How to drop the swaddle!
Updated: May 15
Babies come into the world craving security, warmth, rhythm and comfort. Swaddling your baby is proven to promote sleep as one of the S’s in Dr. Harvey Karps '5-S’s to soothe a fussy baby'. But, soon enough, it will be time to stop using it, and that will seem a little daunting. Take note of my key things to remember when it comes to unswaddling your baby.
What age should you transition your baby out?
As your baby nears 8-12 weeks of age, you will notice the traditional swaddle will stop working for them. They will repeatedly bust out of it, or they become too big for it. You will also need to recognize that by 3 months, babies can and will start to roll, so the swaddle will no longer be safe for them. But, good news! They will now have more freedom to move about! And, at this age, babies love to use their hands to suck as a self-settling mechanism. Don't be afraid if hand sucking seems to 'wake' them. Let your baby explore their hands and attempt to soothe themselves in this way.
Okay, but, now what?
I remember being petrified about this transition. It seemed their hands and movements woke my babies up MORE. How could I possibly drop the swaddle?
Not to mention that this age is full of hiccups and roadblocks when it comes to sleep. Swaddle transition, 4-month sleep regression, night-feedings, short naps.. you name it. Plus many parents wonder if baby is too young to implement gentle sleep training methods. Want to build a sleep foundation starting at bedtime? Download my night waking guide!
Before I get into how to transition out of the swaddle, I want to share what worked for us first.
My story: How the magic sleep suit helped my twins sleep.
Just when I was feeling helpless as a first time Mom to twins, a dear friend of mine saw my Facebook post about sleepless nights and immediately suggested I try the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit with my little girls. The only thing I had heard about it previously was when she said her baby slept in a “Moon Suit”. LOL!
So, naturally I was willing to try something that I knew worked for someone else. I checked my daughters’ weights to be sure the sleep suit would fit them and then made the purchase.
You guys, I’m here to tell you that they slept so much better that very next 1-3 nights.
Each night just got better and better. They settled easier at bedtime and we were able to reduce the number of wake-ups entirely. I was severely sleep deprived during those first few months, and any extra sleep I could get was crucial. An added bonus for us was that the sleep suit worked great for my daughter who was sleeping in corrective foot wear for her club foot called boots and bar or Dobbs bar. She had recently been taken out of her casts and was then wearing her brace, so having the suit for her gave me extra comfort that she was staying comfortable when trying to sleep.
How to dress your baby in the magic sleep suit.
Dress baby in a diaper, short-sleeve onesie and socks. We were using the sleep suits from February to May (in the northern hemisphere) and they were comfortable in socks and a short sleep onsie.
My twins wore the sleep suit for almost 3.5 months. They LOVED that suit. Putting them in it cued their brains for sleep, and it became part of our routine for night sleep and nap sleep. They even traveled with us to Florida! In the hotter climate, we just did diaper underneath and made sure to keep the ceiling fan on. They worked great and they sleep like angels on our vacation.
Even though there are quite a few transition products out there, I genuinely feel that the sleep suit option is great for those babies who have a very strong startle reflex, and the suit can be a perfect solution for some babies. In addition, the suit can be SO helpful for babies who are used to sleeping in someone’s arms and are hanging onto those 4th trimester snuggles a little longer. Also, Premie babies who have hit the weight requirement would be a great candidate to wear the suit as they may hold onto the reflex even longer than full-term babies.
Please double check your child for any signs of torticollis or plagiocephaly, as the suit doesn't allow baby to sleep any other way but on their backs. If you notice positional preference of the head or neck and head asymmetry, contact your child's pediatrician or reach out to Baby Begin for early intervention.
Thinking about sleep training?
The Magic Merlin Sleep suit can assist wonderfully when parents are implementing independent sleep routines especially for naps. Visit magicsleepsuit.com and use code TWEETDREAMZZ15 at checkout!
How to size the Magic Merlin's sleep suit
I don’t recommend sizing up as it’s intended to be a snug, secure fit to work properly. How you will know if it is a good fit:
· Scooped neckline will lay flat on baby’s chest away from face
· Baby should not be able to wiggle arms and legs out of the openings or pull their legs into the trunk area
· Follow the recommended sizing chart
I was working with a client once who had a 4-month old little boy. He struggled so bad to get any time of consecutive sleep periods. He would literally jerk himself awake after 20 minutes. I almost didn’t believe this was possible as most babies can typically achieve the 30-minute sleep cycle.
My client took a video of him doing it, and low and behold his startle reflex was REALLY strong. Thankfully, my client was only 10-minutes away. I drove my daughter’s old suit straight over to her house. And, BAM, the very next day he took an hour + nap. He wore the suit for about 2 months, and then transitioned seamlessly into a standard sleep sack. So, if you are wondering if Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit works, here is proof it does!
Are you just ready to drop the swaddling cold turkey?
What if you don’t want to invest in another product, or your climate isn’t right for it?
Here are some tips for how to drop the swaddle and get into a standard sleep sack or Zipadee-Zip.
You can find sleep sacks at any price point and in all fabrics. Fleece for winter and cotton for summer. I always welcome the idea to use a sleep sack. It’s basically a wearable blanket, and it something else to cue your child for sleep. Plan of action to drop the swaddle looks like this:
· Night 1- right arm out
· Night 2- right arm out
· Night 3- right arm out
· Night 4- left arm out
· Night 5- left arm out
· Night 6- left arm out
· Night 7- both arms out!
Or maybe you are a “cold turkey” kind of person! Ditch the swaddle, and don’t look back, but expect an adjustment period that could include some crying and disrupted sleep.
Takeaways on how to transition out of the swaddle!
Signs your baby is ready to drop the swaddle
1. Breaking out of it
2. Rolling over
3. Getting too big/long + plus age
4. Showing signs of other self-soothing mechanisms. Example: finger/thumb sucking or face rubbing.
When using the Magic Merlin sleepsuit, always ensure it has a proper fit according to the guidelines above and the recommendations listed here.
Not sure how to start implementing independent sleep strategies? You'll want this guide!
Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant with Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting located in the Metro St. Louis, MO area. She helps families all over achieve sleep again after baby(s) is born.