The more active your little one is at night when they’re sleeping, the more likely they will fight their way out of their swaddle. After about 4 months old, your baby will have developed significant muscle strength in their legs and arms, and may be able to struggle free of those sheets you’ve so carefully wrapped around them for a good night’s sleep.
Even if your child isn’t able to completely break free of their swaddle, you might see signs that they’re starting to squirm and fuss inside their wrap. At this time, it’s important to understand what’s happening so you can take the right steps to make sure your little one is still as healthy and happy as can be.
In this post, we explore why your baby kicking off their blanket or swaddle is such a hot topic and what you need to know about it.
Why Do Babies Kick Off Their Blankets?
Your baby could be kicking off their blanket and swaddle for a number of reasons. Below are some of the most common issues.
The Swaddle is Too Loose!
The swaddle isn’t always as easy to wrap as you might think. Whether you’re new to parenthood or you’re too tired to concentrate on fixing the perfect wrap in the middle of the night when your baby wakes up crying, you may end up making a swaddle that is too loose. This is one of the main reasons some babies kick off their swaddles.
With practice, you should be able to figure it out how to make the perfect wrap, but keep in mind that you generally want to keep the arms snug while offering enough movement around the hips and knees.
You Baby is Too Hot
Swaddles are great for retaining warmth for your baby and regulating their temperature. However, this can sometimes lead to overheating if the swaddle material is too thick or stuffy, or the room is too warm. And this may cause your little one to struggle out of their wrappings because they’re simply too hot!
The problem with this is that your baby might then be exposed to colder temperatures later in the night, when the temperature of the room naturally cools, or your heating switches off.
So to avoid your baby being affected by extreme temperatures in either direction, check that your baby is wrapped up with the appropriate fabric and that the temperature in the room is optimal (between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius or 64 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit).
They Need More Movement
Babies can crave movement just as much as they do restriction. Getting the balance right is sometimes hard to do, but important for establishing the right conditions for sleep.
If your baby’s muscles are developing, you’ll certainly need to allow for more flexibility in the legs and arms. Also, if your little one naturally likes to suck their thumb, restricting their arm movement could be frustrating, leading them to struggle free of the swaddle wrap.
Baby Rolling Over?
As your child learns to roll over, it’s only natural that their sheets and swaddle pouch might become unfurled or loosened by your little one’s energetic activity. Rather than fighting this process and refixing your baby’s swaddle every time, it’s important that you embrace the change and offer your child greater freedom and flexibility to keep rolling over as they wish. This is the only way they can progress.
In fact, keeping your baby in the swaddle while they are rolling over is incredibly dangerous, and could cause your baby to get trapped in a face down position, without being able to turn back over. As a leading cause of suffocation for children according to several studies, this is obviously something that should be avoided at all costs.
They Just Don’t Like It
Sometimes there’s no specific explanation for why your baby is kicking off blankets other than that they simply don’t like being wrapped up. If so, take this as a blessing and let your baby enjoy complete sleep independence without any sleeping aids such as swaddles or baby sleep sacks.
If they can still sleep just fine without a swaddle, then you’ve essentially skipped a whole step in their sleep development. Just be careful that your baby’s clothing essentials, such as their onesies and rompers, are suitable for keeping them warm enough for a good night's sleep.
For more information on choosing the right clothes, check out our blog: What Should My Baby Wear to Sleep? — The Right Products for the Right Time.
Keeping your baby in the swaddle while they are rolling over is incredibly dangerous, and could cause your baby to get trapped in a face down position.
Why Loose Sheets are Bad
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that your baby shouldn’t use a blanket while sleeping at night until the age of at least 12 months. Similarly, if your child is under 12 months of age, blankets should stay out of the crib — whether your baby is playing or napping. This is backed up by numerous studies and guidance reports from organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ultimately, loose blankets for infants can increase the risk of smothering, suffocation, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And this also applies to pillows, comforters, bumper pads, soft toys, and any other soft objects.
When Can I Use Blankets and Sheets?
After your child’s first birthday, you can feel free to place a blanket in the crib as well as other soft items like teddies. At this stage, your child will have greater strength, awareness, and dexterity to maneuver around these objects while they’re in their cribs at night.
How to Stop Your Baby Kicking Off Blankets
There are a few ways you can stop your baby kicking off their blankets or struggling to break free from their swaddle wraps.
Choose Lighter Materials
Certain materials can make your child feel uncomfortable. Heavier fabrics can make your baby too hot and crowded. Lightweight materials have a way of providing restrictive comfort while being breathable too. Materials that are slightly elastic can be great too, as they give a little more stretching room for when you baby wants to test the boundaries of their swaddle.
Find a Suitable Baby Sleep Sack or Sleeping Bag
Baby sleeping bags and sacks are the most logical progression from swaddles when your child is starting to struggle free from their wraps. Often called swaddle transition products, these garments will continue to offer a similar sensation of womb-like enclosure, while also giving your little one some added room to flex their limbs.
Sometimes this is all they need. Rather than wanting to escape the swaddle entirely, infants often just want more space to move around as their new muscles develop and they start learning new skills, such as rolling over.
The Zipadee-Zip, for example, is our specially designed outfit for infants that still love the feeling of the swaddle but require more freedom. The slight resistance in the wing-span allows a baby to move around freely while still providing the enclosed, cozy sensation they enjoy so much.
Try a Premade Swaddle Wrap
Blankets that are too small can be insufficient for wrapping your baby properly in the swaddle position. They also tend to pop open and unravel on their own. To avoid this, you can try using a premade swaddle wrap like the Zippy Swaddle, designed especially for the job at hand.
The Zipadee-Zip is our specially designed outfit for infants that still love the feeling of the swaddle but require more freedom.
You shouldn’t force your child to use a swaddle if they don’t want to. As long as they are dressed appropriately for sleeping, with clothes that are warm and comfy, it's perfectly fine and healthy for them to make do without the swaddle or any other kind of baby sleeping product.
Finally, when babies start kicking off their blankets, this could have nothing to do with whether they’re comfortable being wrapped up or not. Sometimes, other factors such as general discomfort, restlessness, hunger, or illnesses can cause your child to fuss and struggle at night, where they would otherwise be quite content in their usual swaddle position.
While recognizing that each child is unique, monitor your little one carefully at night while you offer them solutions and alternatives to the swaddle and see how they behave. A handy baby sleeping bag might be the best option for you child, or they may just need their swaddle wrap adjusted slightly.