Dropping the Swaddle
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Dropping the Swaddle: Everything You Need To Know

When it comes to your baby’s sleep, changing up their sleep habits can be a daunting thought. You don’t want to risk losing any more sleep than you have to! But, as your baby grows and develops, you’ll find that they are getting closer and closer to dropping the swaddle.

Because safe sleep is such a crucial subject, knowing what to look for before dropping the swaddle is essential. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about dropping the swaddle, including signs of readiness and the best tips!

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When should you drop the swaddle?

When learning how to wean your baby from the swaddle, it’s important to know when the right time to do so is.

You’ll want your baby to be out of a swaddle just before they start to roll from back to belly. Once your baby can move from back to tummy, they will need their arms free to push up from their mattress. 

Typically, babies start rolling from back to belly around 3-5 months old. But, many babies start rolling from tummy to back first because it’s a bit easier to maneuver. 

We started transitioning our son from his swaddle once he was easily rolling from belly to back during tummy time activities. Since I knew that moving from back to belly wasn’t too far away, I wanted him to be used to having his arms free well ahead of time. 

Signs It’s Time to Drop the Swaddle

Now, just because many babies start rolling from back to belly around 3-5 months doesn’t mean that your baby won’t be ready to ditch the swaddle sooner. Here are the most common signs that your baby is ready to drop the swaddle:

Baby is Rolling From Back to Belly

As I mentioned above, one of the most important signs that your baby is ready to drop the swaddle is rolling from back to belly. Rolling from back to belly is the most crucial sign because it can be a safety risk.

Once your baby can roll from back to belly, you’ll want them to have access to their arms. This ensures they can push themselves away from the mattress.

Baby is Breaking out of the Swaddle Frequently

If your baby is consistently breaking out of their swaddle, there’s a good chance that they are ready for the transition. 

On the other hand, if your baby is breaking out of the swaddle but still seems to enjoy being swaddled, you might need a different swaddle. 

For example, my son kept breaking out of his traditional swaddle blankets after the first month of the newborn phase. But, once we tried these velcro swaddles, he stayed swaddled and seemed to enjoy them more. 

Baby is Fussy While in the Swaddle

Suppose your baby is fussy while getting wrapped in a swaddle or once they are in the swaddle, you have a couple of options. You’ll either want to change the type of swaddle you’re using or drop the swaddle altogether.

Also, if your baby is fussy while in a swaddle and not sleeping well, you might see improvements in their sleep after weaning from the swaddle. 

You’ll also love: What To Do When Your Baby Hates the Swaddle

Moro Reflex is Gone

Swaddling your baby helps to suppress their Moro (or startle) reflex. As described by What To Expect, “If your baby is exhibiting the Moro reflex, you’ll know it. He’ll suddenly arch his back, fling his arms up and out, and open his hands.”

Because swaddling your baby helps prevent their arms from flailing, it’s beneficial to keep your baby swaddled until their Moro reflex is gone. 

Once you notice your baby isn’t startling as much (or at all), you can start transitioning out of the swaddle if you feel the time is right.

You are Ready for the Transition

If you feel like your baby is showing readiness to drop the swaddle, ensure that you are ready, too. 

Changing any part of your baby’s sleeping habits can cause disruption, so patience is critical. Make sure you are ready to potentially have a few sleep-deprived nights when you start the transition.

Dropping the Swaddle Pin Image

Methods for Dropping the Swaddle

Once you are ready to help your baby drop the swaddle, you’ll want to ensure you choose the best method to start with. 

Also, keep in mind that once you introduce a particular method, you’ll want to stick with it for a few days. Trying a technique for at least three days will give your baby plenty of time to adjust before attempting the next step (or a completely different approach).

Dropping the Swaddle: One Arm Out

The easiest way to start moving away from using a swaddle is to swaddle your baby with one arm out. To do this, you simply wrap your baby as you usually would. But, you take one of their arms out before you secure the swaddle.

Giving your baby access to one of their arms while swaddled will ease them into the feeling of this new freedom. If your baby still has some startle reflex, they will be able to flail one of their arms if they startle. But, the other arm will still be snug beside them.

Dropping the Swaddle: Both Arms Out

If you start dropping the swaddle by leaving one arm out, the next step would be to leave both arms out. For this method, you’ll wrap the swaddle as you usually would, except you’ll position it under your baby’s armpits. 

Leaving both of your baby’s arms out of their swaddle will still give them that snug feeling around their belly that they are used to. 

Another benefit of leaving both arms out of the swaddle is that your baby still gets the warmth from the swaddle blanket around their body and legs. We did this with my son since he was transitioning out of his swaddle in the wintertime. It worked out well!

Dropping the Swaddle: Transitional Swaddle

The following method for dropping the swaddle is using a transitional swaddle. If you choose to use a transitional swaddle, you’d skip the one arm out (and both arms out) method above. 

If you’ve never heard of a transitional swaddle before, they are exactly how they sound. A transitional swaddle helps your baby adjust from a tight, traditional swaddle to either no swaddle or a sleep sack.

If you think using a transitional swaddle sounds like the best option for your baby, know that many different kinds are out there. Here are the top three transitional swaddles:

1. Baby Merlins’ Magic Sleepsuit

Baby Merlin's Cotton Magic Sleepsuit
 - Dropping the Swaddle

The first and most highly rated transitional swaddle is the Baby Merlins’ Magic Sleepsuit. The Baby Merlins’ Magic sleepsuit is meant to be introduced at around three months, so keep that in mind if you are looking to drop the swaddle sooner. 

