When to stop swaddling and how to transition baby to arms-out sleeping

When to stop swaddling and how to transition baby to arms-out sleeping

When to stop swaddling your baby

Congratulations! You’ve survived the first few months as parents of a newborn!

By now you've probably mastered the art of the swaddle and are feeling anxious about the next big change in your baby's sleep, transitioning them to arms out sleeping.

Many parents are apprehensive to unswaddle their baby once they start to roll, for fear of what it will do for settling and sleep. Once a baby shows signs of rolling it is no longer safe to swaddle them, and the transition to arms-out sleeping must begin. 

Why is it unsafe to swaddle a baby who is attempting to roll?

A baby who is ready to roll is transitioning out of the ‘fencing reflex’, an innate newborn mechanism designed to keep the body anchored on their back and prevent SIDS. Once this reflex starts to disappear, your baby would have built the necessary strength and muscle tone to hold their head up and roll their body over. A baby that is learning to roll from back-to-front needs their arms free to help roll back, and/or lift their neck and head sideways for clear and unobstructed breathing whilst face down.

What are the signs of attempting to roll?

Indicators that your baby is showing signs of rolling, and no longer requires a swaddle for sleeping include:

  • Attempting to roll body when unswaddled
  • Pushing up on hands during tummy time, lifting one hand off the ground
  • Fussiness when swaddled/fighting the swaddle when going on
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Disappearance of the startle (moro) reflex
  • Attempting to have hands free/up around their face when the swaddle is on

At what age will this happen?

While there is no set rule for the exact time to move through the transition from swaddle to arms-out sleeping, it is usually between 4-6 months of age but can sometimes start younger, from as early as 12 weeks.

Between 4-6 months babies outgrow the startle (moro) reflex. If your baby is not yet rolling and still swaddled, but is no longer startling this may also indicate it is time to transition from swaddling.

How to safely transition your baby to arms-out sleeping in a sleeping bag

You can either do the transition gradually or go cold turkey, whatever you feel most comfortable with!  It can cause a couple of unsettled nights while your little one adjusts, but it's usually no more than a few days - and sometimes it can actually improve baby's sleep as they get more comfortable with their arms free!

Once your baby is rolling on their own, if they independently roll on to their tummy in their sleep with their arms out of a swaddle, you do not need to roll them back.

What should I look for in a baby sleeping bag after swaddling?

Since babies spend so much time sleeping it's important to invest in the safest, most comfortable sleepwear.  Billie + Bobbie sleeping bags help to transition to arms-out with minimal sleep interruptions and maximum sleep comfort.

Sizing that lasts - it can be a minefield navigating this next step in your baby's sleep - don't disrupt your baby's routine by changing sleeping bag every few months to a bigger size!  Billie + Bobbie sleeping bags have adjustable sizing so they can be used from 3 months right up until 2 years.

Temperature-regulating - Merino Wool has temperature regulating properties which means that it is suitable for year round use - it responds to the environment keeping your baby cool when it's hot and warm when it's cold.  If you use regular TOG rated sleeping bags you will need to buy multiple sleeping bags to cover all the different temperature ranges.

The outcome is not only a more cost effective option, but also more environmentally friendly reducing contribution to landfill.

Our All Season Merino Wool Sleeping Bag is suitable for year round use and the clever sizing grows with your baby, meaning it will last you until your baby is approx 2 years old. You can buy 2 and save with our awesome sleeping bag bundles.

Hot tip: if your baby isn’t confidently rolling yet, give them lots of practice in the daytime – this helps them get into a comfortable position at night time!

Got a question that we haven’t covered?  Check out our FAQ here or you can email us at info@billieandbobbie.com and we will do our best to answer all your questions.

You've got this! x