Breaking free of swaddle

How old is too old to be swaddled? And how does a parent survive once the swaddle no longer holds that feisty baby? Get the expert answer so you can get back to sleep.

Q: My six-month-old still needs to be swaddled to go to sleep. But she’s getting stronger and breaking out of her blanket in the middle of the night, waking herself up.

A: Swaddling is wonderful for newborn babies because it prevents their frequent involuntary movements from startling them awake. One thing to note, however, is that some orthopaedic doctors suggest that swaddling too tightly can lead to problems with one or both hip joints (called hip dysplasia). If you’re concerned, a simple trick is to add a second diaper over the first before swaddling, as this pushes the baby’s hips into the right position for proper development.

Once a baby begins wanting to kick and play more, it’s time to let her move more freely. For your daughter, who loves to be wrapped, this process will have to happen over time. (There’s no rush, as some babies like to sleep swaddled until eight or nine months of age.) So take gradual steps. Read the signals from your baby. If swaddling calms and soothes her, continue to do it. However, if you’re finding the nighttime wakings are disruptive to you and her, then begin helping her learn to self-soothe by first leaving one arm out of the swaddling, then both, then her legs. Or, if she seems to really want her arms down, start by leaving her legs free.