Stella recently reached the 3/4 month mark which made me contemplate how long we were going to continue the swaddle. For some reason, when it comes to dropping the swaddle,
I feel so pressured to make this transition. I just can't wait to mark it off my 'to do' list. I admit I'm a bit of a nutso about my 'to do' list (I have even been known to write something down AFTER I've done it just so I can feel the satisfaction of checking it off!) so maybe that's my problem. Or maybe I just like to see baby-acrobats during sleep times.

If you think it's time to drop the swaddle, you may be feeling pretty worried. I know I get this way. I don't want to mess sleep up. If you've got a sleeper who, well, doesn't like to sleep, the change might not be as scary. Things might not be able to get much worsen anyway and they could even get better :)

When should you drop the swaddle?
If your child is doing well swaddled, there really isn't a reason to drop the swaddle unless...
  1. He is rolling to his tummy. Swaddled babies and the tummy do not mix! It's not safe folks, don't do it! Because you'll need to make the switch cold turkey, you might want to use some sort of swaddle transition (see below).
  2. Baby seems to be really into sucking on his hands and you want him to be able to soothe himself with them.
  3. Your baby seems to be sleeping fine without it (he busts out of it and still sleeps fine) 
  4. Your baby is fighting the swaddle more and more. This is a hard one because sometime the fighting can mean baby simply doesn't want to sleep (because YOU are so fun to play with or because he's overtired) or maybe it can mean he wants to move around more while he sleeps. You'll have to use some trial and error to see what is going on here and also listen to your gut feeling.
  5. You are crazy antsy about it for some reason and just have to get rid of that dang swaddle!
If your child isn't sleeping so totally awesome, you may want to drop the swaddle...
  1. During sleep training. Some people out there don't like to sleep train a swaddled baby. They want baby to have full access to his hands in case he wants to use them to self soothe (he may or may not use them to self soothe). I personally have found that babies are usually pretty good at self soothing even if they don't have their hands available (for example, Stella has been sucking her lips, moving her head back and forth and rubbing her feet together while falling asleep for months now) so I don't find dropping the swaddle totally necessary. IF you are helping a baby learn to self-soothe (especially if  they have a lot of work ahead of them--i.e. they don't know how to put themselves to sleep at all) and they are over 3/4 months of age then you might want to consider dropping the swaddle--but it isn't necessary.
  2. If he's really into sucking their hands. A bad or even good sleeper can sometimes turn into an amazing sleeper when he finds his hands. So if it seems like baby is getting a lot of pleasure from sucking on his hands, then you might want to allow him more access to them while sleeping.
  3. If you're dropping the pacifier and want to allow baby another way to suck, you may want to drop the swaddle so he has access to his hands. But, keep in mind, that just because he has access to his hands, it doesn't mean he will actually use them to self-soothe. That is simply a possibility.
If you think you need to drop the swaddle because your little Houdini has mastered how to get out of a swaddle, then you simply need to swaddle better, double swaddle (put one swaddle on top of the other) or get a better swaddle blanket. Personally, I think the miracle blanket is the best option for these babies. It has been a life saver for me and my children. Yes, me too--- because if baby is sleeping, then I'm sleeping!

Most children do well having the swaddle dropped sometime between 3-6 months of age. The moro/startle reflux disappears around this age and babies also start to have more control of their hands (especially after Wonder Week 12).

Some people recommend your drop the swaddle sooner so baby doesn't get too addicted to it, but I personally feel that it is a need up until this point and that dropping it sooner results in more problems than it helps.  If your child is unswaddled at an earlier age and is fine with this, then no problem. No need to fix something that isn't broken! My first child was actually sleeping unswaddled and sucking his thumb (very, very happily, I might add!) at 11 weeks of age. I don't know when exactly I stopped the swaddle with him because I was, well, somewhat confused about everything having to do with parenting at that time, but either way, I know that by 11 weeks, he was much happier with that thumb in his mouth than with it by his side swaddled!

What to expect when you drop the swaddle
The swaddle is a sleep association, so even though baby stops 'needing' it to sleep, it will still take some time to get used to not having it. And just like with everything sleep, some babies will do better with change than others. Some will not even notice the swaddle gone while others will have some rough days of sleep. Think of suddenly having to go to sleep each night without a pillow or without a blanket. Even if you don't need these things (like if your room is super hot and a blanket is the last think you need to help you sleep) it is still really hard to get used to sleeping without them! The same holds true for any sleep changes with your baby.

