Help Breaking the Swaddle

Updated on June 30, 2008
S.C. asks from Lincoln, CA
25 answers

My daughter is 7 months 3 weeks and we still swaddle her. We have been swaddling her in her crib since day 1 from the hospital. We lucked out and she has always been a good sleeper. I have never nursed or bottle fed her to sleep. She eats at least an hour before bed or any of her naps. Unfortunately she and I are addicted to swaddling. I litterally swaddle her and she is out in about 3 minutes. She is always awake when I put her in the crib but easliy puts herself to sleep as long as she is swaddled. About a month and a half ago she started breaking out of the swaddle multiple times a night. As long as I went in and reswaddled her she would go right back to sleep. Then I got the miracle blanket -she can no longer break out- but she is so big she can flip herself over while swaddled which causes a suffocation hazard because her arms are restrained. Anyhow I am looking for other responses on how other parents broke their childeren of the swaddle and I am specifically looking for responses from parents whose kids were 6 months or older and still being swaddled. So far I have tried the sleep sack, no blanket, thin blanket, blankets rolled up on the side like a wedge etc, putting her on her stomach. In all of these scenarios she immediately rolls onto her stomach but will not put her head down to go to sleep. She holds herself up and cries. It is like the mattress is on fire and she cannot put her head down on it. I have gone up to an hour and a half with these different methods with no luck of her falling asleep or even getting close, I have gone in to check on her for short intervals etc. I just bought the Ferber book and am going to give it a go in about two weeks - I need a 3 day weekend. I work full time and need to be able to function. Bringing her into bed with me is a no go. Any advice????????

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So What Happened?

Hi All,

I just want to thank everyone who responded with such great suggestions. I am also feeling a lot better knowing that I am not the only mom who has had to deal with this problem. So yesterday armed with all these great suggestions I took the plunge and used the Ferber Method. I put her in a short sleeve onsie and a sleep sack. I started with a nap - I didn't want to start with bed time as that is my weakest time and felt that I would probably give up faster because I would want to go to sleep. Let her cry for three minutes - which was pretty painfull - I have a video monitor so I just turned the volume down and watched it to make sure she wasn't throwing up or anything. Went in after three minutes and flipped her back onto her back and she calmed down until I walked back out. Waited another 5 minutes - went back it and said shhhh shhh shhhh and walked back out. I was going to wait for eight minutes and she fell asleep by 6 minutes. Seriously it was the best moment of my life. She slept for an hour and a half on her stomach.

The best part was is that besides swaddling her I was using a lot of other props - sleep sheep, small soft blanket -lovie, and the pacifier. Which I think are great but was also concerned that they woud cause her to wake up more or be a hazard in the crib. (i.e. the binky falling out, her putting her face into the blanket - the sleep sheep turning off and then her waking up to silence and freaking out. I did not use any of them and she still slept. I gave her the binky and she spit it out and just started sucking her thumb - I have never seen her suck her thumb before so it was kind of funny but what ever. My goal was to break the swaddle and I feel like a huge cloud has lifted.

Again thank you all for the great advice. I also think that she was just ready for me to make a change now - I had tried to do a similar cry it out method before and it didn't work.

I also wanted to answer some questions that people left about what exactly I was previously doing. She was sleeping on her back the whole night through swaddled - I was not using a sleep positioner or anything to keep her on her back - that is just how she slept. We keep our house at 68 degrees because we did not want her to overheat being wrapped up. She only flipped onto her stomach twice when she woke up in the morning and we didn't go in and get her fast enough and then she started screaming. I would never leave my child swaddled and sleeping on her stomach. We have plenty of tummy time during the day - she does the army crawl constatly. I also talked to my Dr about swaddling to make sure I was not hindering her development etc - I had two Dr's and three Dr's assistants in the office tell me she was advanced as far as her physical development and that if she likes to sleep being swaddled then to just keep doing it she will let me know when she is ready for a change.

My whole purpose for posting was to get some more ideas on how to break this habit. This was something that I as a parent wanted to change and felt my child was physically and emotionally ready to change. I personally am not a Dr but I don't see anything wrong with swaddling an older baby if that is what works for you. I have read about childeren having more long term problems from not getting enough sleep than I have from being swaddled for a long period of time.

Good luck to everyone else who is in my boat!

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R.S.

answers from Sacramento on

My 3rd child loved to be swaddled and a friend of mine had the same issue. We eased out of the swaddling by leaving one arm free for a few days and then leaving the other arm free and then a few days later, not using the miracle blanket at all. Good luck!

