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Can baby roll over in a swaddle? Is it safe if he rolls over?

There is nothing more satisfying and moving than holding a swaddled baby. Watching my swaddled little guy, I can feel him being warm and cozy all wrapped up in a soft swaddle blanket.

But is he safe?

What about if he rolls over while swaddled? Is it safe for babies to roll over in a swaddle?

There comes a time when it’s not safe for baby to be swaddled anymore. There will be signs that it’s time to stop swaddling and there are things you can do to make the transition out of swaddling go smoothly.

What is swaddling?

Swaddling is wrapping a baby up in a soft blanket so their arms and legs are inside the blanket. Many cultures over thousands of years have wrapped up newborns to make them feel safe and secure.

Why do people swaddle their babies?

It is believed that swaddling creates a snug feeling resembling the environment of the womb, making babies feel safe and secure.

Swaddling also inhibits involuntary arm and leg movements that can wake a sleeping baby up.

A newborn baby who is securely wrapped up in a blanket is also easier to handle than one whose arms and legs move about perpetually. New parents often find that swaddling their baby does wonders to calm him down and study shows that swaddled babies sleep better and longer than their unswaddled counterparts.

Is swaddling safe?

The short answer? Yes, swaddling is safe, provided you use your common sense and do it properly. This you can do by securing the wrapping blanket in some fashion so it doesn’t come loose. If the blanket comes loose, your baby could suffocate.

After a certain amount of time, swaddling should be stopped. Usually, as soon as you notice that your baby is able to roll over on his own, it’s time to stop swaddling.

Parent’s should also keep in mind that swaddles should always be tight and not come loose during the night. This is usually only possible with a proper Velcro closing swaddle and NOT simply a blanket or muslin.

Safe Sleep guidelines

As mentioned above, make sure that the swaddle blanket you use can’t come unraveled.  There are many options of swaddles that securely close with a Velcro or some sort of safety mechanism. Also, make sure that there are no other blankets or pieces of clothing in the bassinet or crib.

Secondly, have a look at these safe sleep guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which are aimed at the prevention of SIDS (Sleep-Related Infant Deaths).

  • Put your baby to sleep on his back on a firm surface with a tight-fitting sheet that won’t come loose.
  • Avoid the use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows, and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Babies should sleep with their parents in the same room ideally for the first year, but at least for the first six months.
  • Babies should share their parents’ bedroom but not their bed.
  • Never place the baby on a sofa, couch or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person.
  • There is not enough scientific research to say whether in-bed sleepers (devices that hold babies in place on their parents’ bed) are safe.
  • Swaddled babies should always be placed on their backs.
  • As soon as the baby shows signs of trying to roll over, swaddling should be stopped.

Are babies able to roll over when swaddled?

Babies typically start trying to roll over at around 4 months. Some will only do a full roll over on their own at 6 months or so.

You will notice their attempts by their rocking form side to side. In the normal course of events, a baby first succeeds in rolling over from his back to his tummy. It takes longer for them to learn to roll back onto their backs. By 6 to 7 months they are usually able to roll in both directions.

So, from around 3 months of age you should watch your baby for signs that he is trying to roll over. When you see it happen (or almost), it is the time to stop swaddling or start transitioning out of the swaddle.

Is it safe for babies to roll over in a swaddle?

The short answer? No, it’s not safe for a baby to roll over in a swaddle. If a baby shows signs of rolling over when unswaddled, it’s time to start transitioning out of the swaddle, period.

There have been cases of babies rolling over at 2 months, so be sensible and be aware of what your baby is doing when not swaddled – he’s probably trying the same while being swaddled.

Why is it not safe to keep baby swaddled when they are trying to roll over?

The thing is, swaddling prevents your baby from using his arms to help him to get into a different position.

There is a risk that a swaddled baby trying to roll over can land in a position that restricts their breathing. Even worse, being restricted, the baby could be stuck in the position.

Also, in his efforts to roll over the baby can loosen the swaddle, which has caused babies to die of suffocation.

Signs that it’s time to stop swaddling

You will soon know when it’s time to make a change. Watch out for any of the following signs.

Your baby doesn’t sleep as well as he used to

If a baby starts waking up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, it might be a sign that the swaddling has become bothersome.

Also, if a baby who has developed a good sleeping pattern suddenly can only sleep for short intervals at a time, it can be a sign that the swaddling is not contributing to a good sleep anymore.

Rolling over when not swaddled

When your baby rolls over or attempts to roll over, it’s time to stop wrapping him. He needs his arms to push up and move around. And he needs to be able to kick around freely.

You find baby with one or both arms free after a sleep or nap

You put down your baby nicely wrapped up and find him a few minutes later all untangled. You wrap the little bundle up again, but the same thing happens. Message? It’s time to stop swaddling.

Your baby resists swaddling

When your baby starts crying and squirming just as you bring out the swaddle blanket and put him on it, you just know that he doesn’t want to be wrapped up anymore.

Moving away from swaddling

1.      Swaddle with arms free

This is an obvious first step toward unswaddling. You have found your baby numerous times with one or two arms outside the swaddling blanket. This step just consolidates this start of a new phase.

Try this during nap times first and if that goes well, try it during the night.

2.      Try a sleep sack

Alternatively, you can transition to a sleep sack. These are one-piece items, with a vest for the top that frees the arms completely and a bag for the legs that allows ample room for kicking.

3.      One-piece sleepsuits

For babies who seem to dislike being covered, a one-piece sleepsuit might be the answer. Depending on the fabric that was used it can be warm and cozy while allowing freedom of movement.

Conclusion

It is safe for babies to be swaddled. It helps them to feel safe and cozy, and helps newborns to sleep better and longer.

However, as soon as your baby starts showing signs of wanting to change position and roll over, it’s time to put the wrapping blanket away.