Swaddling and Rolling Over: What Happens Now?

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to be hearing from so many of you about swaddling lately. It seems like a hot topic, so I’m rolling with it, especially since so many new mamas out there are wondering, is it safe to swaddle a baby that can rollover?

Swaddling and rolling over present some big problems for you and your baby. When a swaddled baby rolls on their side or a swaddled baby is rolling over in sleep, it is the biggest sign that it is time to end your swaddling days.

That doesn’t mean you have to end it abruptly, and I think most of you know this. What’s lesser known is how to know what’s right for your child. Everyone is different, so it comes down to trusting yourself while knowing some important facts.

Take my girls, for example.

My eldest was swaddled until 4 months to the day. She broke free, rolled over, and we stopped swaddling her. She didn’t fuss or anything. She was happy to be out of the swaddle then. But my youngest didn’t want to give up the swaddle even after she could roll over. To swaddle when a baby can roll over is not recommended at all, but there are solutions, which I’ll cover further below.

If it’s hard on baby, it’s hard on you too. I know because, with my youngest, swaddling felt like the miracle that kept her sleeping. Now I was back at square one trying to get her to sleep.

Here’s When You Should Stop Swaddling Your Baby

In my other posts on swaddling, I mentioned a bunch of things to look for to know when it is time for you to stop swaddling your baby. Generally, your baby will be 4 to 6 months of age when it’s time, but as I always say, everyone is different, and that includes babies too.

baby being swaddled

My friend Jessica had to stop swaddling her son when he was 2 months old because he checked all the boxes, but the biggest of all was that he was rolling over in the night. Of all the factors that make it about time to stop swaddling, there is one non-negotiable and that is when baby is rolling over in the swaddle.

Can a baby roll over when swaddled?

Oh, heck yes, Mama! Though this will not happen as a newborn. No matter how gifted and advanced any baby is, this is extremely unlikely in the first few days and weeks of life. However, if your swaddled baby rolls on side, it’s time to transition from swaddling.

Should I stop swaddling when the baby rolls to side?

When your swaddled baby rolls on her side, it’s time to start transitioning from swaddling. Because soon, she’ll roll all the way onto her belly, which will make swaddling more of a danger.

How do I stop my baby from rolling over in swaddle?

Love, you can’t stop a baby from rolling over in the swaddle when she’s ready to roll! And no, it won’t delay a baby’s ability to roll over either. Transitioning out of swaddle stages can be a bit tricky, but we’ll get to all that in a moment.

Can a baby suffocate from a swaddle?

Yes, sadly, suffocation can happen when you swaddle when baby can roll over. You can leave the arms out and swaddle the legs gently only, which won’t cause problems. However, transitioning out of swaddle time is wise now. The biggest concern with suffocation and rolling over in a swaddle is if you use a blanket that is too large. The extra fabric can cover baby’s face, which is a dangerous thought that will keep you up at night.

Stop Swaddling When…

When you place your swaddled baby on her back for sleep, and she rolls over onto her tummy, the AAP recommends it is time to stop the swaddling. You will likely notice her do this exciting milestone when you’ve got her on her play mat.

And with babies, when they do something new such as this, they want to keep doing it repeatedly and over and over again. Now, just because a baby can roll from her back to her tummy doesn’t mean she can get back to her back again. This is precisely why I say, please stop swaddling your child when she can roll, even if she’s rolling onto her side.

Ways to Transition from Swaddling

My friend Crystal once said that just as you get used to a phase in your baby’s life and you’re rocking it, a new developmental stage comes on, and you’re left scrambling trying to figure it out. It’s so true.

It’s so disappointing to now have to figure out a new way to get the baby to sleep after the swaddling has been going so well. But again, it depends on your baby. My eldest was fine being without the swaddle cold turkey. But my youngest, my clinger, she took a lot more work to help the transition.

Your options are:

  • Cold turkey

This is what I did with my eldest. I stopped swaddling and used a wearable blanket. Some babies may fight this, but my eldest went right to sleep with it.

  • Swaddle with arms out
swaddling a baby with hands up

Swaddling with one (or both) arms out is a great idea when the baby is starting to roll over onto her side. It eases the transition. My youngest was a master of sneaking her hands and arms out. Even when one of my friends sent a legit swaddle blanket to China from the US, she STILL got out of it. So I only swaddled her legs.

