breaking out of swaddle

Newborn breaking out of a swaddle? It could be time to stop swaddling!

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Is your tiny little newborn breaking out of their swaddle? No worries, believe it or not, this dilemma is far TOO common amongst littles.

I’m going to share why this happens and how you can learn to swaddle so that baby is cozy all night long WITHOUT breaking out of their swaddle!

Plus if that doesn’t work, we’ll talk about the signs that it could be time to STOP swaddling your baby!

As a mama of 2 wild little boys — we dealt with the swaddle problem ALL. THE. TIME.

I’d wake up to a baby crying after he yanked his arm right out of his snug swaddle just to smack himself in the face, get startled and be wide awake for the 10th time in 30 minutes. So trust me, I’ve been in your shoes and I know how much it sucks.

However, there is hope! I spent A LOT of time learning about swaddling, why babies need it, which swaddles are the best and I’m going to share the tips I used to help me end the swaddle out breaks!

The BEST swaddle to prevent your newborn breaking out

After going through all the reasons baby may be breaking out of their swaddle and the various swaddles, I found the BEST swaddle to use is the embebabies swaddle wrap.

It literally provides the best of all scenarios:

  • wraps baby’s arms snug and in place
  • has an option for legs-out swaddling
  • has an option for arms-out transitional swaddling
  • easy access diaper changes (without taking the whole swaddle off)

Why do babies break out of swaddle?

In order to help baby stop breaking out of their swaddles, we need to understand why the heck they’re doing it in the first place.

For some babies, they simply are:

  • not swaddled tight enough
  • being swaddled in an incorrect sized blanket
  • wanting their hands/feet out of the swaddle
  • feeling too hot in the swaddle
  • distracted due to the swaddle or their hands touching their face

So let’s jump into each one and break these down and end the breaking out of swaddles!

Baby isn’t swaddled tight enough = baby breaking out of swaddle.

The secret to a good swaddling technique is to wrap the arms tight & snug while leaving the legs a bit more loose.

This is because the tight snug wrap mimics the snug womb-like experience for baby. It provides them soothing comfort as they learn to live in the outside world.

This is why when the baby is swaddled too loose, they’re able to wiggle their arms up and out or completely unwrap themselves from their swaddle. Once that happens, they tend to get fussy or agitated because their soothing tight comfort is now gone.

In addition, babies have what’s called a Moro (startle) reflex. The moro reflex is one of the baby’s first defense mechanisms to be able to alert when something startles them. This could be a loud noise, when they spit up while sleeping, if someone touches them, etc… If the baby isn’t wrapped up snug, their startle reflex could get the best of them and keep them up all night.

And if baby is up all night, likely, so are you!

You’re using the wrong size baby swaddle

You’re probably wondering how to tell if your swaddle is too big, too small, or just right for baby.

Generally, a swaddle that is too big won’t allow you to wrap baby snug around the chest, in fact, you’ll find you have lots of extra material that ends up getting wrapped up all bulky around baby which isn’t safe anymore.

Any excess fabric can pose a risk of suffocation if baby manages to wiggle out of the swaddle and gets tangled up or covers their face with the fabric.

Always be sure to choose a swaddle blanket that’s approximately 44” x 44” & preferably a muslin fabric as it’s very lightweight and breathable. My personal favorite swaddle blanket to use for both boys (whenever I did use the blanket style swaddles) was the Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets.

These swaddles are great because you can get them in a pack of 4, with over 12 cute pattern options to choose from!

Baby wants hands out of swaddle

Some babies simply don’t like their arms being wrapped down at their sides. Some prefer their arms up on their chest while others prefer their arms completely out of the swaddle entirely!

Typically, most babies to benefit from having their arms swaddled even if they don’t want them to be, but if baby is adamant about breaking out of their swaddle and DOESN’T seem to startle themselves with their arms out, you can always try using a swaddle that allows more arm movement!

arms up swaddle

I actually used the Arms Up Love To Dream swaddle for my first as he HATED his arms being wrapped up. He’d fight his swaddle all night long until we’d let an arm or both out. Thankfully he never startled himself awake after removing his arms, but we decided to give the Love To Dream swaddle a try and what’d ya know. It worked WONDERS for us!

The cool part about the Love To Dream swaddles, is that they have various stages of swaddles so the it can grow with baby as they get older.

Baby wants legs out of swaddle

Maybe baby’s arms aren’t the problem. Maybe they want their legs out (or you’re swaddling their legs too tight).

Regardless, theres a solution!

My personal favorite is the Embebabies swaddle! This swaddle was an absolute life saver with my 2nd boy! He always hated his little legs having any kind of blanket or fabric over them. He’s also a very warm sleeper for whatever reason, but the reason that embebabies swaddle worked so well is that it actually folds up allowing to have an open-leg swaddle wrap! How genius is that!

legs out swaddle

You can see above how snug my little guy is with arms wrapped up snug and his little legs out, able to stay cool.

Another option (which I have not personally tried) is Anna & Eve arms only wrap. I looked into this one and read a lot of great reviews about it, however, I didn’t like that it wasn’t a true swaddle.

I also am not sure that I like the idea of baby’s arms being strapped down vs. wrapped in a swaddle where they can still have some movement — definitely check it out and research it for yourself if you think your baby would like this kind of wrap!

Know when to stop swaddling baby (if baby fights swaddle)

According to the AAP, it’s important to stop swaddling baby whenever they “start showing signs of attempting to roll” [source].

This is because whenever baby begins rolling from back to belly, they NEED to be able to use their arms and push up off the mattress for safety purposes.

On average, this can be anywhere between the ages of 3-5 months old.

If you’re unsure of what signs indicate baby is ready to roll over, here’s some signs to start watching out for:

  • Using their hands to push up during tummy time
  • If baby can roll onto their sides

Tips for transitioning out of swaddle

If you’ve reached a point where baby is simply ready to be out of a swaddle, you can transition two ways: cold turkey or slowly.

With the slow transition, you can start by letting one arm out at a time over a 2-4 night period so long as baby is handling it well.

Typically, as long as your baby shows all the signs of being ready to sleep swaddle-free, they tend to transition really well.

Regardless of why your little one becoming a swaddle ninja — you should hopefully be able to end the days of swaddle breakouts by using one of the swaddles from this post!

Need More Help With Baby Sleep? Look Here:

Now, you know what to do when your newborn breaks out of swaddle!

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