How long is it safe/appropriate to swaddle a baby at night?
Swaddles are a great tool for parents to use with their newborns. When used correctly, a swaddle helps baby feel secure, and the snugness helps calms their nervous systems, which may be sensitive early on.
Parents can swaddle for naps and night sleep in the early weeks and months to help babies settle easier into sleep. And, because it helps reduce wakings caused by flailing arms and “mermaid” legs, you may find it helps baby sleep longer stretches.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swaddling for newborns to about 14 weeks of age. This is about the time the startle reflex disappears (the reflex that causes the flailing arms) and babies gain the coordination to bring their hands to their mouths to self sooth and learn to roll over on their own from their backs to their bellies. Though the incidence of SIDS is lower in infants sleeping on their backs properly swaddled, the risk increases greatly with prone swaddling so babies should always be on their backs when swaddled.
Once baby is out of a swaddle, you may consider graduating to a sleep sack or something that’s safe for sleep and keeps the legs and arms enclosed. There are many products on the market that do this. Not only do they keep babies warm and cozy but they may also deter climbing out of the crib if you happen to have a future acrobat in the house.