Monday, May 20, 2013

Mommy Mondays: S is for Swaddle

Last week Audrey asked for tips for weaning from the swaddle.  This is an area where I wasn't sure how much help I would be, until I stopped and realized how old Audrey's son is.  So I'll share our experience, with the caveat that we swaddled till Thatbaby was almost 6 months old, so I don't have a ton of advice for weaning earlier than that.

Thatboy and I have fantastic insurance.  One of the benefits of having fantastic insurance is the amount of free prenatal classes you get.  So we got to attend a weekend bootcamp about life with a newborn back when I was pregnant.  The class advocated Dr. Karp's "Happiest Baby on the Block" techniques.  I remembered hearing about the wonders of this book from Kim, who used the techniques with her daughter.   One of the techniques mentioned was swaddling, and our class worked with us, teaching us how to do it right.

The swaddle is supposed to help make babies feel more "womb-like" keeping them all bundled up as though they were still snug in mom's tummy.  And this helps them calm down.  It has the added benefit of helping with the "morro reflex" that startle reflex infants are born with that makes them "jump" themselves awake, or makes them wakeup when you try to lower them into the crib.  Basically, a swaddled baby is a happy baby that sleeps better.

We used the swaddle from the start - with either a blanket (Thatboy's preference) or the Halo Sleep Sack with Swaddle (my preference).  But you can't swaddle forever (trust me, I looked into it).  It becomes unsafe for an infant to not have use of his/her hands when they start rolling onto their stomach.

Luckily for us, Thatbaby never rolled.  No stomach to back, no back to stomach.  If you put him down, he'd stay there until you picked him up and moved him somewhere else. Which meant we didn't have to worry about stopping the swaddle for safety reasons.  Instead, we could wait it out a bit.  And wait it out we did. 

When Thatbaby started sitting at 5 months we tried to "break the swaddle" anticipating that rolling might come along with this and wanting him to have a little more arm freedom in the crib for pushing himself up.  But Thatbaby was not ready to stop.  Without the swaddle his morro reflex was still too strong.  He would wake up when trying to put him in the crib and/or wake up every 45 minutes during his sleep-transition cycle when he would startle himself awake.   So back in the swaddle he went.

At 6 months, we tried again.  Just a few short weeks later, and all of a sudden there were no issues with being unswaddled.  He'd fall asleep and stay asleep even with his arms free.  Like magic.  Based on that, I think that development played a lot into it.  He needed some more time, and thankfully we were able to give it to him.  So my advice on weaning from the swaddle is "If you can, wait and try again later."  Obviously, this isn't going to work for you if your baby is a rolling fool, or trying to sit up in the crib, or trying to climb out of the crib.  And if you fall into those categories, my guess would be that even unswaddled, with time/development your child will become easier, as their morro dissipates and their transitioning between sleep cycles gets better.  So my advice to those parents?  Same as with everything, remind yourself that this is just a phase and you WILL get through it. 


  1. Again and again I just love your take on parenting!

  2. Thanks for this! Funny you mention that Thatbaby sat on his own at 5 months and didn't roll - N is the same way! Just not into rolling. Unless I put my iPhone next to him, in which case he rolls to get it. Otherwise, not interested. We are using miracle blanket and have been trying to slowly wean. Legs out first. It's not going well, but it also may be because teething is getting ugly with both bottom and top ones pushing through. Anyway, I'm sleepy . . And obviously rambling

    1. I don't know if this will make it better or worse, but we never really stopped swaddling the legs. Even now he sleeps in a sleep sack, which keeps his legs fairly well contained.

  3. Mr. Ps sister had a baby two weeks ago.. It was funny seeing them trying to swaddle the first few times.. Not that we are experts.. We dont have kids yet, but everyone gets the hang of it eventually.

  4. I loved 'Happiest Baby on the Block' and I wish someone would swaddle me to bed. I'd probably sleep better lol :) ThatBaby... is ridiculously adorable!