It’s no secret that babies enjoy movement: rocking, swaying, bouncing, jiggling, sashaying, and everything else that requires a rhythmic motion. Most babies would also prefer to sleep in motion, in a baby swing, car seat, or rocker.
The only issue? These aren’t the best places to sleep. When used for sleep, paediatricians refer to them as “sitting machines,” and they’ve been related to an increased risk of suffocation.
But, before you panic and toss your precious baby swing out the window, consider the following: When used correctly, a swing can be a wonderful, sanity-saving weapon (like soothing a cranky baby while you cook dinner within sight). It’s not a replacement crib, and it shouldn’t be used in that capacity.
If your baby has formed a habit of sleeping in the swing, here’s why you should start breaking it — and how to do it.
How to properly use a baby swing
The first thing you should know about baby swings is that they are not harmful if used properly. That is to say:
For instructions on how to use your swing and any buckles or accessories that come with it, read the box insert. (Keep in mind any height and weight limitations for your particular swing; some babies may be too large or too small to comfortably use one.)
Allowing your baby to sleep in the swing for long periods of time is not recommended. Although a catnap under your control might be appropriate, your baby should not spend the night in the swing while you sleep. If your baby falls asleep in the swing, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests moving them to a healthy sleeping spot.
It’s important to remember that the swing is an activity unit, not a crib or bassinet. When you need a rest, you can use the swing to safely distract, contain, or soothe your infant.
These same guidelines apply to any sitting system that your child can need. For example, the safest way for a baby to move is in a car seat. Outside of a car, though, it is not a safe place for a baby to sleep.
The dangers of swings and other similar sitting devices
Why is it so risky for babies to sleep in a sitting position? Since their neck muscles aren’t fully formed, sleeping at a semi-upright angle will cause their heads to push against their necks, causing them to slump over. Suffocation may occur as a result of this slumping.
Sitting devices, such as car seats, strollers, swings, and bouncers, were found to be responsible for 3%, or 348, of the approximately 12,000 infant deaths studied in a 10-year study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Around 62 percent of the deaths
in that 3% occurred in automotive safety seats. The majority of the babies were between the ages of one and four months.
Furthermore, the seats were seldom used as intended, with more than half of the deaths occurring at home. The research also discovered that when babies were watched by a non parent caregiver, these deaths were more frequent (like a babysitter or grandparent).
We’re not trying to scare you, but it’s important that you only use your baby’s gadgets for what they were designed for, and that everyone who supervises your child is aware of when and how your baby can sleep safely.
Some baby swings have been recalled in the past due to a connection to infant death or injury. In 2000, for example, Graco recalled millions of swings due to problems with the restraint belts and trays.
They started issuing recalls for their rocking sleepers almost two decades later due to suffocation threats for babies who could turn over onto their sides or stomachs.
Meanwhile, in 2016, Fisher-Price issued a recall for three swing models after customers complained that a peg intended to keep the swing seat in place popped out (causing the seat to fall).
Despite these recalls, it’s important to note that all baby swings have never been banned, and that most swings are relatively healthy when used correctly.
How to Get Rid of the Habit
We understand: you’re tired, your baby is tired, and everybody needs to sleep. You may not have the motivation to push your baby to sleep somewhere less comfortable if he or she prefers to sleep in the swing (and go back to being a sleep-deprived zombie).
If you’re still reading, you’re probably aware that a swing isn’t the best place for your child to sleep. Here are several pointers on how to make the turn from a crib to a bassinet:
When your baby has fallen asleep in the swings for babies up to 40 lbs , move them to a crib or bassinet if they are under 4 months old. This can assist them in gradually acclimating to their crib for sleeping.
If your baby is older than four months, you might want to consider sleep training. Moving your baby from the swing to the crib while they’re sleeping will trigger a sleep-onset association, which is a headache you don’t want (trust us!).
Practice putting your baby to sleep in the crib while he or she is still awake but drowsy. To make the space as sleep-friendly as possible, use a white noise machine or fan, as well as room-darkening curtains.
Reframe your baby’s swing as a spot where fun things happen by having it in a busy, well-lit, and/or noisy area of the house during the day. Your baby will learn that the swing is for playing, not sleeping.
If none of these methods work or you’re too exhausted to act, seek support from your child’s pediatrician. If your baby is having trouble sleeping in the crib, it may be due to a medical condition such as reflux, which makes a flat surface painful for them.
At the very least, your child’s doctor may be able to assist you in expediting the transition from swing to crib. A swing will keep your baby busy while you take a much-needed break when used as an entertainment device rather than a sleeping area.
However, before a baby’s neck control improves, the only healthy position for them to sleep is on their back on a hard, flat surface, which allows their airways to stay open for breathing.