When you have a baby, sometimes they can be hard to put to sleep. As a new parent (or even a veteran parent), we are always wanting the best for our babies, especially when it comes to sleep. But we also would like some sleep too!
Some babies may sleep perfectly fine in their crib, some love to sleep right on top of you and some (like my son) love to sleep in their swing. But is it ok for a baby to sleep in a swing?
Unfortunately, it is not safe for any infant to sleep in a baby swing. Let me tell you a little bit more about infant swing usage and safety.
In this article we will be discussing:
– How to use a baby swing safely
– Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a swing?
– How to break the habit of letting your baby sleep in a swing
– How long should my baby stay in their swing?
How to use a baby swing safely
I have to admit, our infant swing was one of my favorite baby gifts we got! I could not wait to use it! Ours came with cute little lambs that circled around at the top and light with stars that lit up for our son. It even played cute lullabies, which he loved to listen to.
Now let us take a look at the baby swing itself. We start by reading its directions and we have to make sure we are using it safely before we can even put our baby in it. Even though your swing may be cute and have all the bells and whistles, you still need to make sure you are using it safely and properly to ensure your infant’s safety.
Some people may tell you, or you may read somewhere that infant swings are dangerous. Infant swings are not dangerous as long as you use them the right way. So what does it mean to use your infant swing the right way? It is just a swing, right? It swings back and forth. It helps to calm your baby. Yes to all of that, but there is more to your infant swing than just swinging your baby.
The first thing you want to do is to read the user manual. I know this seems simple enough, but it is of the utmost importance. The manual was written for a reason. There is very important information in the manual for you, the consumer.
Along with your manual may come extra attachments (such as buckles), you do not want to miss those! Also double check the height and weight requirements for your swing, making sure your infant fits within the requirements of the swing you have.
The second thing you want to understand when using a baby swing is, what is the main use for a baby swing? A swing should be used for when you need a break….and let’s face it, we all need a break sometimes! Your swing is a safe place (make sure you baby is buckled in) to calm down if they are upset, relax for a little bit or distract them for a short while.
But note that swings are not meant for long periods of sleep. If you put your baby in their swing for a little bit while you tidy up or run to grab a load of laundry and you come back to find they have fallen asleep, a short nap is ok, as long as it is under your supervision. It is never ok to allow your baby to sleep in their swing at night while you are sleeping.
This was a hard one for us, our son LOVED sleeping in his swing, it was comforting. During the day if he napped in his swing, I was constantly checking on him to make sure he was ok. But we never let him sleep in it overnight. This is all just for the safety of your child.
Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a swing?
We started to touch on this in the last topic. While a supervised nap is ok (not ideal, but ok), sleeping in their swing overnight while you are asleep is not safe by any means.
What some parents do not know (and we were some of those parents that had no idea) is that sleeping in a sitting position for anyone, especially an infant is not safe at all.
First of all, their neck muscles are not fully developed yet and sitting in an upright position can cause the weight of their heads to push the infant forward into a slumped position, which can lead to suffocation. When we learned this information, it made complete sense to us, we just had not thought about it.
Secondly, as I touched on before, swings are meant to be used for a short amount of time, enough to give you or your little one a small break. If you are feeling overwhelmed (every parent does at one point or another), set them in the swing so you can collect yourself.
If you have to let the dog outside, place them in the swing so you can let the dog out. If you need to run to grab a load of laundry, buckle them in and let them swing away. You need a minute to get off your feet and watch some TV? The swing is there for you! But the swing is not there to take the place of your infant’s crib.
As I am sure you were told at the hospital and many times before, back is best. The safest way for your baby to sleep is in a crib with a fitted sheet and no blankets or stuffed animals. If your infant has a hard time falling asleep in their crib, I will give you some tips to help with that in the next section, so keep reading!
Lastly, as mentioned earlier on in the article, it is very important for you to read the manual in order to understand how your swing works. Double check what the height and weight requirements are, as well as where buckles go and how they work to help keep your little one safe.
Not only is it important for you to know how your swing works, but also anyone else that is watching your baby (grandparents, friends, family, sitters etc.) It is your job, as the parent, to make sure you go over how your swing works, what safety features it has and that it is not meant for sleeping, so everyone is on the same page and your baby is safe under someone else’s care.
