Help! My Baby is addicted to her swaddle…..
Swaddling is a powerful and usually very positive sleep association.
I have a large range of swaddles in my sleep consultant kit, and I love showing new mums the numerous ways they can swaddle their newborns.
Swaddling is the ancient art of wrapping your baby in a cloth to help replicate that in the womb feeling of snuggness and security. It has literally been the go to strategy of parents for hundreds of years, and is still the number one thing I recommend to all parents struggling with sleep in that 4th trimester.
What are the benefits of swaddling?
- Protects baby from her own startle reflex.
- Triggers the calming reflex.
- Helps baby sleep for more than one sleep cycle.
- Keeps baby warm in winter.
- Helps baby learn when its time to sleep.
- Baby is easier to settle once swaddled.
But can swaddling become a problem? Can it move from a positive sleep association to a negative?
“My daughter Ava is 9 month old and still swaddled. I’ve tried numerous times to unswaddle her but she just cries and doesn’t sleep. She is waking almost every hour at night because she is getting out of her swaddle, once I re-wrap her and give her a feed she goes back to sleep, but I can’t settle her without the swaddle! It’s like she is completely addicted to her swaddle, help! What do I do?”
Swaddling can most definitely become a sleep prop, and you’re right your baby is somewhat “hooked” on needing that swaddle to sleep. It has moved from a positive sleep association to a negative one. What was once a great indicator to her that it is sleep time, is now something which you have to repeat over and over, and is preventing Ava from actually learning how to fall asleep independently.
I feel if we taught Ava to sleep without her swaddle and to fall asleep independently, she would actually sleep for longer at night, and these longer spells of sleep at night would mean she spends more time in slow wave sleep, and gets more restorative sleep.
Key to ensuring your baby’s swaddle doesn’t become a negative association.
- Self check how many times you are having to re-wrap per sleep?
- Aim to only use the swaddle for the first 4-5 months.
- Wean off the swaddle by 6 months old, or once baby can roll from back to tummy.
- If still wrapping after 6 months, swap for a sleeping bag and start to teach your baby to self settle.
Steps to successfully wean from swaddling under 6 months old.
- Unwrap one arm for the first part of your babies night sleep, and still swaddle for the rest of the night (after the first night feed), and your babies day naps.
- Unwrap one arm for your morning nap, and continue to fully swaddle for the lunch time nap.
- Unwrap one arm for your baby for the rest of the night, so they are completing the entire night with only one arm in their swaddle.
- Unwrap both arms for the entire night sleep, while still only unwrapping one arm for the morning nap, and now one arm for the lunch time nap.
- If things are still going well, it is time to unwrap both arms for all naps too!
Loud white noise while going through the unwrapping process is super helpful, it gives baby something else to focus on, and I also encourage you to introduce a small safe comforter during this process, this will give baby something to hold onto, and encourage baby to begin learning to self soothe.