I think if your newborn will swaddle, it is a great thing to do. It helps them sleep more soundly without disrupting by the "startle reflex." Brayden absolutely would not be swaddled, even in the hospital he hated it. Kaitlyn liked it, though the exact method of swaddling her was quite dynamic and constantly changing.
Here is a list of things to watch for and consider when deciding to stop the swaddle. I do have another post on swaddling, so be sure to read that as well. Swaddling: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/swaddling.html
- Improved hand control. This is discussed in the other swaddling post. This typically happens around 2-4 months of age. In the other post I said 2-3 months.
- How your child is sleeping. If he still sleeps really well, maybe you don't need to stop it. If he sleeps fitfully, maybe he needs the swaddle gone. Kaitlyn slept much better once the swaddle was gone. She also slept with her arms straight out from her side. I figure it likely gets uncomfortable to not be able to stretch your muscles and shift positions while you are sleeping.
- How the swaddle is affecting the family. One disadvantage of the swaddle for us was that Kaitlyn was very picky about it. She would only sleep if I did the swaddle. No one else could do it right. That was pretty limiting for me and my relationship with my husband and son. It also limited others with her. No one else could put her to bed. Once I knew she was physically ready, we got rid of it.
- Your intuition. Go with your gut. This is discussed in the other swaddling post.
- Don't be afraid to try it. I tried at 9 weeks and found she wasn't ready yet. No big deal. We went back to swaddling and then stopped at 3 months. If you try and baby isn't ready, you can always go back to swaddling.
My main purpose in this particular post is to share something I learned with Kaitlyn and swaddling. Kaitlyn would sometimes break out of the swaddle and then cry a lot for the nap, and I would erroneously assume that meant if she wasn't swaddled, she wouldn't sleep.
I later wised up and realized she just didn't want to sleep and was wiggling around and therefore was breaking out of the swaddle. She wasn't crying because she wasn't swaddled, she was crying because it was one of those times she didn't want to nap for whatever reason. She was actually ready to stop the swaddle younger than I realized.
Like I said, you don't need to swaddle. Also, some moms swaddle for quite some time. Decide what is best for your family and go from there. Also, babies vary on their reaction. Some moms know baby is ready to drop the swaddle and yet have a hard time dropping it. Others are quite seamless. When the time was right for Kaitlyn, her sleep improved. Some moms have to work on it for a month, while for others there is no work at all.