I get asked this question by parents all the time. First off, there really isn't a "Right" time to stop swaddling. You just want to make sure that your baby is not swaddled unless they are sleeping. You know that the baby is ready when they are able to reach up and purposefully grab an object and bring it back to themselves. Then you can move them into a sleep sack to sleep. Now if your baby is not getting out of their swaddle and it still helps them to sleep better, you can swaddle as long as you need. I have families swaddle anywhere from 4 months up to 9 months. You just want to make sure that they are active and un-swaddled when they are awake.
Now that we have discussed why swaddling is important, the next step for parents is learning how to swaddle their baby. There are many options out there for new parents to try when it comes to swaddling blankets and they really make swaddling easy. Our favorite here at NNfN is the Miracle Blanket, it fits all size babies so you can use this as long as the baby or you need. This really is the best $30 investment you can make for peaceful nights. I can't reiterate enough how important swaddling is, especially because a newborn cannot control their reflexes until they are 4-5 months old. The main objection that most parents relay to me is that their baby likes/needs their arms out. It is important to understand that babies don't even know that they have arms at this early stage. When you swaddle them, they feel safe and secure and therefore they will sleep better because their arms aren't startling them awake. So parents, please try swaddling your newborns and see how it goes. I promise you, both you and your baby will be better rested. Next we will discuss when it is time to stop swaddling and move on to a sleep sack.
We work with a lot of families and we find that they have different opinions on swaddling their newborns. Why do we think it is important to swaddle babies at Night Nannies for Newborns? First of all, babies come from a tight, enclosed, warm space in their mommy's womb when they are born. Then they are thrust into trying to adjust to this wide open, cold and strange environment. Why do we expect that this transition is easy for them? We find that the swaddle really does soothe the baby and help them get some much needed rest. Secondly, babies have minimal control over their reflexes until they are around 4 months old. They startle easily and tend to jerk and twitch, which not only wakes them up but scares them. Often times you will see your sound asleep baby wake up crying due to this. Obviously, we feel the swaddle keeps them from startling themselves awake. Of course we always respect the wishes of the family, but we would like to encourage that you at least give swaddling a try. We think you will find that not only will your baby get some much needed rest, but so will you.
One of the most frequent questions that my clients ask is, how long will it take before their baby will sleep through the night? Usually we give them an estimate on what to expect, somewhere between 12-16 weeks for a healthy baby when working with one of our highly trained night nannies. But really, so much depends on what the family does during the day in conjunction with what the night nanny is doing at night. If you truly want your baby to sleep at night, you have to make sure to feed your baby every three hours during the day and ensure they are gettting sufficient and regular naps. The more that your baby is able to eat in the day, the less that they will need to eat at night. The same goes for sleep, sleep begets sleep, so an overtired baby will not sleep well at night. A little work on the families part goes a long way to getting your baby sleeping through the night!