When should you transition from swaddle to sleep sack or sleeping bag?

By Lynn •  Updated: 10/01/21 •  5 min read
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Swaddles are a safer alternative to blankets. They keep the baby warm since they cannot kick them off like they usually do with the blankets. This translates into longer sleeping periods because they are less likely to wake up due to cold. You, on the other hand, start enjoying your sleep since the baby does not wake up too often at night. But, there comes a time when babies outgrow swaddling and have to start using sleep sacks or sleeping bags. So, when is the right time to transition from swaddle to sleep sack?

First, it is important to note that babies develop at different rates. Some will start to roll over as early as 3 months while others may start at 5 months or later. This means that there is no set time to transition your baby from swaddling.

However, in this article, we shall look at some of the things to look out for in order to determine when to stop swaddling your baby and start using a sleep sack or bag.

How to determine the appropriate time to transition from swaddle to sleep sack

You should immediately stop swaddling if;

  • Baby starts to roll over

This is a very important sign to look out for.

Most pediatricians recommend that parents should stop swaddling their babies when they start to show signs of rolling over. This could be between 3 to 6 months depending on the baby’s development.

Once they are able to roll over, they may roll on to their stomach with their face against the mattress and this may cause suffocation. Suffocation may occur if the baby is completely swaddled with their arms in such that they cannot be able to use their hands to lift their upper body up or roll over onto their back.

  • Baby strives to break out of the swaddle

Although babies love to be swaddled, it comes a time when they may want to self-sooth using their hands or explore their surrounding. So they may start struggling to break out of the swaddle by taking their arms out.

This is a clear indication that they want to be swaddled in something that allows them to have their arms out.

Thus, you may start transitioning them into a sleep sack or sleeping bag. Here is a review of some of the most suitable sleep sacks for babies around 3 months old.

  • Baby feels restricted and barely sleeps

One of the major benefits of swaddling is that it promotes better and longer sleep for infants.

However, if the baby starts feeling restricted and uncomfortable when swaddled, it may affect their sleep. So if your baby was used to sleeping longer while swaddled and now barely sleeps and keeps moving as if struggling to break free, it could be a sign that they are no longer comfortable being swaddled.

Once you notice this, it is time to start using a sleep sack.

How to successfully transition your baby from swaddling to a sleeping bag

  • Try swaddling with one arm out

As your baby gets older, you will notice that they have one dominant arm that they prefer to use when self-soothing or trying to reach for a toy.

This is the arm that you should start with. When swaddling, leave the arm out so that you can get used to not being completely swaddled. You can do this for a day or two.

  • Swaddle with both arms out

On the third day, unswaddle the other arm. At this point, you can put the baby in a sleep sack since it will be easier to leave both arms out.

  • Leave the legs unswaddled

Most swaddles have an inverted zipper that runs from top to bottom to ease diaper changes. You can unzip the swaddle from the bottom and leave the legs out for a day or two and watch your baby’s reaction.

Does the baby enjoy having the legs out? If so, you can unswaddle the rest of the body and put them in a sleep sack or sleeping bag.

Dos and Don’ts of swaddle transition

While unswaddling gradually, always pay attention to the baby’s signals during each step. For instance, if you unswaddle both arms and baby struggles to sleep, it could mean that they are not ready to sleep unswaddled.

Start again by leaving one arm out until the baby gets used to sleeping with an unwrapped arm and then move to the next step of unwrapping both arms. Give each phase sufficient time

Unswaddle at specific times. For instance, start by unswaddling them during their nap time before moving to night time.

Final words

You might be tempted to transition from swaddle to sleep sack ‘cold turkey’, but unfortunately, this rarely works. Suddenly unwrapping a baby who was used to sleeping all swaddled may create anxiety and make it difficult for them to fall asleep. Try a gradual transition process as we have discussed above and you will not any problems.


Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.