How to wean off your swaddle

Baby James was 9 months old when his mum called us, she was beside herself with exhaustion. He was waking through the night almost hourly, and mum felt she was stuck in a rut.

James was still swaddled in a love to dream swaddle, and although these definitely provide more movement than say a miracle blanket, he had definitely developed a sleep association with the swaddle and now needed to learn to sleep without it.

Mum had tried when James was younger to wean the swaddle, and almost every 2 weeks since he turned 4 months old she gave it another go. She would swap him into a sleeping bag and try patting him instead of swaddling him. But, she felt James got so upset that there was no way he would settle to sleep, and mum felt there was no way she could get him to sleep. Thus, he remained swaddled.

Mum had become increasingly concerned he would roll over in his bed swaddled and so she had bought a safety sleep to keep him in one place too. When I observed James sleeping in his love to dream and his safety sleep, it was quickly apparent to me that he was frustrated by the lack of movement and wanted to roll over.

I explained to mum that the love to dream had become a sleep prop at this age, like rocking or a dummy, only there was no way he could learn to find and replace his own swaddle!

The swaddle was both hindering his sleep, but he was hooked on it, and the way mum had tried to wean it was not suitable, as he had outgrown that settling technique around 5 months ago. The patting was too disruptive and engaging.

I coached mum through some sleep training and we taught James to self settle without his swaddle and without his safety sleep. He quickly decided he preferred to tummy sleep and slept that way 12 hour a night!

If you are still swaddling your baby and wondering how to wean off or wean to wean off? These quick tips might help.

  1. Start thinking about weaning off the swaddle after 4 months, and no later than 6 months.
  2. You can try one arm out for a few days before progressing to both arms out.
  3. Give each stage 3 days if you are weaning under 6 months.
  4. Over 6 months you might find cold turkey removing the swaddle better.
  5. If you try too young and your baby still has a startle reflex, just re-swaddle and try again in 2 weeks.

If you would like to know about other sleep milestones and when to wean off other sleep props, down load our FREE Baby Sleep Map right HERE.