What’s great about this transitional swaddle is that it gives your baby the feeling of being out of a swaddle while still helping soothe their startle reflex. The Baby Merlins’ Magic Sleepsuit has layered fabrics with open hands and feet to keep your baby comfortable. 

Not to mention, this transitional swaddle has double zippers in the front for easy diaper changing. 

2. Swaddle Designs

SwaddleDesigns Transitional Swaddle Sack

Next up, the Swaddle Designs Transitional Swaddle Sack brings a unique approach to dropping the swaddle. This transitional swaddle allows your baby to have their arms up instead of snug at their sides. Plus, it’s not as tight as a traditional swaddle or as loose as a sleep sack.

Also, the Swaddle Designs transitional swaddle has mitten cuffs. The cuffs allow your baby to have one or both hands out if you choose. 

Unlike the transitional swaddle above, the Swaddle Designs swaddle has two sizes. Their sizes are 0-3 months and 3-6 months. Having multiple sizes gives you the opportunity to wean from the traditional swaddle at the age you need. 

3. Zipadee-Zip Slumber Sack

Zipadee-Zip Slumber Sack - Dropping The Swaddle

Lastly, we have the Zipadee-Zip Slumber Sack. This transitional swaddle has a distinctive shape, allowing your baby the comfort of a swaddle without any restrictions.

The Zipadee-Zip Slumber Sack is meant for babies three months and older and comes in many cute colors and prints. 

Dropping the Swaddle: Cold Turkey

If your baby adapts well to change and has been showing signs that they are ready to drop the swaddle, you can try the cold turkey method. 

Because cutting anything cold turkey can have disadvantages, it’s best to try the cold turkey method during nap times first. Seeing how your baby does without the swaddle for naps will indicate how the night will go.

If dropping the swaddle cold turkey doesn’t go as well as you thought for nap times, you can decide if a different method would suit your baby better. 

Dropping the Swaddle Pin Image

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How long does it take to transition out of a swaddle?

When weaning your baby from a swaddle, know that it can take anywhere from three days to two weeks for your baby to adjust. Every baby is different, so you won’t know until you try.

When preparing yourself for this change, make sure you plan to start the transition at an appropriate time. For example, avoid dropping the swaddle right before you go on a vacation or have a family visit. 

Also, keep in mind that how well your baby adjusts can depend on their age. If your baby is younger than three months old but showing signs of readiness, they might still have the Moro reflex and struggle with the change more than an older baby.

And as always, consistency is key. If you try dropping the swaddle using a method above, make sure you give your baby enough time to process the change. You’ll want to stick with a technique for at least a few days before determining that it’s not for you.

What should baby wear instead of a swaddle?

As you may know, one of the most essential safe sleep practices is to keep blankets out of your baby’s crib until they are 12-months-old. When you get ready to drop the swaddle, you may wonder what your baby should wear instead of a swaddle. Here are the top three options:

Sleep Sack

Burt's Bees Baby Wearable Blanket

If your baby is ready to drop the swaddle in the wintertime, you might fear that they will be too cold without their swaddle. That’s where sleep sacks come in!

A sleep sack is essentially a wearable blanket. Typically, sleep sacks are more fitted in the upper body and flare out to give your baby plenty of room to kick their legs. 

Footed Pajamas

Simple Joys by Carter's Baby Fleece Footed Pajamas - Dropping The Swaddle

Instead of a swaddle, another great (warm) option is fleece footed pajamas

Typically, my son always wore footed pajamas under his swaddle. But, once he was finished using swaddles, we got him some fleece pajamas to give him some extra warmth. We used this brand, and they were exactly what we needed!

Nothing Additional!

If you are weaning your baby from the swaddle in warmer weather, there’s a good chance you won’t even need anything additional to keep your baby warm. Their regular pajamas will likely be acceptable.

Dropping the Swaddle Pin Image

I hope this article has answered all of your questions about dropping the swaddle. Try to keep in mind that every child is different, and what works for some parents might not work for you. It’s always good to keep trying other methods until you find the right one for your baby!

Before you go, check out these related articles:

What was your favorite tip for dropping the swaddle? I would love to know in the comments below!

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  1. This is some valuable information. My daughter when through this with her little last year. I’m gonna pin this in anticipation for next time.😊

  2. Great post! And some great tips and products to try for the transition. Transitioning out of the swaddle was so stressful for us, lol. We tried the Magic Merlin and Zipadee-Zip and neither really worked well for us. We used the Dreamland Baby Co. weighted sleep sack for a bit and that helped. Then eventually my little one ended up in the Halo Sleep Sack. She’s 19+ months now and still uses the sleep sack for naps and bedtimes. I put the sleep sack on backwards now (because she kept undoing the zipper when it was in the front, lol) and now she rubs the tag on her face while falling asleep; it’s so funny and cute. She also treats her sleep sack as a blanket and carries it around with her! Every baby is truly different!

    1. There certainly can be a lot of trial and error when it comes to babies’ sleep, so it’s fantastic that you were able to find something that worked for your little one. Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie! 🙂

  3. This is such a helpful post for first time parents! I remember how stressful transitioning away from the swaddle was for us because my daughter was never a very sound sleeper. We ended up going with one of the wearable sleep sacks for awhile.

    1. I felt the same way, Patricia! That’s great that the wearable sleep sacks worked for your daughter; they are an excellent option to keep babies warm and snug.

  4. Thank you so much for all of the great information. The options available for parents have changed so much since we had little ones, so this really helps in knowing what to purchase for the expecting mothers we know.

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