Please note that:

you can ease taking both arms out of the swaddle if you start with one arm out. As far as going cold turkey or easing arms out of the swaddle, there is no one right answer. It depends on your baby. And like me, if you have more than one, it is very likely the answer will be different for each of your children.

How to Help Baby Sleep After Transitioning from Swaddling

So, now that your baby is rolling over and it’s time to stop swaddling, how do you make that transition? Here are my tips to help you through it!

  • Relax (at least try to)

I’ve said it before, and I will say it over and over again that babies are extremely intuitive creatures. They can sense when you are tense and anxious. Try not to overthink these things. By this point, you know you can sing to your baby or talk in a gentle and soothing voice to help distract her.

You can also be goofy and make faces. Babies have a short attention span, but they will sense it with that Spidey-sense if you are all freaked out at bedtime.

  • Follow my guides for how to swaddle with arms out

I recently posted about how to swaddle your baby with arms up and arms out. You can start by keeping one of those arms out of the swaddle. I recommend watching your baby a bit in wakeful hours and seeing if she tends to go for one hand over the other for sucking fingers or anything. If so, leave the hand she goes for out of the swaddle.

If that goes well, you can then move to leave both arms out of the swaddle. Then you can stop swaddling and use different sleepwear (more on that in a second).

  • Get a wearable blanket or sleep sack

Basically, the same thing, but these are safe and snug, keep little tootsies warm and cozy while offering plenty of wiggle room. Arms stay free, allowing your baby to roll over if and when she pleases. I’ll provide some options for that below.

  • Keep your bedtime routine the same
bedtime routine

When leaving swaddling behind, that should be the only thing that changes in your bedtime routine. For everything else, keep it the same way. So, if you’ve always done bath time followed by storytime and nursing, keep to it. Don’t make any other changes as babies (and older kids too) need consistency.

  • Brush up on your baby soothing skills

Remember what I said about being ready with your soothing skills? Better memorize the lyrics to lullabies and all that jazz. You may need to rock your baby a little longer, breastfeed a little longer, or stay close by a little longer. Perhaps all of the above. Babies are comforted by routine and by us too. So when that routine changes for swaddling (or in the future for anything), be ready to give a bit more of your sweet mama love to help soothe your sweet baby.

  • Don’t regress

Keeping consistent is the only way to move forward from the swaddling days. Again, some babies will roll right with it like water off a duck’s back. Others will fight you tooth and nail. Hold onto your patience, yet be firm in this as it’s for your baby’s safety.

This is important:

A baby that rolls but needs a swaddle is a stubborn soul, just like my youngest. Resistant to change, at least initially, you’ll likely need to use the arms out swaddling for a bit rather than going cold turkey. I can’t tell you which is right for you without knowing your baby, so if your child seems attached to the swaddle, start by keeping arms out first and see how it goes.

Stellar Sleepwear Products for Post-Swaddling

And now, let me tell you about a few things that can be helpful for you during this time.

Simple Joys by Carter’s Baby Sleepbag

This set of 2 sleepbags is an excellent unisex option for your baby. It’s made from a microfleece of 100% polyester and has a zipper closure with safety tabs so it won’t pinch your baby’s chin or neck. Trust me on that; you do not want crying from zipper pain. They won’t forget that zippers wronged them.

Amazing Baby Muslin Sleeping Sack

Here’s another option, though, this sleeping sack is made from muslin, which is a very breathable fabric. If I’m honest, I kind of like this one a bit better than the first option, and no, it’s not because it’s more girly. Look at the options for colors, and there are others that aren’t so girly.

What makes me really like it is that it has a 2-way zipper, which is awesome because you can easily change diapers this way. I love the versatility of this one and that it’s more breathable.

Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit

You could also try this sleepsuit invented by a mom and a pediatric physical therapist to help your baby sleep safely. It features double zippers to easily change the baby, plus a scoop neck to keep it from irritating the chin and neck.

A quick word about weighted sleepers…

I was going to recommend a lightly-weighted sleep sack. There are a few of them on the market. But several pediatricians have sounded off about them. Weighted blankets themselves are not safe for children under 2, but sleep sacks are a little different.

Still, it doesn’t seem like there is clear evidence that they are safe as they could overheat your baby or prevent them from rolling over when needed, all things that can lead to SIDS. It is for this reason that I cannot in good conscience recommend a weighted sleeping sack.

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