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S.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Dr. Ferber's method is amazing....the best part of the book is that he arms you with CONFIDENCE and knowledge! Anyway, my son loved being swadled but was breaking out so what I did was leave both arms out and only swaddled his legs and torso...it took a few naps, but eventually he adjusted and then you remove it all together. Good Luck

S.

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M.L.

answers from Sacramento on

I swaddled both my boys for a long time. Eventually I started swaddling with their arms out, then gave it up all together. Maybe that will help you with the transition? Good luck...

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A.K.

answers from San Francisco on

We started to wean our daughter off the swaddle when she was 4 and a half months (basically when she started to roll over.) What I did was swaddle her (we used a simple flannel blanket) from the chest down with her arms out (first just one arm then after a few days both.) Over time we lowered the swaddle so that eventually it was just her pelvis and legs that would get wrapped tight. Then I moved on to a fake swaddle where I would fold the blanket diagonally and lay it over her lower body (point down) and tightly tuck it in around her waist and hips. Now she sleeps with just a light afghan over her legs if it’s cool or no blanket at all.

Good luck

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E.E.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

It sounds like you are doing just about everything right by putting her to bed awake and feeding her awhile before bed. Have you read Baby Wise (On Becoming Baby Wise, by Buchnam and Ezzo)?

Okay, there is a way but it isn't pleasant. Let her fuss it out. Swaddle her when you initially put her down if you must (it will take longer this way) but if she breaks out of it let her fuss herself back to sleep. It sounds like the swaddle has become a bit of a sleep prop. Most babies have to learn the skill of falling asleep on their own. Swaddling is meant mostly for the first three months to keep them warm and to keep them from jerking themselves awake. After three months it is no longer needed and it becomes sort of a way of manipulating their sleep. She will cry, I'm not going to sugar-coat it. She will probably cry quite a bit. BUT if you hang in there and let her work it out she WILL learn to fall asleep on her own. For faster results cut her off cold-turkey :-)

I hope this is helpful!

E.

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C.B.

answers from Sacramento on

My son is 5 months old and we still swaddle. He wakes up with his legs and arms out (we use the swaddle me blanket with the velcro). He has slept without the swaddle, but I do admit, he doesn't sleep as long. Like you, I am more attached to the swaddle more than the baby. I think I will try the one arm out method and go from there. That is what is recommended in the Happest Baby on the Block book too.

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C.L.

answers from Fresno on

I can believe you are still swaddling an almost 8 month old. This is the longest I have ever heard anyone do this. I swaddled my daughter everynight for about 3 months (max) and then she wanted out of it. At 8 months old they should be free to move around (roll) and crawl around in their crib.

V.R.

answers from Sacramento on

My son never liked the swaddle, but I had a friend who did swaddle for an extended length of time. Just with anything else & wee ones, they had to "wean" him off the swaddle. So, a little bit at a time should do the trick without having major withdrawl or too many sleepless nights. Try just one arm out or a hand or something first. For like a week. Then keep going with other body parts being loose from the swaddle. Or even loosening the swaddle itself so she's still technically swaddled, just not so constricted.

The key to sucess with change & children is consistency. Devise a gameplan, a time schedule & stick with it! Good luck - that's great that she's such a great sleeper, too. But my guess is that her sleeping patterns will definitely change with the removal of the swaddle. Not that she can't go back to what she is now, but just be ready for a change.

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S.J.

answers from San Francisco on

I think swaddling is wonderful, and I swaddled my girl until she was 5 1/2 months old. She too began "breaking free" from the swaddle during naps and at night. I was worried that she'd never sleep as well without the swaddling, but my inner gut said I had to begin breaking the habit anyway... Of course her startle reflex was long gone.
The bottom line is that all turned out well and it didn't take long to break the swaddle habit and still have her sleep great. I started by swaddling everything but one arm. After a few nights, I swaddled only her lower half and left both arms out. Then, eventually (actually when the weather got warmer) I just put her down in some warmer pajamas and let her be.
She continued to sleep well during naps and nighttime. I kept my other routines with her (reading one book, praying before bed, etc.), so she seemed to know that it was time to sleep. She's 2 1/2 years old now and still a great sleeper.

I hope this is helpful and encouraging. Good luck!

S. J.

C.L.

answers from San Francisco on

My son is almost 10 months old and is still swaddled. There are nights that I try not to swaddle him. When that happens, majority of the time, he's either sitting up or standing his crib with a big smile on his face. It's hard not to get frustrated. So I'm kind in the same boat with you. Currently we only swaddle with one arm that way he has semi freedom and he's able to roll around on his own, still use a sleepsac, pacifier and a lovie (blankie). I'm probably using way too much as it is but it's hard. So during the night, with all of these, he's mostly asleep either on his side or on his tummy. At least with one arm out, he's able to lift his head if he needs to. So all I or we can do really is just keep trying and hope that they will break out of the habit. I really need to though to get him out of his especially if he's going to be one year old. Could you imagine a one year old being swaddled. Sorry I don't have very good advice but just wanted to let you know that I'm in the same boat as you and I'll keep you posted on how things go.

