Benefits, Risks, and When To Stop Swaddling

benefits risks and when to stop swaddling

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

As a new parent trying to comfort your crying baby, the calming effect of swaddling feels like a tool handed down from heaven.  So what are the benefits of swaddling?  Are there risks?  And how long are we able to wrap up our sweet babies like little burritos?  How do you know when to stop swaddling?

The Benefits of Swaddling

When to stop swaddling - the benefits of swaddling

Swaddling has a wide variety of benefits for your baby.  In addition to providing comfort, swaddling can encourage newborn sleeping and helps babies sleep longer.  It can help regulate baby’s body temperature.  And swaddling can improve neuromuscular and motor development.  Swaddling is a natural way to help transition your precious newborn from the close comfort of the womb to the outside world.

Are There Risks to Swaddling?

Although swaddling can be an amazing help, there are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Hip Dysplasia – This can be caused by wrapping a newborn’s legs too tight.
  2. Hyperthermia – A baby can become overheated if their sleeping environment is too warm, especially when paired with the added warmth of being swaddled.
  3. SIDS – Deeper sleep can make it harder for a baby to awake, which has been linked to SIDS
  4. Impaired Breathing – A safe swaddle must allow room for the baby to breathe adequately, without letting the blanket unravel. (1)

Swaddling and Safe Sleep

when to stop swaddling - safety

Key Elements of Safe Swaddling:

  1. Hip and Leg Position: Swaddle the baby in a way that allows for movement of the hips and legs. The hips should be able to bend, and the legs should be able to spread apart naturally. Tight swaddling that restricts movement can increase the risk of hip dysplasia.
  2. Avoid Overheating: Use a lightweight blanket for swaddling and avoid over-layering or covering the baby’s head. Overheating is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  3. Room to Breathe: Ensure the swaddle is snug, but not too tight. You should be able to fit two to three fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle. A swaddle that’s too tight can restrict breathing.
  4. Monitor Baby’s Temperature: Check the baby’s temperature to ensure they are not overheating. Signs of overheating include sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, or rapid breathing.
  5. Learn How – Have your pediatrician show you the correct way to swaddle.  Don’t feel silly asking to practice it with them a few times.  It might take a few attempts but soon you’ll become a swaddling pro!
  6. Back to Sleep– Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back, especially when you swaddle.
  7. Pacifier – Consider using a pacifier.  Pacifier use is associated with lighter sleep (2)

Remember, while swaddling can be soothing, it’s not necessary for all babies. If your baby seems unhappy being swaddled or consistently breaks free of the swaddle, they may sleep better without it. Always monitor your baby while they are swaddled to ensure they are comfortable, not overheating, and breathing easily.

Step-by-Step Guide to Swaddle Safely:

  1. Lay the Blanket Flat: Lay a square blanket on a flat surface and fold down the top corner to form a straight edge.
  2. Place the Baby on the Blanket: Lay the baby on their back on the blanket, with their neck on the folded edge.
  3. Wrap the Right Side: Hold the baby’s right arm down flat at their side. Take the right side of the blanket and wrap it over the baby’s arm and chest. Tuck it under the baby’s left side.
  4. Fold the Bottom: Fold the bottom of the blanket up and over the baby’s feet, but not too tightly. Allow room for leg movement.
  5. Wrap the Left Side: Hold the baby’s left arm down. Take the remaining part of the blanket and wrap it over the baby’s left arm and around their body. Tuck any excess blanket fabric so it’s secure.
  6. Ensure Freedom of Movement: The baby’s arms should be snugly swaddled, but their legs should have some movement. The swaddle should be loose enough around the hips to allow bending and spreading of the legs.
  7. Check for Tightness: Make sure the swaddle is snug but not too tight. You should be able to slide your hand between the blanket and the baby’s chest.
how to swaddle

When To Stop Swaddling

when to stop swaddling - grab your camera

One of the biggest challenges of parenting is that once we get the hang of something, it’s usually time to change things up!  Unfortunately, this is true of swaddling, too.  It may surprise you to learn that you should stop swaddling at around 8 weeks.

When to Stop Swaddling – Why So Early?

Why stop swaddling so early?  8 weeks is generally the age right before your baby starts to become more active and self-aware.  Soon he’ll start to wiggle, roll, and turn over.  Turning over while swaddled is dangerous because it places your baby at a risk of smothering.  So, it makes sense to transition out of swaddling well before your baby has the ability to roll.  While 8 weeks is a general guideline, it may be even sooner if your baby shows signs of possibly turning over before then (3).

When to Stop Swaddling – Moro Reflex

The good news is that 8 weeks is just about the same time that babies lose the startle or Moro reflex.  This makes them less jumpy, better able to regulate their bodies, and less likely to wake themselves from a good sleep.  The loss of this reflex decreases the need for swaddling.

When to Stop Swaddling – Nighttime Routine

If you haven’t already, begin to establish a nighttime routine in the weeks before swaddling comes to an end.  One way to help this transition is to put your baby down while they are still awake but drowsy.  Do this as early on in their life as possible.  These types of routines will make it a little easier as you begin to place baby down to sleep without swaddling.

And one last tip.  Make sure to take as many pictures as possible, because seriously, a swaddled baby is just pure adorableness.

Kopa Birth’s online childbirth classes allow you to prepare for a natural childbirth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for a natural hospital birth.


1) Van Sleuwen, B. E.,  Engelberts, A, C., Boere-Boonekamp, M. M., Kuis, W.,  Schulpen,T.W.J. L’Hoir, M.P. Swaddling: a Systematic Review.  Retrieved at

2)  Moon, R. Y. (2013). How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained By: Rachel Y. Moon. Retrieved at

3) Kennedy, K.  (2013). Unwrapping the Controversy Over Swaddling. Retrieved at


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Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

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As a new parent trying to comfort your crying baby, the calming effect of swaddling feels like a tool handed down from heaven.  So what are the benefits of swaddling?