Q&A: How long can the swaddling go on?

If you live in the US and can, please vote today!

I still don't know why it's happening, but I keep getting questions in clusters. I've gotten a few recently about how long you can swaddle a baby. A couple of the parents are wondering if they can still swaddle because there's nothing else that gets the babies to sleep, but the parents are worried that the babies are too old for swaddling at 4 months.

(Are we surprised that a big sleep dilemma is rearing it's ugly head at four months? How convenient that that's both the time kids are having sleep problems leading up to the 19-week leap, and also the time when popular culture tells us our kids are supposed to be sleeping perfectly after going down awake and if they're not it's our faults. Sheesh.)

There was also a note of confusion in two of the emails because the babies were still calmed by swaddling, but would then work their ways out of the swaddle in the middle of the night. Without the swaddle, the parents had a hard time getting the babies back to sleep, but the swaddle didn't take. It was a big conundrum wrapped in a Catch 22.

I don't really have much about swaddling. My older son was an anti-swaddler. I think he was just so happy to have room to stretch out finally (he was 9 1/2 pounds at birth) that there was no way he'd have submitted to a swaddle. And my second one was OK with the swaddle, but it just kind of faded away after a few weeks.

It's my gut feeling, though, that nothing bad is going to happen if you continue to swaddle your baby until s/he stops responding to it. Assuming your baby gets plenty of time on the floor with his or her arms and legs free during the day, swaddling isn't going to prevent them from developing physically. And if it gets the baby to sleep at night, hop on it.

One of the writers said "Right now I feel like he will need to be swaddled until he is 3 years old" and that made me laugh, because when kids have that three-year-old sleep refusal thing (we could call it a sleep regression, but that makes it sound all babylike and genteel, which it's not) wouldn't it be awesome to just swaddle them in a big blanket and have it actually work? Maybe I'll add that to the list of Kid Products That Would Sell In The Millions If Only They Worked.

Now, that doesn't help the parents whose kids are wiggling out of the swaddle. That, to me, seems like the signal that the swaddling days are over. But how to transition to something else. My suspicion is that it can take weeks or even a few months, like some kids waver between one nap and two for weeks or months and are miserable nappers during that time. But, again, I've never lived it.

So, swaddlers and former swaddlers of the internet, give us some data points. When did you stop? Did your child fade out of it? Did you make a deliberate decision to stop? What did you do instead?