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I'm Scared to Stop Swaddling My Baby

Dear Heather,

I'm afraid to stop swaddling! I've become so reliant on bundling my baby super tight, but she's 4 months old, and I feel like I should stop.

Burrito Mama

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Dear Burrito,

Here's a hard-and-fast rule that might help you: When your baby is able to roll, for safety reasons it's time to go swaddle-free. Even if she's never rolled in the swaddle, as soon as you see her rolling on her play mat, the safest move is to stop swaddling.

Yes, the end of the swaddling era feels strange. It's the wide-open world of pajamas and freedom of movement. You're not alone in being nervous to take the plunge. We've met moms and dads who, for a short time, find transitional PJs like the Merlin suit really helpful. A sleep sack is another option you can try.

The end goal, though, is to have your baby go to bed in just pajamas, so she's free to move, grab her small blanket and find her favorite sleep position. If you have some time to make a gradual transition (because your baby is not yet rolling), you can go one step at a time. Start by unswaddling just her arms and seeing how that goes for a night or two. She may find her hands and rub them on her face, which can be soothing and may help her sleep. On the other hand, if the result is wildly smacking herself because of the little startle reflex, re-wrap her and try again in a couple of weeks. Once you've gotten arms out, the rest is easy—it's the arm freedom that is the biggest hump to get over.

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All this is good news, I promise. Imagine you were contained in a tightly wrapped blanket and couldn't move. It wouldn't help you sleep, right? Eventually, the same goes for our babies. Going from containing and wrapping them to letting them freely move, self-soothe and be in charge of their own body movements at night takes time to get used to.

She will get there, though, and she'll sleep better as a result.

Happy sleeping,

Heather

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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

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