Baby Breaking Out of Swaddle? It May be Time to Transition

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When you swaddle your newborn, he’s cozy and warm, and most of all safe if you’ve done it correctly. That’s a good feeling for any parent when they lay their baby down for sleep.

A swaddle mimics the feeling of being in the womb for the baby that’s why it comforts them.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when swaddling is done right, it can calm down infants and help to promote sleep.

It’s important to put your baby on his back to sleep at all times, but especially when he’s swaddled.

Studies have shown an increase in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and suffocation in babies who were swaddled and placed on their stomachs to sleep or if they roll over onto their stomachs in the middle of the night.

When babies are swaddled they should always be put on their backs and monitored in case they roll over.

While swaddling can be positive when it’s done right, all good things must come to an end, including the swaddle. Babies can’t be swaddled forever!

After some time, you may notice that you’re enjoying swaddling your baby more than he’s enjoying being swaddled. There are little signals that he’s giving off to let you know that he no longer wants or needs all of the swaddle action you’re giving him.

We’ve got some signs to look out for as well as why your baby may be trying to or actually breaking out of his swaddle.

Why is My Baby Breaking Out of Swaddle?

There are several common reasons why your baby may be breaking out of his swaddle, and some may not indicate that his swaddling days are over.

The Swaddle Isn’t Tight Enough

If you’re not swaddling your baby’s arms tight enough, they may be able to wiggle them out and unravel the entire thing.

You want to be sure you are swaddling your baby’s arms tight enough (but not too tight). This will ensure that their arms stay in and they can’t break free and unravel.

Your Baby Doesn’t Like His Arms Wrapped Up

Just as you have your favorite positions to sleep, so does your baby, and they may not include having his arms wrapped up tightly.

Some babies like their arms out of the swaddle while others like their arms up by their chest. If you’re wrapping your baby a certain way and they don’t like it, they’re not going to want to continue to be in the swaddle.

Are Sleep Sacks Safe For Babies Who Can Roll Over?

Your Baby Doesn’t Like His Legs Wrapped Up

Some babies want their arms free while others want their legs free. If you’re noticing that your baby is trying to kick free, this could be the message he’s trying to send you.

If this is the case, you’ll want to buy a swaddle that allows the legs to be free while still swaddling the upper body.

You Have the Wrong Size Swaddle

Swaddles are not one size fits all because babies are not one size. The swaddle you’re using may be too big or too small resulting in your baby not wanting to be in it anymore.

If the swaddle is too small it’s obviously going to be too tight. If it’s too big, your baby can slip out of it and that can pose a serious hazard. Be sure the swaddle is the right size so that you can wrap your baby firmly. This will keep him comfortable and wanting to stay in there.

Your baby is too hot

Babies can get too hot when they sleep just like adults. If you notice your baby feels warm or you sense the room is too warm, they’re not going to want to be swaddled. Be sure to take the temperature of the room and always check your baby’s temperature if you sense they are feeling too warm.

Signs It’s Time to Stop Swaddling Your Baby

If you’ve tried different types of swaddles, have the right size, and your baby still doesn’t want to swaddle, it may be a sign that your swaddling days are over.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should stop swaddling their baby as soon as they show any signs of trying to roll over. This can typically happen around the two-month mark. When babies can roll over while swaddled there is a suffocation risk.

You can usually tell your baby is getting ready to roll over when they can use their hands to push up during tummy time or start to roll onto their sides.

Besides being unsafe, keeping your baby in a swaddle when they’re clearly growing out of it can hinder the development of their motor skills.

How to Transition Out of the Swaddle

While you may still love the idea of swaddling your baby, he’s going to make the call for when it’s quitting time.

If your baby is ready to get out of the swaddle, break them free! Be sure not to include any loose blankets in the crib once you lose the swaddle. These can also pose a suffocation risk.

Some parents choose to transition out of the swaddle slowly. They’ll take one arm out at a time and see how it goes.

Be careful if you do this because if your baby is getting strong enough to roll over, they may be strong enough to get the other arm out without your help. If this happens, the swaddle gets loose and can pose a suffocation risk.

There’s also an option of choosing a sleep sack which is basically a wearable blanket. But, if you do this, you’ll have to transition out of that as well when your baby starts to outgrow it.

Many parents who relied on the swaddle to promote sleep often worry that their baby won’t sleep soundly.

It’s important to establish a soothing bedtime routine to help get them to know when it’s time to rest. This can take some time, but once they get in the hang of it, it will be sweet dreams for everyone.

The Takeaway

When it comes to knowing when to stop swaddling your baby, look for clues like trying to roll over and being more mobile. This can indicate that your baby doesn’t want to be swaddled anymore and really shouldn’t be because it can pose a safety risk.

Other times, your baby may still want to be swaddled and you just have to make the right adjustments. This may mean changing your method and making sure you have the right size swaddle. 

If your swaddle season is over, you can choose to quit cold turkey or transition your baby out of the swaddle. Always look for the safest method. If you’re not sure if you should still be swaddling your baby, check with your pediatrician for the best advice.

Kristina is a freelance writer and children's book author. She's the mother of two girls who keep her very busy! When she's not spending time with her family, she enjoys taking a spin class and reading a good book.

Kristina is a freelance writer and children's book author. She's the mother of two girls who keep her very busy! When she's not spending time with her family, she enjoys taking a spin class and reading a good book.