The answer is really up to your baby. Some babies seem to resist a swaddle from the beginning (However, we recommend trying a few different swaddle techniques like the one above or the Square swaddle before giving up altogether.) and their parents opt immediately for a sleepsack while others use the swaddle up to six months and beyond. Here are some clues to help you decide when is the best time for baby to make the switch.
- Baby’s hands and arms break through the swaddle consistently. It may just be that baby has outgrown the swaddle and is yearning for more mobility during naptime. You can try this tiny experiment suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to gauge if mobility is what your baby wants. Around 2–3 months, swaddle your baby with one arm out, making sure to keep the swaddle tight and all loose ends tucked in. If baby fusses and wakes from sleep consistently, then your baby is not ready to transition. She still prefers being snuggled up tight for now, you can try again in a month or two.
- Your baby begins to roll. According to UT Southwestern’s Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, a swaddle “should not be used once a baby begins trying to roll over.” Notice it doesn’t say “once a baby can roll.” This is important because imagine that a baby does manage to roll over while swaddled. Without her arms free, she wouldn’t be able to push herself up or roll back over, thereby increasing the risk of suffocation or SIDS.
- Your baby is a pro at tummy time. If baby is enjoying longer periods of tummy time and has strong neck and head control, this could be a sign that she is ready for more gross motor movement — an important step in learning to self soothe. She has outgrown her jerky Moro reflex and can enjoy arms-free sleep.
These signals can pop up anytime around two months but much later for some. After all, if there’s one thing you know as a parent, it’s that babies make the schedule, not you, not even science. Luckily, we offer sleepsack in a wide range of sizes from 0–6 months and up to three years old. A well-fitting sleep bag should fit snug enough around the neck that the material does not ride up over the airways and long enough so that the legs can kick, cross and bend freely.
In the end, swaddles and sleepsack serve a similar purpose which is to allow baby to sleep safe and warm but some babies prefer less movement. In that case, it is best to swaddle. But when baby is ready to be unbundled, using a sleepsack will give her the movement her growing muscles and bones need but the warmth and confinement she still finds soothing and safe.