Newborn Rolling to Side in Swaddle: Case for Concern?

It’s perfectly normal for babies to roll onto their sides or back as they grow up. If they’re doing it while still swaddled though, it could have dangerous consequences for your baby’s well-being.

Swaddles are great tools to soothe your baby’s agitation, but they also pose a serious suffocation risk once your baby starts rolling onto their side. This behavior usually crops up when they’re three to four months old, but it’s possible to happen earlier or later than you’d expect – approach this issue proactively to protect your baby.

Transition them away from swaddling as soon as they start to roll onto their backs, as the risk of SIDS goes up the longer a child persists with swaddling after it’s no longer needed.

There are a few crucial things to keep in mind when it comes to infant sleep safety – especially when swaddles are involved. We’ll go over everything parents need to know to safely deal with their newborns rolling onto their side while swaddling.

Swaddling and Infant Sleep Safety

baby sleeping peacefully

Swaddling is a common baby care practice that has you wrap your infant up in comfy fabric, keeping their arms and legs bundled and warm. It creates an environment that’s very reminiscent of their time in the womb, which goes a long way toward putting their minds at ease.

Rolling over is a typical developmental milestone for infants, and commonly happens at or past the four-month mark. Some infants can start rolling over as early as two months old, while others can make it all the way to half a year’s time without being able to roll onto their side!

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If your newborn has started rolling to their side while swaddled, you need to monitor them closely and begin transitioning them away from swaddle use!

Infants sleeping on their stomachs are at an increased risk of SIDS, better known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Being swaddled would reduce their movement, making it even more difficult for your infant to correct their positioning and further heighten suffocation risks.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, swaddled infants should always be placed on their backs to sleep. After the baby starts rolling on their own, the practice of swaddling should be discontinued in favor of letting your baby choose their preferred sleeping position.

Signs to Stop Swaddling

baby on a swaddle crying

While rolling over is the biggest sign that your newborn’s swaddle safety is compromised, you’ll still be able to pick out other clues on when to start transitioning away from the swaddle.

Don’t just wait for your infant to start rolling over! While the risk of SIDS is small – especially from just one case of rolling over – the chance of it happening remains present.

It’s not a risk any parent should allow if they can help it, so pay attention to a few subtler signs that swaddle usage has overstayed its welcome.

Rolling from their back to their side is the most obvious sign, but there are plenty more you can notice with some mindfulness. If your infant seems to be trying to break free from their swaddle, it means that they no longer feel secure or comfortable in that position anymore.

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It’s also possible that your baby wants closer interaction with the world, which usually means a greater emphasis on tactile senses like touch. If your baby seems to be raising their hands upward more often, there’s a good chance that they’re trying to reach for bottles, toys, or even their mother’s face! A swaddle would only get in their way here!

It might just be a matter of time as well, as babies do start off with irregular sleep schedules. Swaddles help calm them down during this volatile period, but your little one will eventually develop a more consistent sleep cycle. By this point, your baby would much rather have freedom of movement over an awkward, constraining swaddle around their bodies.

If your baby is shuffling too much while swaddling, they’ve likely outgrown this need – you can notice this even when they’re sleeping! It’s definitely a sign to stop swaddling if you notice your baby resisting your attempts to bundle them up!

How to Transition Out of a Swaddle

baby on swaddle peacefully sleeping

While transitioning your infant out of the swaddle, you need to ensure that you still maintain their sense of comfort and security. It’s still likely going to be an awkward adjustment that’ll take time, so bear with the process – it shouldn’t take them more than a month or two to cope.

Start off by gently loosening their swaddle. They need to gradually get used to moving their limbs. Once your baby is more comfortable, you can let them swaddle with an arm out, eventually shifting to a swaddle with both arms out. This also has the added boon of making it easier for your baby to correct their position should they accidentally roll onto their stomach.

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You’ll eventually want to replace their swaddles with sleep sacks. Sleep stacks are essentially swaddles that don’t restrict your baby’s range of motion, allowing them to freely move their limbs around and stretch.

It may be tempting to swap their swaddle out for a comfy blanket instead, but these will pose another suffocation hazard for your child! Sleep sacks are a good investment for your baby’s sleep needs, though it can be tricky to figure out just how many of them you need to buy!

Final Thoughts

While swaddling is a great tool that parents have to take care of their kids, it’s something that they’ll eventually outgrow.

Persisting with swaddle use past when it’s needed will not only cause your baby serious distress but outright grow into a suffocation risk over time. Transitioning your baby away from swaddle use can be difficult, but it’ll be a necessary change to keep your baby safe.

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