Q – I have a 4.5 month old son, whom I swaddle for all naps and bedtime. He does not sleep for longer than 3 or 4 hour stretches – much to our fatigue/frustration and I am nervous about weaning him out of his swaddle as the lack of sleep is difficult to deal with let alone what it would be like to have him swaddle-free (He is able to free himself of the swaddle most times when he wakes up and is left for a bit in his crib). I tried going without the swaddle for 2 naps and he kept himself up and cranky by grinding his hands into his eyes. I am nervous that I might be affecting his development as he does not roll over yet etc. Is there a maximum recommended age for swaddling and if you are weaning from the swaddle, is there a recommended process? Any help would be much appreciated – thanks!

A – This is another question with no easy answer. First, you are not affecting his development if he has time to play during the day when he is not swaddled. Some babies are very slow to roll over as there is really nothing that interests them on their tummies. You say that he can free himself from the swaddle so again he has time to work on this skill then. If you are very concerned, make sure he has tummy time during the day and try to get him to roll by calling him or placing something that interests him by his side so that he has to at least roll to his side to see it-that will encourage him to start rolling at least part way.

As far getting him to sleep without swaddling goes, there is no easy way to deal with this. You will have to start putting him down when he is almost asleep but not swaddled and then let him cry for 5 minutes. Go back and comfort him by patting his back and speaking to him but do not pick him up. When he has settled some start the process over again. I know you will have some sleepless days and nights but eventually you will win. However, there is no reason to stop swaddling him if he sleeps easily then and can kick himself free when he awakens. I do not think that by not swaddling him he will sleep for longer periods. There are probably other issues at work here, though none are serious except to your energy level. You might want to talk to your doctor or Public Health Nurse about this.

Dr. Linda Ducholke, a mother of two, has been a successful Family Practitioner with Obstetrical privileges for the past 20 years. The main focus and passion of her practice is obstetrics and childcare.