When to stop swaddling and how to transition baby to arms-out sleeping

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When to stop swaddling your baby

Congratulations, you’ve survived the first few months of a newborn, have them wrapped snuggly in a swaddle, and baby (may have) finally settled into a predictable sleep routine. And then comes baby’s first major milestone, rolling, to undo all that hard work!

Many parents are apprehensive to unswaddle their baby once they reach the rolling milestone, for fear of what it will do for settling and sleep. What those parents may not know is that once a baby shows signs of rolling it is no longer safe to swaddle them, and the transition to arms-out sleeping must begin.

Why is it unsafe to swaddle a baby who is attempting to roll?

A baby who is ready to roll is transitioning out of the ‘fencing reflex’, an innate newborn mechanism designed to keep the body anchored on their back and prevent SIDS. Once this reflex starts to disappear, your baby would have built the necessary strength and muscle tone to hold their head up and roll their body over. A baby that is learning to roll from back-to-front needs their arms free to help roll back, and/or lift their neck and head sideways for clear and unobstructed breathing whilst face down.


What are the signs of attempting to roll?

Indicators that your baby is showing signs of rolling, and no longer requires a swaddle for sleeping include:

  • Attempting to roll body when unswaddled
  • Pushing up on hands during tummy time, lifting one hand off the ground
  • Fussiness when swaddled/fighting the swaddle when going on
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Disappearance of the startle (moro) reflex
  • Attempting to have hands free/up around their face when the swaddle is on


At what age will this happen?

While there is no set rule for the exact time to move through the transition from swaddle to arms-out sleeping, it typically starts between 3-6 months old. However, some babies may start earlier and some may take longer. You may be unsure of when exactly to make the transition, however you know your baby best. Follow the signs above and your baby’s cues as the best way to get through this stage.

Between 4-6 months babies outgrow the startle (moro) reflex. If your baby is not yet rolling and still swaddled, but is no longer startling this may also indicate it is time to transition from swaddling.

Arms in to arms out transition Arms in to arms out transition


How to safely transition your baby to arms-out sleeping in a sleeping bag

Some babies may struggle with this change in their sleeping environment. As such we recommend a two-step approach to transitioning:

Step One: Releasing one arm out of your baby's swaddle for all sleeps, to allow your baby time to become used to this new way of sleeping.

Step Two: After a week or so of one-arm-out sleeping, remove both arms from the swaddle. Expect some difficult sleeps during this phase, but stick with it and don’t be tempted to re-swaddle them – they will adjust to the new sleep position.

Once your baby is rolling on their own, if they independently roll on to their tummy in their sleep with their arms out of a swaddle, you do not need to roll them back.

Pssst... If you anticipate that the transition to arms-out sleeping will be a challenge or are going through some resistance to the transition, we have a solution for you. We have designed the Butterfly Cardi to help in the transition from a swaddled sleeper to an arms-out dreamer, easier! 

How to use the Butterfly Cardi for transitioning out of a swaddle 

We recommend transitioning over a 10 day period. This should commence when your baby first shows signs of wanting to roll (not after they start rolling) for their safety.

DAY 1 - 3
Dress your baby in the Butterfly Cardi over their sleeping bag or Cocoon Swaddle Bag with their arms contained within the fold-over arm pockets for all their sleeps (day & night).

Use the press studs to adjust the firmness of the Cardi around the torso. If your baby has a strong startle reflex, start with a tight fit. If your baby has a low startle reflex, you can start with the looser fit.

DAY 4 - 7
After your little one is familiar with their new sleepwear addition, you can now take one arm out of the fold-over pocket for all their sleeps.

DAY 8 - 9
In this next stage, you can take their remaining arm out of the other pocket for all their sleeps.

DAY 10
On the final day, remove the Cardi altogether. Your baby is now sleeping, arms-out. Hooray!

For a visual guide on how this all comes together check out our How to Use the Butterfly Cardi Video:


Meet the Cocoon Sleep Set 

All babies are wonderfully different, and just like adults, have different sleeping styles. The Cocoon Sleep Set is an all-in-one solution that gives your baby three different sleep-style options to choose from: Arms-in, Arms-out, or Hands-up. 

Whichever your baby’s preference, all three configurations are TOG-rated for warmth, and designed to keep your precious newborn safe and comfortable during sleep without needing loose blankets. 

The Cocoon Sleep Set contains two of our most popular newborn sleepwear products.

The award-winning Cocoon Swaddle Bag is a TOG-rated zip-up swaddle that is easy to use, and difficult to escape from. With the ability for baby to sleep swaddled with arms in for babies with a high startle reflex, or alternatively arms-out for babies with a low startle reflex, the flexibility of the Cocoon Swaddle Bag is a sleep-saviour for many parents

The Butterfly Cardi is designed to be worn over your baby’s swaddle or sleeping bag, and has two functions. It can be used as a hands-up sleeping option over the Cocoon Swaddle Bag or an arms-out sleeping bag, or as a transitional tool to help baby transition from swaddled to arms-out sleeping once they show signs of rolling. Babies who love the Butterfly Cardi usually have a lower startle reflex than those who like to be swaddled. Both products in the Cocoon Sleep Set are made with our signature GOTS-certified organic cotton and designed for the specific sleep needs and safety of newborns–6 months old.

Pair the cocoon swaddle bag with the butterfly cardi Pair the cocoon swaddle bag with the butterfly cardi


What should baby wear once unswaddled?

Your baby should be sleeping in a sleeping bag appropriate for the room temperature of the nursery, with no blankets, pillows or other sleep aids in the cot. For babies that are coming out of our Cocoon Swaddle Bag, parents need to simply open the press stud poppers in the armholes to convert this baby swaddle into your baby’s first sleeping bag when they start to show signs of rolling.

For babies who are coming out of another type of swaddle, our size 3-6 month Cocoon Swaddle Bag is still the best option as a first sleeping bag for them, as it is TOG-rated for warmth, snug fitting around the body for security, age-appropriate, and bell-shaped for hip health.

Taking the guesswork out of dressing a little one for sleep, our TOG-rated layers are designed to be worn underneath a swaddle, sleeping bag or sleep suit bag to add warmth and comfort as needed.

Use our What to Wear Guide to help you choose what to layer underneath your baby’s sleeping bag and which TOGs to put together based on the room temperature.  It's genius and simple.

With love and sleep wishes, eP x

ergoPouch TOG rated sleepwear products ergoPouch TOG rated sleepwear products

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