Tinto logo

Swaddling: why and when to stop

Profile photo of the author
Liza Montanino
Paediatric sleep consultant

Why is swaddling a useful sleep tool?

Swaddling can be a great option because babies are born with a startle reflex (also known as the Moro reflex). You’ll probably have noticed this - your baby might randomly just throw their arms out, cry, and startle themselves awake. This can make it harder for your baby to fall asleep and lead to more frequent wakings. Annoying, right?

This reflex usually starts to disappear at around two months and is usually entirely gone by six months. Until then, swaddling can be a useful way of containing your little one’s arms and therefore startle reflex.

A proper swaddle will not only calm your baby’s startle reflex, but it will also soothe them if they’re fussy by creating a secure, tight space for them that mimics the feeling of being in the uterus.

A swaddle also helps to regulate your baby’s body temperature when they’re first born, before their circulatory system is more mature.

What if your baby hates swaddling?

All too often, parents tell me that their baby hates being swaddled. And this may be the case, but there are a few things to investigate before you stop swaddling altogether.

Generally, if a baby isn't happy in their swaddle, it means the swaddle isn't working as intended. A proper swaddle has a calming effect on babies! So if your little one is fussing and not able to settle once swaddled, it's more likely that the swaddle isn't tight enough, or that you may need to try another.

A proper swaddle should keep your baby's arms contained, be loose around their hips and legs to allow for movement, and provide a snug cocoon.

When should you stop swaddling?

According to safety guidelines, swaddling is no longer safe once your baby is showing signs of rolling, or has reached 12 weeks old, whichever comes first. At that point, it's time to switch to a sleep suit or sack!

Which product to go for?

There are so many different swaddles and sleep suits or sacks to choose from… it can be overwhelming. So here are a few of my favourites:

  • Miracle blanket (for newborns)
  • Love to dream (for newborns)
  • Merlin sleep suit (for 3-9 months)
  • Halo sleep sack (for 9+ months)