So how do you know if your baby is having a normal rough patch while dropping the swaddle verses 'it isn't time to drop the swaddle'? This is a tough question to answer and it'll vary from child to child. Because that's a pretty annoying response for me to make I'll give you this one ;)  If your baby is taking longer than usual to fall asleep and is having a hard time making it through sleep transitions for a couple days, this is normal. If he is unable to fall asleep at all or is taking 20 minute naps and waking up all night long, it's likely he still needs the swaddle.

How do you wean from the swaddle?
When you get to a point that you feel like your baby might do fine without the swaddle, then go for it. You won't really know for sure if your baby is ready for it until you try it. If he doesn't do well with the transition (see above), you can reswaddle and try again in a few more weeks, try a swaddle transition product (see below), or continue to drop it and expect a few rough days of sleep before things go back to normal. Just try not to go back and forth constantly with swaddling and unswaddling. That will make it harder on baby.

To wean from the swaddle, start with one arm out for 3-7 days (or until baby is sleeping like 'normal', if you'd like ), then take the other arm out while swaddling from the waste down. After several more days (or until baby is sleeping 'normal', if you'd like), unswaddle completely and use a sleep sack instead. You don't need to use a sleep sack, but with young children free blankets aren't really helpful because they can't keep them on (and they're dangerous with infants) so I personally find sleep sacks a must.

When you put your newly unswaddled baby down for sleep, you might also want to put a little pressure on his tummy and arms for several moments to help him adjust to this change. Do this for several days if it seems to help.

If you've had the swaddle dropped for more than 1-2 weeks and sleep still isn't going great, you might want to reconsider reswaddling for a while longer or consider a swaddle transition product. It's always a good idea to evaluate the whole situation though, because sleep may be off for some other reason besides the swaddle.

Swaddle Transition Products
Two swaddle transition products I know of out there are Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit and the Zipadeezip Slumber Sacks. These are both useful when a slow transition out of the swaddle isn't an option (like if your baby is rolling over) or if your baby is out of the swaddle but still seems to need some extra security (which may also be the case if you are transitioning from a swing or {recalled} rock and play sleeper). Some extra benefits of each are:
  • Baby Merlins' Magic Sleepsuit - This suit helps keep baby on her back for longer which may be beneficial in reducing SIDS risks. Because the suit is somewhat plush and restricts some movement, it can help prevent baby from pushing the pacifier out of her mouth (either because sleep is suffering when the pacifier gets pushed out or if you really don't want hand/thumb sucking). Baby may still be able to put her hands in her mouth while wearing this, but it's much less likely to happen, especially if the sleep suit is on the bigger size for her (do not size up more than suggested though or it won't work!)
  • Zipadee-zip Slumber Sack - The sack allows baby to suck on her hands through fabric. She will be able to knock out a pacifier, but because her fingers are covered, she won't be able to scratch herself (if that's an issue).

Feel free to share any swaddle triumphs, failures or advice!


  1. Hi Rachel, love your blog, and so many other mums do too. Thank you!

    My daughter 7months is still not sleeping though and is about to share a room with my son 3 years old! She goes to bed at 7pm wakes 3am for bf then either sleeps until 7am or more recently wakes chatting at 5am getting cross about 630am at 7am I get her up and bf. sometime she wakes at 11pm or 1am but I have been ignoring her. She's well established on solids eats allot, and I offer a bottle at 630pm also she usually takes only 20ml and won't take the breast. Day sleep 920-11 then 130-330pm sometimes waking earlier but usually I wake her. Any suggestions on how to get though the night? I thinks it's too late to introce the dream feed an she doesn't seem overlt hungry at 7am.

    1. Yes, I wouldn't introduce the DF either. In fact, it's possible that sleep may improve if you drop all feeds, but that may or may not be something you're up for. these early morning talking episodes are pretty tough and resilient to fix. Time is the may thing that helps them. You could see if wake to sleep makes any impact on them. you might want to see if a bedtime adjustment helps in anyway. Try something out for several days before trying something else out. A sound machine between the two kids will definitely help out if you can't get the issue fixed right away.


  2. Hi Rachel
    apologies if this posts twice....I had to log in to publish and it appears to have eaten what I already wrote..

