Transitioning 5 Month Old from Sleep Swaddle

Updated on April 08, 2008
G.M. asks from Fairfax, VA
19 answers

We have swaddled our 5 month old son for naps and night time sleep since he was two weeks old and it has worked out great. He has gotten too big and strong for the swaddle and now breaks free so we decided it was time to stop swaddling. The reason we continued to swaddle him for as long as we have is that when he is falling asleep he gets restless and moves his arms and hands around, scratches his head, rubs his eyes, and pulls out his pacifier. Last night was the first night without the swaddle and I rocked him to sleep while holding his arms. I don't want to have to rock him to sleep every night.
I wanted to know if other parents have experience transitoning baby from a swaddle and what to expect, how to ease the transistion, how long it will take, etc. Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all your responses! We decided to go "cold turkey" without the swaddle and use a sleep sack and put him in his crib awake. The first night he woke up two times, and every night since he has slept the night through. All your responses were so supportive and it was encouraging to know that other moms have been through the same situation.

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S.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Personally, I would let him work it out. Definitely don't "hold" his arms. He will eventually learn to use his hands for self-soothing techniques. If he starts fussing, go in, rub his back and talk softly. It will work out. Good luck!

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C.F.

answers from Washington DC on

My now-7 month old had a similar issue - her flailing arms would wake her up. So we transitioned her from the swaddle like this: we simulated it by tucking rolled-up recieving blankets against her body (from her armpits to her thighs) and then tucking a blanket snugly around her arms and under the rolled up recieving blankets to keep them snug up against her. She would work her arms loose over the night as she flailed, so she was gradually sleeping more and more of the night with her arms loosely covered. Then we started leaving one arm loose when we first put her down, then both loose (while still wrapping her legs). We used the Halo and other sleep sacks as well.
We found it was a good transition for her arms, to avoid that reflex startle waking her up.

Good Luck!

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A.Q.

answers from Washington DC on

My almost 7 month old son went through the same exact thing. We started swaddling him with one arm left out, then both, then before we knew it he was used to it and we could put him to bed not being swaddled. The other thing that did was put him in one of those sleeping bags...it's like a onesie that has no legs, it's just a bag? Anyways, you can buy them online but tough to find them in the stores now. That seemed to help too and also meant we still didn't need to use blankets. GOOD LUCK!!

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T.O.

answers from Washington DC on

Hello G. you might find a speaker that we are having Thursday evening helpful.
Kim West, “The Sleep Lady”
Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
Our Savior Lutheran Church
13611 Laurel Bowie Rd. (Rte 197)
Laurel, Maryland 20708

KIM WEST is a mother of two and a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) who has been a practicing child and family social worker for more than thirteen years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past ten years she has helped more than a thousand tired parents learn to listen to their intuition, recognize their child’s important cues and behaviors, and gently create changes that promote and preserve his or her healthy sleep habits.

West has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Child, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today and the Washington Post. West hosts the sleep section of The Newborn Channel, played in maternity wards in hospitals across the country.

ADVANCED REGISTRATION $10, $15 AT THE DOOR.
FOR INFO CALL : ###-###-#### OR ###-###-####
Email: [email protected]____.com

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J.G.

answers from Washington DC on

We started using a sleep-sack rather than swaddling. There was a short adjustment period, but our son pretty much figured it out on his own. We also stopped putting him down with a pacifier around 5 months (although I know every kid is different with pacifiers -- ours wasn't all that crazy about them to begin with)

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M.S.

answers from Charlottesville on

Hi,
I had to chuckle at your question, only just because we have been there! What we did is put her in a sleep sack and to give her a blankie to sleep with. This seemed to help, although then she got attached to her sleep sack so much that we just got rid of the x-large one at the age of two and a half! But hey whatever it takes to get a good night sleep! We really tried to keep our night time routine the same every night so she would get used to winding down for sleep. I think it is a good idea to put him down even if he fusses for a little while, he will learn how to sooth himself to sleep, although I know that is easier said then done sometimes.

Best of luck!

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A.T.

answers from Washington DC on

We've swaddled both our kids. My son is almost 6 months and he is still swaddled for daytime naps, it's the only way he'll sleep! To wean them off we always started with one arm free for a few days or a week, then took the other arm out for a while, then took the swaddle away completely. If he doesn't do well, he might still benefit from the swaddle. A lot of people say that this is to old to swaddle a baby but it doesn't hurt them, if it still gives them comfort than why not? My daughter was swaddled until she was 7 months old!!

D.M.

answers from Seattle on

That is so funny, my youngest son was the same way. We swaddled him, no kidding, until he was like 7 months old. Sounds pretty silly, but for the same reasons you mentioned above. He just wasn't sleeping well because he would just fling his arms all around, and pull his binky out, and scratch and whatever else he could to keep him from falling asleep or wake up. I think we just started wraping him looser and looser, untill we were just putting him to be awake and letting him fall asleep on him own, as long as you know he's ready to sleep, he should. It is hard, I know, especially if they cry and fuss, but it is something they are having to get used to as well, so give him time. My son did eventually get used to being "free". It wasn't a long period of time at all, maybe a couple of weeks. Just make sure his fingernails are always cut short, so he dosen't hurt himself by scratching my son would always do this). And just hang in there, what may seeem like a hard thing to get over now, will be a very small bump in the road later on, you'll wonder why it was a transition at all. God Bless!

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B.R.

answers from Washington DC on

We swaddled my son for what seemed like forever, but it was what he needed to feel secure to sleep!! We actually had to wean him out of the swaddle, because when we took it off cold turkey, there was no getting him to sleep at all. (obviously, the poor guy had been used to it for so long!!) So we started with swaddling all but leaving his right arm out, and did that for about 4 days, then we took both arms out and only swaddled his legs for about 4 days. Then we starting utilizing the sleep sacks. It gradually got him used to sleeping without needing to be swaddled, and worked like a charm for us!

