Unfortunately, there comes a time in every mom's life when she can no longer wrap her baby up like the world's most adorable burrito. Most babies sleep so well when swaddled that that parents dread the thought of having to transition your growing baby out of your favorite swaddle. You're probably also wondering when the right time to make the transition is. Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, you will learn:
Follow the steps in here, and we assure you that you and your baby will transition out of a swaddle like a pro.
Signs that your baby has outgrown a swaddle
If you are a parent wondering “When should I stop swaddling my baby?” we have you covered. Once you know the swaddle transition signs, you won’t need to lose sleep over this question ever again (literally).
Although exact time may vary for each baby, somewhere between 4 to 6 months your baby will show signs that it may be time to stop swaddling. When your baby starts doing any of the following 6 things, it is a good sign that you should start a transition plan from a swaddle:
- Increase in activity and taking arm(s) out mid-sleep.
- Growing too strong or too mobile to stay swaddled through the night.
- Fighting being swaddled and wanting one or both arms out.
- Starting to roll-over due to increased arm and neck strength.
- Waking up in the middle of the night often after a history of sleeping well.
- Decreased or no startle reflex (Moro reflex).
Once you know it’s time to stop swaddling and transition, it is important to have a plan in place to make the transition easy. To guide you, we have created a simple step-by-step plan you can follow each day to successfully transition from a swaddle to a wearable blanket in as little as 7-10 days.
Follow a 4-Step Swaddle Transition Plan
Just like you would take a little time to adjust to a new sleep routine, a new mattress, or a new pillow, babies can take some time adjusting during this transition out of a swaddle.
This simple transition plan will help your baby adjust to sleeping without the swaddle. We recommend transitioning from the swaddle to a weighted baby sleeping bag, like the Zen Sack. It's comforting weight helps mimic your touch and the snugness of a swaddle, which can make the transition much easier.
Sweeter Sleep Story
“Love this sleep sack! My little guy loved to be swaddled. It was so hard transitioning him from having his arms swaddled in. We tried several different sleep sacks but nothing worked until we tried this one. It took a few nights for him to get used to it, but now he goes to sleep very quickly once he's in it and sleep 8-10 through the night!”
- Kayla M., 8/1/2017
A gradual transition will work best for you and your baby. Our 4-step plan takes as little as 7-10 days – but every baby is different, so it might take shorter and it might take longer. No matter what, every parent who owes a full night’s sleep to their favorite swaddle should follow this plan before their sleeping beauty outgrows swaddling and disrupts their restful nights.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 1: Swaddle arm(s) free
By month 4 your baby may start showing the 6 signs of outgrowing the swaddling phase. Increased mobility, swaddle coming undone or rolling over are some common signs that your baby is ready to transition away from swaddling.
As soon as you see these cues, change your swaddling technique gradually by swaddling with only their dominant arm out. Why only one arm? In case the Moro-reflex (also known as startle reflex) is still prevalent, the closed arm will offer resistance necessary to curb the disturbance caused by the jerking of both arms that comes with no swaddle. Try this for 2-3 nights.
If there is no Moro-reflex present or your baby is used to sleeping with one arm out, you can swaddle with both arms out. Try this for 2-3 nights. Every baby is different, so this step may take only a few days or it may take a week or so. Be patient!
Find a swaddle that can be used with arms in AND arms out, like the Zen Swaddle. Take a look at the diagram below to see how simple it is to swaddle with one or both arms out.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 2: Check if it’s too early to transition
Once you have tried the one arm or arms free solution, your baby will let you know if he or she finds it easy to settle in their new state. Try this option during nap-time at first so you can observe your baby's response.
If your baby still shows signs of Moro-reflex, is unable to sleep at all, or is still waking up multiple times during sleep periods, it might be too early to transition. Try swaddling for a couple more weeks and then give it another go.
It is normal for your little one to take a little longer to fall asleep at first, but this should change after a couple days.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 3: Transition to a wearable blanket
Once your baby has taken to the arms-out swaddle style, it’s time to switch over to a wearable blanket.
We recommend the Zen Sack - it has a lightly weighted pad, which rests on your baby's chest, just where your palm would go.
This gentle pressure helps with the transition as it provides a more secure, comforting feeling than regular wearable blankets.
It also has plenty of room to move and grow, and eliminates the safety concern of loose blankets in babies' sleep environment. Moms who have used it report their baby sleeps 2 hours longer on average!
The Zen Sack™ is lightly weighted, making it perfect for
Here's a review about the Zen Sack and transitioning, we hope you will read more to make sure it's the right fit for you and your little one.
Sweeter Sleep Story
“Transitioning out of the swaddle was very difficult for our sweet boy. He needed the feeling of closeness in order to sleep. We tried several other sleep sacks with no success until we finally found the Zen Sack. He loves how the weighted portion feels like a snuggle and sleeps much more soundly. We'll be buying another so we have one on deck while the first is in the wash!”
- Valerie C., 8/3/2017
At first, you should place the weighted part on your baby’s chest as your baby sleeps on his or her back. Before your baby starts rolling over, sleeping on their back is the safest.
Once again, consistency is key, so persist for 2-3 days before determining if the solution is working or not.
Swaddle Transition Plan Step 4: When baby starts to roll over
Once your baby is comfortable sleeping in a sack, they might start rolling on to their tummy to sleep. Babies tend to choose one or the other fairly consistently.
If you are using the Zen Sack, reverse it so that the light weight is resting on your little one's back. This feels like your palm on their back and helps them fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
Caught between a rock and a hard place? Your baby may have outgrown your swaddle but not yet ready to have her hands out in the Zen Sack. No worries, this hack will get you moving right along:
Use the Zen Sack over the basic onesie and then on top of the Zen Sack, wrap your baby with a light muslin swaddle just around the arms. Then gradually, roughly one week at a time, take one arm out starting with the dominant arm, then the second arm until your baby no longer needs her arms out.
Here are the 4 steps to transition out of swaddling:
Once you have noticed the signs that it's time to stop swaddling, swaddle with one arm out for 2-3 nights then with both arms out for another 2-3 nights.
Monitor how your baby is receiving this change to their regular sleep circumstances. If your baby is not receiving the change well, try swaddling for an additional week or two.
Transition to a wearable blanket - these are made specifically for the swaddle transition period.
Keep an eye out for when your baby starts rolling on to their tummy. If you're using the Zen Sack, remember to reverse it so the weight is resting on their back.
Remember all babies are different, so make an effort to be patient and consistent. Good luck :)
Be sure to check out our baby sleeping bag-The Zen Sack!