Swaddling feels like magic for many parents.
It’s an instant-soother for babies who depend on it to fall asleep.
It’s a security blanket (literally) for parents who are looking for ways to calm fussy babies.
But somewhere around 4-5 months old, the sweet Smeagol is transformed into a deadly dangerous Gollum.
That’s because the 4-5 month age range is usually when most babies start rolling over.
That’s bad news bears for the swaddle.
If a baby rolls over unto his tummy and doesn’t have arms to help him continue onto his back, he could accidentally suffocate against the mattress. *shudder*
So how do you wean your baby off this preciousssssssss sleep-soother?
Stop Swaddling Tactic #1
The Turtle Approach
The Turtle Approach: Slow and steady wins the race.
Hey, if it works for Aesop…
- Nights 1 & 2: Unswaddle the non-dominant arm first.
- Nights 3 & 4: Unswaddle the other arm.
- Nights 5 – Eternity: Remove the swaddle. High-five your spouse.
Want an easy-peasy way to do this? This convertible swaddler is mind-blowingly simple. (Don’t you love it when a product exactly meets your needs?)
Handy tip! If you use the swaddle to keep your infant from going all Edward Scissorhands on his sweet little face, try putting socks on his hands or filing down his nails (instead of clipping).
Stop Swaddling Tactic #2
The Sloth Approach
For sensitive babies who struggle adjusting to changes, the Turtle Approach just may be too fast.
Enter: The Sloth.
In this method you’re helping your baby get used to the feeling of having his arms loose and flapping, but instead of loose to the air, they’re loose inside a sleep sack with the arm holes sewn up or a Zipadee Zip (if you’re like me and have the sewing skills of a horse).
- Nights 1 & 2: Unswaddle the non-dominant arm first, inside the sleep sack.
- Nights 3 & 4: Unswaddle the other arm, inside the sleep sack.
- Nights 5 & 6: Remove the swaddle completely, so child is “free like a bird” inside the sleep sack.
- Night 7 & 8: Remove the non-dominant arm from the sleep sack.
- Night 9: Remove the other arm from the sleep sack. Dance to Pharrell Williams’ Happy.
Stop Swaddling Tactic #3
Cold turkey is the postmodern approach to weaning the swaddle: It’s easy and hard.
It’s easy because you don’t do anything. (Literally. You just stop swaddling.)
It’s hard because it may take days and days of tears before your infant learns how to self-soothe without it.
Think through your baby’s personality before starting the Cold Turkey Anti-Swaddling Approach. (It may just save you a nuclear holocaust of tears.)
Stop Swaddling Tactic #4
Introducing Lovey McCuddles
I’m a big fan of loveys.
They are like little voodoo dolls only with cuddles instead of pins.
Your baby links you to an item, and then uses that item for comfort when you’re sleeping in the next room. It’s one of my favorite secret weapons in the sleep coaching process.
You can use a small blanket or small stuffed animal – just make sure it’s easily grabbed, but doesn’t have any beads or chokeable items attached to it.
- Give it to your baby when you’re snuggling and rocking him.
- Put it between you and your baby when you’re nursing or bottle feeding.
- Use it to play peek-a-boo.
- If it’s a stuffed animal, have it “talk” to your baby and kiss his face while he giggles.
- Tuck it into the car seat, so he can hold it when traveling. (You may want to buy two!)
The goal is for him to smell and think happy mom-and-dad thoughts whenever he’s holding it.
To use Lovey McCuddles in swaddle weaning, place it on the shoulder, next to the cheek. This way when your baby startles or reaches for his head, he will find the Lovey McCuddles right there and be soothed.
If it’s a blanket, tuck the majority of the blanket under the crib so just the corner is brushing the cheek. You don’t want him to accidentally pull it over his head. That’s a safety hazard.
Stop Swaddling Tactic #5
With this method, you simply move from “straight jacket tight” to “spring jacket loose” over a period of a week. This helps your baby get used to the feeling of still being swaddled, but having more wiggling room than he’s been used to.
Start with a light and flexible swaddle blanket. The Aden & Anais blankets are perfect for this.
As an extra bonus, if your baby manages to wiggle so much that a part of the fabric covers his face, he can still easily breathe through the muslin material the Aden & Anais blankets are made of.
If you’re not sure how to swaddle your baby with just a blanket, this video will walk you through it.
Stop Swaddling Tactic #6
From Burrito to Taco
Instead of swaddling him up like a burrito, turn him into a taco.
Roll up two blankets, secure them with rubber bands, and slide them under the crib sheet, on the crib mattress. It’s the same method that we used to create the fake “swing” in the article Why Your Baby Hates His Crib.
This is extremely effective for babies who really love the cozy-close feeling the swaddle gives. It’s also a great way to stop your baby from rolling over, getting stuck, and then screaming his lungs out at 2am for you to come and roll him back over.
Stop Swaddling Tactic #7
The Triangle Swaddle
This method was introduced to me by one of my instructors in the Sleep Certification program, Andrea Strang.
I finished up my Gentle Sleep Coaching Coursework this month, so I’ll be able to work one-on-one with many of you to meet you and your baby’s personal sleeping goals! Sign up here and I’ll email you when I’m taking new clients!
Stop Swaddling Tactic #8
Cheaters Sometimes Win
When it comes to weaning off the swaddle, cheating is absolutely a smart strategy.
Here are a few of my favorite “less work is more sleep” cheats.
The Baby Merlin Magic Sleep Suit
I think if they had Merlin Magic Sleep Suit for adults, I would be tempted…
The abracadabra sleeping suit is designed for babies from 2-9 months. It’s specially padded to help muffle the automatic twitches and startles that can wake babies and provides that slight gentle pressure that so many swaddled babies love.
Yes, it looks like Randy’s snowsuit… but over 200 Amazon parents gave it 5 stars, so I guess the unicorn hairs and phoenix feathers are really paying off.
The Convertible Woombie
It’s the traditional (and very popular) woombie design, only it has the arms in separate little “pockets” to take out each arm. (Like in the Turtle Approach to swaddle weaning.)
Pea Wee Swaddle Buddy
This cheater to help you stop swaddling is called the Swaddle Buddy.
Basically it turns your baby into Monty Python’s Black Knight. (Definitely an entertainment bonus.)
It also happens to be a great way to stair-step your infant into sleeping without blankets up to his chinny chin chin.
The Safe T Sleepwrap
For those parents who are in the midst of weaning out of the swaddle, but are concerned their baby will roll over and end up in a dangerous position, this is your new best friend.
Basically, it’s a swaddle that’s attached to the mattress. So your baby CANNOT MOVE.
Before purchasing, though, think about your baby’s personality.
- Is he easy going enough to allow this contraption to dictate his crib movements?
- Or is he a free spirit who will be incredibly pissed when he can’t move around?
Watch Those Sleep Windows!
One of the best ways to help your baby stop using the swaddle is to make sure he’s not overtired when you’re putting him down for a nap.
This means you’ve got to catch his sleep window for naps.
If you miss it, even by a few minutes, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get him sleeping (if he sleeps for you at all).
What should you do if you’ve missed that window? How do you help him get better, longer daytime naps? Let me show you.
Top Photo Credit: © sashahaltam – Fotolia.com