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When to Stop Swaddling

swaddled infant with brother

My son is 3 1/2 months old. We are still swaddling him when he sleeps. Is this ok?  He doesn't seem to have good control over his movements and he will wake himself up if not swaddled.  Although, he is getting strong and can kick his way out of the swaddle if given time to.  When should he start having more control over his movements?  Is there anything we could be doing differently?

Swaddling beyond 2 months old is a controversial subject. We usually swaddle our children until 4 to 6 months old. Overall, swaddling (when done correctly) is beneficial to children and a practice I would encourage.

There are some experts that worry that swaddling after 2 months may increase a child’s risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). These experts are concerned that after 2 months a swaddled child could increase their risk of SIDS by rolling over or covering their head with the blanket. While these are valid concerns, there is currently insufficient evidence to support them. In fact, current evidence shows that swaddling and placing a baby on their back reduces the risk of SIDS.

Yes, it is true that swaddle children placed on their tummies (prone) are at an increase risk of SIDS. While this seems obvious, the one study often quoted to say “swaddling increases the risk of SIDS” did not differentiate between swaddled tummy verses swaddled back sleepers. Those studies that look exclusively at swaddling with back sleeping reveal a decreased in SIDS. It is also shown that swaddled children are more likely to stay on their backs to sleep compared to unswaddled children.

You can continue to swaddle him at this age. We typically swaddled our children until 4 to 6 months. Though as they got closer to 4 months old we usually did not swaddle their arms. Around this age most of our children preferred to have their arms free. Our current 5 month old loves to be swaddled and we still swaddle her arms and legs at bedtime.

Most 3 1/2 month olds do not have well controlled movements. Give him time each day on a blanket and his motor coordination will progress. Interestingly, motor development progresses from head to toe. In that children should first gain control of their head/neck, then arms/hands and finally their legs.


for more on development see developmental milestones.

Written March 2011/ updated November 2013 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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