You are sleep deprived, covered in baby smells, and there is a tiny human in your arms that won’t sleep! Congratulations, you are a parent! Now to find a way to get this baby to sleep so you can get some rest.
For a tired, sleep-deprived parent, finding that one thing that helps your baby sleep like a dream seems like a miracle – baby swing chair to the rescue. Now you can just sit and relax, but then the worrying begins – is it safe? Is it possible for your baby to swing for too long?
It is definitely possible for a baby to swing for too long. Babies should not be left to swing or sleep in a swing for extended periods as it can be hazardous and cause development issues for your baby. Parents should also try to avoid using swings as sleep aids as this poses its own risks and problems.
Read on to learn about the general safety guidelines of using a baby swing.
The smooth rhythmic movement of the swinging or rocking baby swing may soothe your baby and may even help to put them to sleep. It’s okay to let your baby sleep in the swing for a short period while you are near to them and supervising them. However, it is not safe to leave your baby sleeping in that swing for extended periods, especially unsupervised for any period.
By all means, use the swing to help soothe your baby’s cries, colic, fussing, or even just to give your arms a break, but keep in mind there are other ways to soothe and calm your baby, which we will discuss as we go along.
At what age can a baby be put into a swing?
A baby can be placed in a swing from as early as a few weeks old, as long as the correct swing for their age is being used. Different swings have different safety guidelines and are suitable for different age babies.
Most swings are suitable for babies age 4 months and up; however, some swings are made to be used with babies from a few weeks old. Babies under the age of 4 months old should use a swing that has a seat that can be reclined as far back as possible.
Babies under 4 months old should always be placed in the swing with the seat in the most reclined position because they have little to no head and neck control. If they are placed in a sitting position, they are at risk of suffocating or may end up being slumped over, which could also restrict their breathing.
Shoulder straps should always be used in order to keep your baby safe and secure when in the swing at all ages.
When to stop using a swing?
The best way to decide when to stop using a baby swing is to follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. Check the weight, height, and size restrictions given in the user manual or manufacturer requirements to decide when your baby should no longer be placed in the swing.
Your baby may also give you signs of their own that they are no longer interested in being in the swing, such as trying to climb out or fussing and fighting when placed in the swing.
How long can I leave my baby in a swing?
There are no fixed rules or amount of time that you can leave your baby in the swing. However, it is recommended that babies not be left in a motorized swing for more than an hour or so per day.
It is always best to try using the swing for no more than 30-minute intervals to avoid your baby getting to used to the comforts of the swing, which will hinder your efforts to comfort your baby without it.
If your baby falls asleep in the swing, it is recommended, for safety reasons, to move them to a crib or cot where they can sleep safely without the dangers the swing may present.
Risks and Benefits of using a baby swing
There are multiple benefits to using a swing if it is used correctly, but there are also many risks that need to be considered before placing your baby in a baby swing.
Babies love the constant rocking or swaying motion of a baby swing, and this will help parents avoid a lot of unnecessary stress as long as the baby swing is used correctly.
Benefits of using a baby swing
- Babies love motion and the constant swaying or rocking motion provided by the swing. It is a sensory experience that simulates the womb of their mother where they were safe and warm for the first months of their life, so a swing can help to soothe and calm a fussy baby easily.
- Most babies will fall asleep easily when placed in a swing, so on occasion, this may help parents who have colicky babies, overtired babies, or babies who have difficulty sleeping to get their precious baby to sleep.
- It can help soothe your baby while you perform basic daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, or even getting some work done (with baby in your sight at all times, of course).
- It can give your tired arms a little rest so you can relax and have a cup of tea or coffee.
Risks of using a baby swing
- Parents should avoid using a swing as a sleep aid as much as possible as a baby could get used to it as a way to sleep, and then become reliant on it in order to sleep. This could eventually become a long term problem for parents trying to get their baby to sleep without the swing.
- Keeping a baby strapped into a swing for too long or for long periods can aid in Plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome (causing baby’s head to become flat on the back).
- Keeping your baby in a swing for too long can affect their development. Gross motor skills, such as rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, and walking, may be affected if your baby is left in a swing for too long.
- Babies need to build strength, coordination, and movement skills. This is easiest when they are placed on the floor, a play mat, play gym, in a playpen, or on any other flat, safe surface, where they can practice using their muscles by kicking, wriggling, rolling, moving their head around, and other physical activities. Babies cannot practice these physical skills if they are left in a swing for too long.
- If a baby is left to sleep in a swing, they are also at risk of SIDS or suffocation due to not being able to breathe freely.
Can a baby safely sleep in a baby swing?
It can seem so tempting to let your baby sleep in the swing after long, tiring hours of trying to get them to sleep. However, it is not safe to let your baby sleep in a swing.
Allowing your baby to sleep in a swing puts them at an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrom) or suffocation. If your baby does fall asleep in the swing, it is safe enough to let them nap there for a short period with full supervision, but the baby should never be left asleep unattended in the swing.
If your baby falls asleep in a swing and you intend for them to have a long or extended sleep, then your baby should be taken out of the swing and placed in a safe sleep space such as a crib or cot where they can sleep safely without risk of suffocation.
The movement of the swing also prevents the baby from getting good quality sleep. Babies need deep, sound sleep to grow and develop properly.
If you intend to let your baby have a short nap in the swing, it is recommended to turn off the rocking or swaying motion of the swing once the baby is in sound sleep and should be monitored throughout their nap.
Why a baby should not swing for too long
Babies need to be able to exercise their muscles to develop their motor skills. Sitting in a swing for long periods hinders your baby’s movement and restricts the use of their muscles.
A baby needs more time on a flat surface where they can stretch, roll, pull, reach, cruise, crawl, sit up, and eventually walk. If a baby is restricted to a swing, they will not be able to develop these vital motor skills.
Babies need physical contact and attention from their parents in order to develop social and emotional skills. Leaving your baby to swing too long will deprive them of the physical contact they need from their parents to grow up emotionally stable and socially aware.
What to do if your baby will only sleep in a baby swing
Once again, the safest thing you can do as a parent is to remove your sleeping baby from the swing and place them in a safe sleeping space such as a crib or cot.
So here are some tips for making the shift from a swing to a safe sleeping space:
- If your baby falls asleep in the swing, immediately move them from the swing to a safe sleep space so they can get accustomed to the idea of sleeping in this new place rather than sleeping in the swing.
- If your baby is older than 4 months, you can try a form of sleep training or following a set routine for sleep, so they know when it is time for sleep.
- Babies over the age of 4 months associate things with a routine, so allowing them to fall asleep in the swing and then moving them could actually cause them to rely more on the swing for sleep as they will become accustomed to the swing as a part of their sleep routine.
- Try setting a fixed sleep routine, then practice putting your baby down while they are drowsy but not yet asleep and give them minimal support to let them sleep on their own by using self-soothing methods. This will help your baby understand that they do not need to rely on you in order to get the sleep they need.
- Create a sleep-inducing environment: darkened room (blackout blinds) or soft red light to create an optimal sleep environment. Use a white noise machine to simulate the womb and help to comfort your baby if needed.
- Help your baby register the swing as a fun place to play by keeping it in a well-lit, noisy section of the house and not providing that same “sleep environment” provided during your routine. This will help your baby to recognize that the swing is a place to play and not a place to sleep.
Your baby can safely use a baby swing, which can give you a well-deserved and needed rest. However, always be vigilant of risks and avoid long term complications by following safety guidelines and rules to keep your baby safe and healthy.
Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates