Q: My daughter is 15 weeks old. My husband and I stopped swaddling her at about four weeks, but when we moved her out of her bassinet to her crib at eight weeks, we realized that she still needed to be swaddled to sleep. Without it, she doesn't stay asleep because she flails her arms and pulls her hair. I'm using a velcro swaddler so she doesn't kick it off, so it's safe. But, how long is it okay to swaddle her? Am I doing any harm to her development by continuing to swaddle?
She has plenty of tummy time during the day and can already hold her head up well and roll over from her tummy to her back, but my mom keeps insisting that my daughter needs to figure out how to sleep without the swaddle.
A: Dr. Harvey Karp recommends swaddling as it mimics “the snugness of the womb” and limits the Moro reflex (startle reflux). He recommends swaddling w/ flexion in the legs and abduction of the hips for safe development.
Swaddling is safe until they roll from back to front - that can be as early as 4 months and some are later, but most are rolling by 6 months.
As she is progressing in age, look to transition out of the swaddle - either by leaving one arm out and then once she handles this well, swaddle just the torso and legs. You may also use a sleep sack (sew the arms closed up to start with and then one by one leave an arm out). There is also a product called a "magic sleep suit" which can be used up to 9 months of age safely for those babies who need that input from swaddling.
Tell your mom she has plenty of time to learn how to sleep without a swaddle. Right now your focus is on getting her to sleep well, develop those self-soothing skills and learning the skill of independent sleep! Congratulations on your lil one!
Michelle is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Certified Gentle Sleep Coach who offers parents a gentle and loving approach to their sleep problems. Through her years as a therapist, a mother and a sleep coach, Michelle’s approach offers tired parents an alternative to the cry it out method. Her proven solutions are medically and developmentally appropriate and look at all aspects of your child to gently get them the sleep that is so important to the entire family.
Michelle Donaghy, Pediatric Sleep Consultant – Certified Gentle Sleep Coach
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