Olive hit three big milestones all on the same day this week – she got her first tooth, we stopped swaddling her cold turkey, and she slept through the night (11 straight hours!).
As a sleep-deprived parent, the milestone I’m obviously most happy about is sleeping through the night. It didn’t happen due to any magical second time parent knowledge that I possess — Olive was just ready.
We’d been putting Olive in a full swaddle for all her naps and bedtime. But on Monday night, Olive didn’t want to be swaddled at bedtime so I put her in a sleep sack instead. Much to my amazement, she was still sleeping 5 hours later when I went to bed!
Olive typically sleeps in four hour stretches at night (5 if I’m lucky), and wakes up at 10pm, 2am and 6am for feedings. But that night she slept from 7:30pm – 6:30am, and only woke up because she pooped. I actually woke up before her at 5:30am and pumped because I was so engorged, all the while in disbelief that she was still sleeping!
I’ve read that you should stop swaddling your baby before 4 months of age because it can delay gross motor development like rolling over, since babies practice a lot of moving in their cribs. But Dr. Karp (of The Happiest Baby on the Block fame) says that swaddling your baby at 8, 9, 10 months of age is fine as long as they’re sleeping well.
I definitely wanted to stop swaddling Olive before she started rolling over because I was afraid she’d get stuck on her stomach if she rolled over while swaddled. Olive just turned 4 months old, but is 3 months adjusted. Since Charlie didn’t start rolling over from back to stomach in his crib until he was 4 1/2 months old, and Olive has been much slower in hitting physical milestones, I wasn’t too worried yet. But I knew weaning her off the swaddle was looming in the very near future.
There are a lot of parents who continue to swaddle for an extended period of time because their babies sleep better swaddled, and I can understand why. If your baby is sleeping through the night swaddled, why mess with a good thing?
Olive definitely slept better swaddled as a newborn, but I didn’t recognize when she was ready to stop being swaddled. The first sign was that she has been able to chew on her hands for the past two months. Being able to suck on their fingers is a big method of self-soothing for many babies (Charlie’s was chewing on his sleeve), and the point at which many parents stop swaddling.
The second sign was that Olive didn’t like being swaddled anymore. When she was younger, she’d wake up when she broke out of her swaddle. Now that she was older and stronger, she could break out of her swaddle if she wanted to, but would often continue sleeping. So I didn’t think swaddling her was making her sleep any worse; I was worried that her sleep might get worse without the swaddle! But while she could easily break her right arm out of the swaddle, she sometimes had her left arm still swaddled. Struggling to free her arm was probably disrupting her sleep more than helping it.
I’m lucky that we were just able to go cold turkey with the swaddle. So far it doesn’t seem to have affected her naps, so the transition has been a big success! With Charlie we’d been swaddling him with his arms out, so weaning him off the swaddle when he was 4 1/2 months when we sleep trained was very easy.
While we went cold turkey with the swaddle for both Charlie and Olive (and I think babies are a lot more adaptable than we give them credit for), a lot of parents ease babies out of the swaddle by leaving one arm swaddled for a couple of days, then leaving both arms out but the body swaddled for a couple of days, and then getting rid of the swaddle altogether. Or you can tuck both arms inside a sleep sack, then leave out one arm, and then leave both arms out.
When did you stop swaddling, and how did you know that your baby was ready to stop being swaddled?