is easy to blame everything on swaddling your baby (or not swaddling, if that’s the issue) but it might not actually be that at all.

Remember, your growing child is becoming more aware of their environment and their sleep will change at 3 and 4 months, anyway (hopefully with longer stretches of nighttime sleep!

How Long Does It Take To Transition Out Of Swaddle?

Some babies are quick to adapt to sleeping without the swaddle, and might not need any special tricks to transition – only one night is all!

Other babies may need a slow progression of having one arm, then two arms free, and practicing first with nap time to transition to sleeping without being swaddled. This approach may take as much as a week or two.

How Can I Help My Baby Transition Out Of A Swaddle?

Follow my tips above: go slowly, little by little, even one arm at a time. Or, get a transitional swaddle, or snug-fitting bay sleep sack: both of these products give the sensation your baby loves in the swaddle, but their arms are free.

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.


Pictures of white and blue swaddle belong to Halo Brand. Source:

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! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *