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Ask Dr. Karp is a monthly Q & A series with world-renowned pediatrician Harvey Karp. Each month, he'll join us on the our site Blog to answer questions from our fans.
Q. At what age do you recommend weaning a baby from the swaddle?
Dr. Karp: I know it sounds a bit odd, but I think our babies are actually born a few months too soon! I think they need a "fourth trimester" of extra holding, rocking, sucking...and wrapping.
Remember that in the womb, babies are snugly swaddled 24 hours a day in an environment full of rumbles and whooshes caused by blood flowing through the placenta. Once born, they find the world too big. When they're lying on their back in the bassinet or crib, unswaddled, they often startle, flailing their arms, and get very upset! That's why swaddling – plus a rumbly, rough white noise – are the keys to helping fussy babies stay calm and boosting their sleep.
You should only use swaddling and sound when your baby is sleeping or crying. When they're awake, babies need time to practice using their muscles. After two to three months most parents only wrap their babies for sleep.
I recommend continuing the sleep swaddling for at least four months. That's because unswaddled babies can pretty easily roll from the back onto the stomach (a riskier position). Swaddling delays that rolling by making it harder for infants to roll their shoulders around and flip over. I find that most babies are ready to be weaned from swaddling by 4 or 5 months of age – especially if you're using a good, rumbly white-noise CD for all naps and nights to help keep your growing baby in a good, relaxed slumber.
Photo: LizMarie_AK, Flickr
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.