This is a piece of information that we thought was common knowledge, so we did not share this information with our parents when they were watching our son. When this information was brought to their attention, it was like a light bulb went off!
How to break the habit of letting your baby sleep in a swing
Let’s face it, we all have probably let our baby sleep in their swing, it is comforting to them and it is easy for parents. Like I stated before, my son LOVED napping in his swing. It made me nervous and there were times where I tried to transfer him to his crib and he would wake up. Then there were other times where he really needed to get his sleep and I let him nap in his swing, while I constantly checked on him.
The problem is when sleeping in their swing becomes a habit. Then it is time to break that habit! But how in the world are you going to break the habit of your baby sleeping in their swing?
It is much like breaking other habits such as needing a pacifier, sleeping in your bed, needing a bottle to fall asleep etc. You know, all those things we swore we would never let our children do when we had kids. Let me tell you, it will not be easy, but the end result will definitely be worth it!
Let me give you some tips to help transition your baby from sleeping in a swing to sleeping in their crib/ bassinet.
- If your infant is under the age of 4 months, it is pretty easy to transition them from the swing to their crib. This is around the time when parents start transitioning their babies from the parents’ room to their nursery, so this is a great help! When they are under 4 months old, they have not really had time to create a habit yet since everything is still so new, for both you and baby. So, 4 months is a perfect time to start transitioning them to their crib and creating your bedtime routine, since all children (infants to teens) need routine and structure.
- If your baby is over 4 months, it may be a little harder to get them to transition from their swing to their crib, but the good news is there are different ways to train your baby to sleep in their crib. This is a great time to start researching different sleep training techniques and try them out to see what would work best for you and your baby. Like mentioned before, this is a great time to start creating a bedtime routine and sticking with it.
- When you are trying to put your baby to bed in their crib, try laying them down before they fall asleep, but when they are still sleepy. For example, I would rock my son in our rocking chair and right before he was about to fall asleep, I would put him in his crib. It was not always a successful move, but he got used to it.
- Some people use white noise machines, or soft, quiet lullabies playing in the background to keep the baby’s environment calming. Some swings play soft, quiet music, so this could be a nice transition from the swing to the crib. If your swing has a small mobile on it (ours did), maybe having a mobile in their crib would help as well.
- Try to keep your swing in a loud and busy part of your house during the day. Keep it in a place that is not very calm or relaxing to help deter your baby from falling asleep in the swing. Make sure to have some fun play toys around so it helps your baby to make that connection that the swing is for play and not for sleep.
- Lastly, if you need to, set a timer for how long you want your baby to stay in the swing. It may sound funny, but I still set timers even now and my son is 6. I know from personal experience, I would intend on just setting my son in the swing for a few minutes but then I would get distracted by housework or a phone call or the dog and 15 minutes turned into 30 or 45 minutes.
How long should my baby stay in their swing?
Now that we have touched on the fact that swings are not meant for sleeping, you might be wondering how long your baby should actually stay in their swing.
Keeping your baby in a swing for too long of an amount of time can cause flattening of your baby’s head, according to the AAP. The recommended time for an infant to stay in a swing, or any type of baby toy that they sit in (exersaucer, bouncy seat etc.) is 30 minutes. This is so your infant has time to explore and learn how to roll around, crawl, sit, and stand. Too much time in these infant toys can cause delays in them reaching their milestones.
Much like infant swings, any of the other larger infant toys or equipment you may have should only be used for a short period of time.
Tummy Time is a great way to keep your baby occupied. Having your infant seat with a boppy pillow with soft toys is another option for keeping your infant-occupied as well. As much as adults like a variety of activities, so do kids, including infants.
The swing is not a terrible thing to have or to use. In fact, it is a great piece of equipment to have in your home. All babies need a change of environment every now and then. It is great to use for a quick break and an awesome addition to all of the other toys and equipment you have for your baby.
But swings just are not the place to let your baby sleep in and they can create a bad habit when it comes to sleeping for your baby. Cut the habit now and incorporate your swing into playtime, instead of nap time.