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi G.,

My friend gave me a great blanket called The Miracle Blanket for swaddling. It actually is sort of like a mini-straight jacket because it restrains the arms first and then wraps the rest around him (sounds scary, but it works great!) or maybe a nicer way to describe it, is that he looks like a little burrito. It keeps my son swaddled without kicking out of it so he can sleep better all night. He cried the first couple of times for a few seconds and then immediately fell asleep! I think you can only buy them online.

We only use this at night because I don't think it's healthy for their development to keep them tightly bound too many hours a day (I read that 8 hours a day is max), so during naps we sometimes use the sleepsack with mittens (so his hands stay warm and he doesn't scratch himself)

D.S.

answers from Allentown on

Hi G.,

The baby will be fine unswaddled. Contact your pediatrician and/or his nurse and let them know your concerns. That is their job to reassure you.

Good luck. D.

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P.K.

answers from Washington DC on

I am a mom of 4 boys. 6,4,2, 8month with Down syndrome. I have always put my children in pj's appropriate for the season put them in the crib and walked away. If they cried it was only for a short while, I would check on them to make sure they were okay once they were asleep. There maybe a stuffed animal or two in the crib, no bumbers and if it was cold I would drap a small blanket. P.

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J.K.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi G.,
We swaddled our son until he was around 4 months and that was the only way he would go to sleep because he needed the extra comfort and security. Around 4 months he started rolling over and would sleep on his belly so the swaddle was no longer needed.
We rocked him to sleep and still do to this day (he is now 9 months). Rocking was the only thing that got him to sleep, if we put him in his crib awake but drowsy he would cry and fuss. It used to take a while to get him to sleep while rocking him but now it takes about 10 minutes of rocking and he is out light a light. My advice is to continue rocking him if he still needs it, he will outgrow it before you know it.

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S.R.

answers from Norfolk on

hi! we swaddled our son forever. he seemed to need the secure feeling of being wrapped up tightly for bed. if he is not redy to sleep without being swaddled the just get bigger blankets! i ended up using a twin sheet that we cut down to size. if he is ready then you shouldn't have to hold his arms down. by the time my son was ready he was rolling over and chose to sleep on his belly. this keeps their little limbs all tucked in too. i would just keep doing what works. he'll let you know when it's time to stop.

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A.F.

answers from Washington DC on

It's been my experience that they just have to outgrow the flailing arms thing. Now that he's 5 mos old, he's over the newborn "startle reflex," but he's still not used to his arms b/c they've been tucked away for so long. If you truly think he's ready to stop being swaddled, it just might take a few days (dare I say weeks?) for him to get used to it.

My daughter started rolling over at 4 mos, and at that point I got rid of the swaddle. She still pulls her binkie out when she gets fussy, and sometimes she flails her arms around, but she is getting better control. I dont' usually rock her to sleep at all. I just put her down in the crib when she's close to sleeping, and she generally falls asleep. Sometimes I do have to cuddle with her for awhile. Not all babies are the same, however, and if your son is used to being held, it might not be that easy -- I understand.

Try transitioning him first at naptime, when you are awake and it won't ruin your night to have to keep replacing the binkie, or otherwise soothing him back to sleep when he wakes up. Once he masters napping swaddle-free, you can move on to nighttime.

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K.L.

answers from Norfolk on

We swaddled our son. We just kept doing it and when he "broke free" he broke free and continued to sleep. I think we stopped when he started rolling over. And we just Stopped. That was it. His next issue was the cold bed. Since he wasnt being swaddled he could feel the coolness of the bed. So when he would fall asleep on us we'd have a receiving blanket w/ us and we would lay that down on the cold sheet and then lay him on top...it was already warm for him. That seemed to work well. He needed that for about a couple of months.

ps: i just read the following replies down below and had a thot come to mind. its funny but i think we do alot of things for our kids to make them comfy...but we continue to do them to make ourselves feel better. kids adjust better than we do for the most part. sure they may fuss a bit, but they get over it and move on and have no memory of it. so as your child grows thru stages and changes his likes and dislikes ask yourself along the way :"am i doing this for me to make me feel like a good mom or whatever or because he "needs" this?"... hopefully that will help you go thru adjustments w/ a little more peace of mind to trust yourself and what you decide for your child. :)

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J.G.

answers from Norfolk on

My son would not sleep unless he was swaddled. At around 6 months we started to just swaddle one arm and then at 7 months we stopped swaddling both arms. Now he sleeps just fine unswaddled. I bought him the Swaddle Me Blanket by Kidopatumus (it comes in a size large). I was all stressed about how long to swaddle him for too and how to "wean" him from it but he just wasn't ready at 5 months and when he was it just worked. The nice thing about swaddling was I never had to worry about him being cold at night.

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R.B.

answers from Norfolk on

We actually used the Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe (Babies R Us, Amazon.com) until our LO was 7 months old. I think she was about 6 months old when we just stopped wrapping her arms up in it, but kept her legs in it (so it covered her up to her armpits). I know some other folks who swaddled their daughter until she was 8 months old. Heck, if it works, go for it!

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K.M.

answers from Norfolk on

I went from a Kiddapotamus to a SleepSack and it went pretty smoothly. I've done that for both of my kiddos and they knew that when I put the SleepSack on, it was bedtime. I think it still makes them feel somewhat swaddled and secure. My son is 7 months and for a few nights, I didn't use the sack....he slept horribly. So I went and bought a larger size and he's sleeping like a champ again. Good luck. Also, if you have a Kiddapotomus, try just wrapping it around his body and leaving his arms out...if you haven't already tried it. This is a good transition.

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