    I wanted to give you a huge thank you for all you've done in setting up this site. It's saved me countless hours of finding out about and comparing different sleep/settling plans and has really helped me refine what I want to do (and how to do it) with my 4 month old. I'm a first time (single) mum and our house is a happier place (by far) because of the time you've taken to put all this down for the uninitiated among us. Really...massive thanks.

    I wanted to let you know what I'm using as a transitional swaddle (at the risk of seeming to promote a particular product....I have no financial links to this company btw....just think it's an ace idea). My little guy was clearly ready to drop the tight swaddle (he was really fighting it and unhappy) but not quite ready for the loose freedom of a sleep sack. We tried for a week or two but he moved around so much and slept really poorly. I'm Australian and this is something a lot of my Aus friends recommended - it's been genius for us. It's still very snug fitting (it's t-shirt material so can be tight/firm but not restrictive) but he can get his arms up and self soothes with his hands now. The "wings" zip off so in a few weeks we can try with one arm out (with the rest of him still firmly wrapped) and after that we can move to 2 arms out. He can still be wearing the firm body swaddle - without wings - when he can roll, so I also think it may be good value for money for us...we can use it til he's 8kg according to the box (he's only 6kg now)

    Lastly, a big congrats on the arrival of Stella :) My little guy is only a bit younger but I'm still not at all tired of being congratulated :) Once again a HUGE thank you for what you've done with this blog/site. It's been a hugely helpful resource and has been my "go to" when desperate (especially in the wonder weeks ;)


    1. Thanks for letting me know about that other swaddle product Allison. I've never seen one that holds baby's arms in the 'up' angle. Best of luck with sleep!


  3. Hi Rachel,

    Your blog is awesome. Amongst the crazy sites and forums out there, your blog is like a safe non-judgemental haven.

    We just started a version of the Ferber method with our LO. He'll be five months at the end of the month. We are on night 5. We had a few nights of success with the longest stretch of sleep being 9 hours and hr falls asleep after nursing without needing to be rocked. The tougher thing is naps. He starts to fall asleep and then startled himself awake. We dropped the swaddle when we started with ST. do you think it will be confusing if we reintroduce the swaddle or a sleep sack at this point?

    1. Snapcracklepopz,
      I think it would work out OK if you reintroduced the swaddle. BUT you are at a point that things will probably start getting better any day, so you might want to hold off for a few more days before deciding that the swaddle will help. I've noticed overtired babies startling more at naps right with sleep training/dropping swaddle but as they get better at sleeping at night and falling asleep overall, they start to be calmer and don't startle then.

    2. Oh, I'm glad you like the blog! :)

    3. Thanks for your thoughts. We'll keep at it without the swaddle and see how things go :)

  4. I am so relieved to discover this blog! I have a 7 month old who has never slept through the night (8 months next week). He consistently wakes up at 10:30 and 2:30 and wants to nurse. I put him down at 6:30 because any later than that makes for an even worse night. I think I've everything including the dream feed and putting him down while awake - which he can't settle himself when I do this. I'm exhausted and find it very difficult to execute a sleep plan most days. Please help!

    1. Have you tried putting him a sleep sack? We had a similar situation with our little one when we stopped swaddling her. We ended up trying the Zipadee-Zip and she slept so much better than without it. It was amazing for us all to get good sleep! You can find them on FB. Hope things are going better!

  5. We use the zippy too! We swaddled and our LO loved it. We transitioned out of it once she was rolling over and switched her into the zipadee zip. It’s worked wonderfully and she sleeps so great in it!

  6. Hey! So thankful for this blog! My little guy is 6.5 months old and we have decided it is time to say goodbye to the swaddle. His nighttime sleep really hasn't been effected at all but his naps have for sure. He has been taking 3 naps (two 1.5-1.75 hr naps and one 45 minute nap) each day. However since getting rid of the swaddle, his first two naps have been shortened quite noticeably- they are now 45-55 minutes. His last nap has not been effected. I know it's because he is having difficulty making the transition mid nap and really wants to resettle but hasn't been successful. He wakes and fusses/cries on and off until I go get him - up to 40 minutes. Is this normal to have no issue at night but have naps get all out of sorts when unswaddled? Is this something that I should expect to resolve itself? Also, how long should I wait to see if this resolves itself before re swaddling for naps? I don't want him getting used to short naps :) Thanks so much for your help and willingness to calm this mommas nerves a bit!

    1. This is my issue too! My little guy was able to go straight from a swaddle to the sleep sack at night, but naps are a different story. He has the hardest time setting down and staying asleep! Did you find anything that helped?