It feels satisfying to see your baby fall asleep swiftly when you try to make them sleep. Not every baby is a swing-lover, yet most babies do fall asleep quickly in a swing. But a swing is not a safe place to sleep for babies.
A safe sleeping place for a baby is one in which their back is supported by a firm flat surface, which a swing lacks. Read on as we tell you why swings are an unsafe place to sleep for babies, how to use swings safely, and what to do if your baby only prefers the swing for sleep.
Is It Safe For The Baby To Sleep In A Swing?
No, placing the baby in the swing for playtime is allowable, but letting the baby sleep or take a nap in the swing is unsafe. Here are the reasons why swings are inappropriate as sleeping places for babies.
- Loose bedding: Babies may sleep on their sides rather than on their backs on the loose bedding of the swing. The loose bedding and padding may pose as suffocation hazards for babies, and could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies younger than a year (1).
- Weak muscle strength in babies: Infants lack adequate muscle strength to support their heads and keep their necks straight. Just like how you support a baby’s head with your hand when you pick them up, babies need support during sleep, too. A swing does not provide the required head and neck support (2).
- Positional asphyxiation: In a swing, there are chances that the baby may sleep on their stomach or sides, which may cause rebreathing of exhaled air. This leads to low oxygen levels and carbon dioxide buildup encircling the baby, increasing the risk of positional asphyxiation (3).
- Container baby syndrome: The swing limits baby’s movements and imparts inappropriate stress on their developing joints and bones. Sustained use of a swing for sleeping may increase the risk of container baby syndrome. It may cause a delay in achieving physical milestones, such as rolling and sitting, and cause musculoskeletal issues, such as torticollis (4).
- Safety issues associated with a swing: Falls from swings, strangulations, tearing of bad quality swing material, and injuries due to bumping of the swing, are some major risks associated with a swing (5).
- Worsening acid reflux: Some parents may place their baby with acid reflux on a swing believing that the semi-inclined position could improve the condition. However, according to Dr. Anthony Porto from the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleeping on the back is the best way to sleep, even for babies with acid reflux, as the semi-inclined position of the baby in a swing may worsen some symptoms of acid reflux (6).
How To Use A Baby Swing Safely?
Do not use swings for sleeping and napping, but use them only for playing once the baby starts sitting and holding up their head on their own, which is by the age of six months (7). Observing the following tips could help in the safe use of swing in babies.
- Use only during playtime: Swinging can be fun when the baby uses the swing while awake. Playing appropriate games and activities while the baby is on the swing could help develop the little one’s sensory and motor skills.
- Soothe the baby in it: Swings are great options to calm a fussy baby. Swinging relaxes the body and lifts the mood. Use swinging to lull the baby, and once the baby seems sleepy, transfer them to the crib.
- Monitor the swing time: Regulate the speed and the motion of swinging according to the tolerance of the baby, and see to it that an upright position is maintained. Make sure that the baby has access to plenty of fresh air (8).
- Use swing sets: A portable swing set can be carried to a garden, where the baby can enjoy the world around them, get sunlight and fresh oxygen, and interact with the surroundings. Also, swing sets with leg holes support the baby to be in an upright position.
- Use swings as directed by the manufacturer: Read the directions for correct use provided on the packaging. Check for any buckles, attachments, or belts provided, and understand their correct usage. Note the height and weight limits mentioned for the swing.
How To Break The Baby’s Habit Of Sleeping In A Swing?
If you regularly place the baby for naps in a swing, chances are they could become habituated to it. Here are a few things you can try to break the baby’s habit of sleeping in a swing and make them sleep in a crib or bassinet instead.
- Habituate sleeping in cribs and bassinet: Once your baby falls asleep in a swing, transfer them to a crib or bassinet immediately. Try doing so as gently as possible to prevent awakening the baby. Gradually, start placing the baby in the crib right when they become drowsy. Be consistent in using the crib/bassinet, and use the crib for both naps and nighttime sleep. It can help the baby associate the crib as a place to sleep (9).
- Try a sleep routine: Observe a sleep routine to calm the baby enough that they can comfortably fall asleep in the crib. Give them a warm bath, feed them, and read them a book before they become drowsy and ready to sleep in the crib.
- Keep the baby awake in a swing: Make the baby associate the swing as a place to remain awake and play rather than sleep. Keep the baby occupied for all the time they spend in a swing; talk to them, give them a toy to explore, or play a game to keep them engaged and awake.
- Place the swing near the crib: When the baby becomes drowsy, shift them to the crib, and when they are awake, shift them to the swing. A quick transition from the swing to the crib may help some babies adapt to sleeping in the crib quicker.
- Maintain a consistent sleep environment: Always keep the baby’s room quiet and dark so that they have an easier time relaxing inside the crib (10). Place the crib at exactly the same spot and in the same room. A consistent sleep environment could make it easier to make the baby sleep in a crib.
- Use pacifiers: Using a pacifier after your baby is three to four weeks old can be an effective method to help them fall asleep. It reduces the risk of SIDS in babies, and provides temporary distractions needed for transitions from a swing to a crib (11).
- Swaddle: Swaddling could make the baby feel warm and cozy, and calm them enough to accept the crib as a place to sleep. Stop swaddling the baby once they are two months old, which is the age when they try rolling over (12). Swaddling helps the baby feel the warmth like the mother’s womb and accept the crib as their sleeping place.
- Massage: A gentle massage acts as a soothing therapy for babies, as it relaxes them, reduces crying, and results in a sound sleep. After a massage, place the baby in a crib or bassinet for sleep. Do not massage the baby soon after feeding, as it may cause vomiting. Wait for 45 minutes after feeding to give a baby massage (13).
- Gently rock in arms: The rocking motion could soothe the baby before you place them in a crib. Once the baby seems drowsy, place them in their crib to fall asleep. Avoid doing it regularly and keep rocking for the moments when the baby acts fussy (14).
- Sing and read: You can try singing lullabies or some songs to lull the baby in a crib (15). Try multiple songs or stick to one lullaby that gets your baby to sleep faster.
Safe Alternatives To Swings
Below are some of the safe alternatives to a swing for babies (16).
- Cribs: This infant bed, also called a cot, is the safest option for babies to sleep (17). The firm surface is ideal for babies to sleep, and the sidebars provide support when babies begin to stand.
- Bassinets: It is a baby basket fixed on top of legs. A bassinet is easy to move from one place to another inside the house. Some are foldable and portable for easy carrying while traveling.
- Cradles: These are studier than bassinets and smaller than the cribs. Cradles can be rocked to lull the baby, and some of them even have wheels for easy movement.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long can I let my baby stay in a swing?
The swing time should be limited to an hour or less in a day. Activities like crawling, sitting, and standing cannot develop in a swing. Therefore, swings should only be used during playtime activity and as a means to soothe a fussy baby.
2. Should my baby take naps in the swing?
No, swings should not be used for naps. Place the baby in a crib even for daytime naps, just like how you would place them for nighttime sleep.
3. Can a swing help soothe my fussy baby?
A swing could help soothe a fussy baby since the swinging motion helps a baby calm down.
4. Can I use a boppy lounger for babies to sleep, instead of a swing?
No, boppy loungers are to be used when the baby is awake. It is not safe for babies to sleep in a boppy lounger.
A safe and sound sleep helps a baby grow. While swings are suitable for playtime, you must always use a crib or bassinet for the baby’s naps and nighttime sleep. Be consistent with using cribs for sleep, and the baby will gradually find it a comfortable alternative to sleeping in a swing.