When And How To Stop Swaddling

Swaddling is an ancient practice of wrapping young babies which was originally carried out as it was believed to help them develop a straight, strong back before they could walk.

Nowadays swaddling is one of those things that some health professionals are supportive of, and others are opposed to. So as with many things you come across in the parenting journey, it is really up to you as a parent to decide whether its something you want to try. But why do it, what are the benefits and risks, and if you start, how do you stop?

newborn baby in light swaddle

Benefits of swaddling

  • Many parents say it reduces the startle reflex and helps their baby to settle and sleep better.
  • It helps the baby to stay on their back, which is known to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • It prevents the baby from pulling blankets over themselves.
  • Can help to calm a baby who is dysregulated.
  • Can help the baby to feel secure.

Risks of swaddling

  • Encouraging babies to sleep more deeply could link to inability to rouse from sleep if there is a life-threatening respiratory challenge, which can increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Can cause overheating if used with heavy blankets which increases the risk of SIDS
  • Can inhibit breathing by restricting the natural movement of the chest if done too tightly.
  • If hips are restricted, can increase the risk of hip dysplasia

When To Stop Swaddling

Swaddling should be stopped either when your baby starts to show signs of rolling, or before 3 months which is the peak age for SIDS, whichever comes first.

When you’re getting ready to remove the swaddle (or make any changes to sleep habits), it’s a good idea to try to make sure your baby is absolutely ready for sleep, this way they will accept changes more readily. So try to make sure you have a lovely consistent bedtime routine, the bedroom lights are dim and the naps are timed well to avoid your little one becoming dysregulated.

How To Stop Swaddling

Cold Turkey

Just go for it and swap to blankets, or (ideally) a baby sleeping bag.

Start with bedtime, any big changes to sleep are best tackled at bedtime as you will have melatonin and sleep pressure in your favour. This way children will often accept changes easier!

You may need to offer your baby some more support whilst falling asleep whilst you’re transitioning away from the swaddle, so don’t worry about cuddling/rocking/feeding to sleep you can always change this later.


Step 1 – try one arm out of the swaddle at bedtime, you may need to offer additional support like patting/shushing/rocking if your baby fusses.

Step 2 – after 2-3 days, move to swaddling with both arms out, or transition to a baby sleeping bag.

The most important thig is that even if you’re trying the gradual approach, if your baby seems to be trying to roll, you must stop using the swaddle right away.

Eek! I'm Nervous

Often as parents we worry that making changes like this will be a nightmare, but some babies don’t even notice the difference so you might be worrying about something that doesn’t happen.

As with any changes, consistency is key as is offering your baby responsive support through the transition, if you would like to learn more about how to create a routine that works for your baby or how to support your baby towards self-soothing in a gentle way, check out my online sleep courses, the DNA Sleep Program, or drop me a line to chat!