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Breaking Free of the Swaddle

Breaking Free of the Swaddle

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

Since i know how much your boys loved the swaddle, I am hoping you can help with my question.

My daughter is 3 months and unless she falls asleep on you (which happens rarely and generally during feeding) she cannot fall asleep without the swaddle.

This, of course, is making me very fearful that once we can’t swaddle her any longer she will not sleep. This fear is compounded by the facts that a) she is already trying to turn over from back to front (in general she’s very active physically) and b) she is getting better and better at breaking the swaddle anyway.

At night we use the Miracle Blanket but she’s getting out of that by morning. In the past we’ve been using the SwaddleMe for naps but she’s breaking out of that super fast so I think now it will be the Miracle Blanket, unless she starts getting out of that even faster.

Anyway, I’d love to hear about how and when you “weaned” your boys off swaddling. I want to be prepared and maybe start implementing a post-swaddle bedtime ritual. My husband tried to get her to go down without it for a nap today– abject failure.


Advice Smackdown ArchivesThe full, honest truth: We only gave up the swaddle after Ezra learned to roll over on his stomach. Because he slept just fine unswaddled on his stomach.


The thing is, once your baby is rolling over independently, they roll over. And even the Back To Sleep campaign admits there’s no sense in parents constantly going in and flipping their baby back over. I mean, you can’t. Instead, you make sure that the crib sheets and pads are tight and well-fitting, and you take everything out of the crib. And while yes, back-sleeping is recommended for all babies under 12 months, a child’s individual risk of SIDs drops dramatically once they develop the head, neck and back strength needed for truly independent (and consistent) rolling over.

Three months old, though, is too young. The sort of strength I’m talking about is more of a four-to-six month development. Your daughter might be close to rolling over, but it’s probably still a rare occurrence rather than something she’s really mastered. And if she really really won’t sleep without swaddling, keep swaddling. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a four- or five- or six-month-old still being swaddled. Ezra was about…four-and-a-half months? Five? when we really and truly stopped swaddling, and we simply improvised ways to keep him happy and snug once he started breaking loose from our Miracle Blanket. Move past the fancy infant swaddle blankets and just get a nice big square blanket. Screw the velcro: Keep her in there with an Ace Bandage, masking tape, or duct tape wrapped around the outside of the blanket. (Dude, no lie — it’s Happiest Baby on the Block approved! And safer than risking the baby getting free and spending the night wiggling around in a loose blanket.) (Update: see the comments below for further explanation and discussion on this issue. As Amalah clarifies “Here’s what I didn’t make entirely clear and perhaps you’re picturing something far different than what I am: The trick is just to TAPE THE BLANKET SHUT, not actually BIND THE CHILD like a duct tape mummy. Think of it as back-up velcro.”)

But if you do want to wean her off the swaddle, try this: Pay attention to what arm tends to bust out first and leave that one free. If she tolerates this (and doesn’t punch herself in the face all night), you can try leaving both arms free after a couple nights — just tightly swaddle her torso from the armpits down. After a few weeks of this, a lot of babies lose the swaddle cold-turkey without any fuss. (And, like mine, relish the freedom to flip over while their mother quietly flips out over the sight of a face-down baby every night, but hey, sleep is sleep is sleep.) If you find that she hates the modified swaddle, though? Bust out the duct tape for now and try again in a month or two.

(Update: please look at this article Swaddling & SIDS: a Common Sense view on “That Study.” )



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Published June 16, 2010. Last updated March 12, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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