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S.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

What's wrong with swaddling? My son, his father and I, we did love it, but we stopped beffore his 6 months; the blankets were getting too small for a really big breastfed baby and he was moving a lot- which is fine.
Now he's a beautiful healthy 3 years old boy.
I see another question in your request; how can your daughter stays on her back asleep?
I don't believe babies who are moving around can stay on their back for an entire night. So either you have to put her on her back when she rolls over- and how do you do this if you're asleep or not with her ? or just leaves her on her belly. You're probably fear about SIDS, and who doesn't, but your daughter needs to know how to be on her belly for her own development.
If you're willing to leave your baby who's past 6 months asleep on her belly, maybe she needs to be used to when she's awake.
Does she play on her belly during the day? Do you spend time with her laying down on you, belly to belly? This is very important for her to build up the strength to move forward, backwards, sit down and eventually get up and try her first steps around 1 year.
I'm a mother as well as a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator, and I know how tough it can be to have a baby. I remember how tired I used to be, but whatever you do, enjoy your little one; babies grow so fast!

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Y.V.

answers from Sacramento on

try this - one night swaddle, but keep one arm free, perhaps the right arm. Next night - swaddle, but keep the left arm free this time. Alternate the free arm over the course of a few nights. If she does well - then try both arms free. Once she does well with both arms free, then take the bold step of the sleep sack.
Good luck - I hope this works for you - this is how I got my son to get loose from the swaddle!
-Y. w/3 year old son, in Carmichael

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C.S.

answers from San Francisco on

My oldest daughter loved to be swaddled, too. She was probably 8 or 9 months old when I started to "worry" that she was too old, but her pediatrician was fine with it. When she started to roll over, I started to just swaddle one arm in, leaving one out so she could get used to the "freedom." After a few days like this I began to just swaddle her legs. It totally gave her the tightness she was comfortable with, but also allowed her to be able to use her arms when she would roll herself over. I think she slept like this for a few more months. And, even to this day (she is 5 1/2), she likes to have her blanket wrapped around her no matter how hot it is. She just likes to feel wrapped up.

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P.R.

answers from San Francisco on

My daughter loved to be swaddled too. I would wrap her in a big pink really soft fabric I bought by the yard at the fabric store. She loved it. Then when it time to stop swaddling she would sleep tucked under the big pink blanket over her. Now the big pink blanket is cut up into 8 little squares and she drags her 'pinky' around with her all day everywhere just like Linus. When she is sad she gets her pinky, and when she is cared and needs a good 'suck'. So the lesson here for me was to transfer her feelings of safety from being tightly swaddled to identifying more with what she was swaddle din. Because pinky was so soft and tactile, that was easy.

My sister also taught me a trick to help kids go to sleep on their own. For whatever reason if they can't go back to sleep/ can't go to sleep, sit quietly next to their crib and stay there til she falls asleep. Having you there helps them feel safe. The idea is to coax them to that place of feeling safe. Maybe you'll need to put your arms through the crib to hold her hand and soother her gently. Every night move your chair a little farther away from the crib, and stay for shorter and shorter times. Took one week with my first child.

Best of luck in tracking down that sleep genie!

Regards
P.

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

My son was the same way. He insisted on being swaddled until he was about 9 months old. He literally would test the blanket to make sure we had made it tight enough. If he could wiggle free he'd fuss, if we had gotten it tight enough, he'd smile and go to sleep. We only used a blanket since none of the specialty items were available at that time. One day he just decided he was done with the swaddling. There was no warning or leading up to it, he just stopped wanting it. I wish I hadn't worried so much about it in hindsight because it worked itself out just fine. I would suggest you do what you feel comfortable with and whatever works to get both of you the maximum amount of sleep. I never let my son sleep in my bed. He is now 9 and a great sleeper. You will get through this soon, stay the course and know you are doing right by your child.

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V.E.

answers from San Francisco on

My name is V. and my daughter India is 5 mos old and we are in the same position. When swaddled, she goes down easy at 8 pm, gets up once at 430 am then sleeps till 630-7. Trying to ween her with one arm out and now she's up twice at night and I have to nurse her down. I am working with a sleep specialist who I'm going to consult regarding this issue. I have a feeling it's going to be Ferber-esque, who I do like. I will let you know the feed back I get from her. I too am worried about her flipping over...
Not sure how I contact you after this email....
-Veroncia
[email protected]____.com

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

The exact thing happened to us. We were addicted to the miracle blanket. At about 6-7 mounths we went to the sleep sack cold turkey, starting in the day with naps. She didn't sleep well for the first few days but was so tired by night time that she slept OK. The only problem we had is at daycare (3 days a week) they still swaddle her. She never sleeps well there anyhow, but she really likes her crib and falling to sleep on her own now (she's 9 months). It just took a little time for her to get use to it. Now it's fun to go in in the morning and she pops her head up and smiles "Good Morning Mom". Good luck!

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B.L.

answers from San Francisco on

Bite the bullet and stop swaddling now. Your child needs to learn to put herself to sleep without it.

Congrats on feeding an hour before bedtime and naptime so she is not used to falling asleep while eating. That is a big mistake that alot of moms make. Good work on that but the swaddling must come to an end.

Do it gradually and it should be fine. With summer here, you also do not want to overheat an infant and swaddling can certainly do that. It can be dangerous on hot days.

Good luck and let us know how thngs worked out.

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J.S.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi S.,

We tranistioned our son out of the swaddle at a little over 5 months, so a little younger than your daughter. He was an extrememly fussy baby for the first 3 months (day and night), so I was sure he'd need to be swaddled until he went to kindergarten! I used to swaddle him and nurse him to sleep. The first night we left one arm out (we used the Swaddle Me). He didn't fall asleep nursing, so we used other techniques to soothe him to sleep. The next night he fell asleep nursing with one arm out. After a week or so, we swaddled with both arms out. Again, the first night he didn't fall right to sleep, but the next night he did. We did that for a week or two before switching to the sleep sack. He continues to sleep well in the sleep sack, and we even broke the nursing to sleep habit. :) You might have a few rough nights as you transition out of it, but I'd give it a try.
Best of luck!
Jennifer

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C.K.

answers from San Francisco on

Hmmm, have you tried singing to her while holding her on her stomache ( or back) in your arms, rocking her back and forth? she might cry for a little bit, even sometimes just as she might go to sleep. Also, something that works for me is making my breathing very audible, as if I was asleep, and breathing with her while holding her or while she is lying down and her breathing will eventually pick up the pace with yours and might fall asleep.
works for me.
good luck!

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T.S.

answers from Sacramento on

S.,
Our son was a swaddle addict as well! Starting at about 3 months he would actually "sign" that he was tired by pulling his arms in across his chest!

We actually continued swaddling him using the miracle blanket until he was about a year. We just got one of those "sleep positioners" and it kept him on his back.

When we finally stopped swaddling (had a vision of a 7 year old being wrapped in a bed sheet) we started by swaddling with arms out. He still got that tight feeling but his arms were free. Honestly though, we went though a couple of months of bad sleep. Not falling asleep quickly, waking up in the night, it was difficult. By then he had some language skills though, so it was easier to explain to him what we were doing.

HTH
T.

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A.K.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't recall how old my kids were when I stopped swaddling, but know I did it for quite some time. I did it gradually. I started by just leaving one arm out. When they got used to that I left both arms out, still swaddling just around the body under the arms. Finally, after they were used to the arms free I switched to a sleep sack.

Good luck!

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H.H.

answers from Sacramento on

I don't have great advice on how to wean your baby from a swaddle, except to do it in stages. First leave one arm out, then the other, then swaddle to the waist and then take it away completely. I'm not sure if this is true or not (you may want to do a little research), but I have heard that extended swaddling is not good for proper hip development. You may want to ask your pediatrician for the facts. Good luck!

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M.L.

answers from Sacramento on

Hello- right around 8 months we took the plunge and stopped swaddling. Before then, our son sounded just like your daughter. Had to be swaddled. We started with swaddling him below his underarms to give him the feeling of security still. The first night was awful, up every 2 hours, but we decided to push on. The next night, he slept straight through the night just like usual!! Because it got hotter, the next week we just stopped any blanket at all except a small one for him to hold- no problem. He's 9.5 months now and is sleeping great.
It was a hard jump to make but I have to say he surprised me.
Good luck!

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M.S.

answers from Sacramento on

I too had the addicted to swaddle little guy, he is now 4. Try a small weighted blanket or I saw a great device in a preemie magazine - it is shaped like a hand, and has something heavy (not too heavy) in it to simulate a hand on the back of the baby.

Some children with special needs require weighted vests, etc. to provide pressure - so any place like that may have options that you could use for sleep that are not hazards.

I used to roll up receiving blankets and put on either side of him to provide extra support.

Blessings.

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