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One of the most effective ways to keep a baby calm and contented is to use a baby swing. It worked wonders for my son when he was only a few months old, as it allowed me and my wife to have a few minutes peace and quiet at home throughout the day. Now he’s just had his second birthday and reached the dreaded terrible twos and there’s nothing we can do to calm him down!
Although most babies love going in a swing, you have to use one responsibly. Not only do you need to follow the guidelines on what age your baby should stop using one altogether, you also need to know how long your infant can stay in a swing each time. In this article let’s explore this in more detail.
How long should a baby use a swing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that you should limit the amount of waking time a baby spends in a swing (the same applies to bouncers and car seats as well). This is because a baby’s head is quite soft and there is a risk it can become flat if they’re left in the same position for too long. For a more quantitative answer, Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg (a certified paediatrician and parenting expert) states that babies shouldn’t be in a swing for more than 30 minutes in at a time.
Although my daughter never took to her baby swing at all, my son liked it a lot more. That being said, while it soothed him very quickly on a gentle setting, he never wanted to stay in the swing for more than 15-20 minutes anyway. Both seemed to like their play mat a lot more, and it occupied them for a lot longer!
Another reason why you don’t want your little one to stay in an infant swing for too long is that it can hinder their physical development. Babies need to learn how to roll, which leads to sitting and then standing. Your baby also needs tummy time every day to build up their core strength and neck muscles.
Can a baby sleep in a swing?
For the reasons outlined above, your baby should not fall asleep in a baby swing. For one, it will likely mean they will spend more than 30 minutes in the swing which is not recommended. Also, when babies fall asleep in a seated position there is an increased risk of suffocation. Their neck muscles aren’t developed enough to support the weight of their head so they could easily slump forward and cut off their airway.
Furthermore, according to the AAP from 2002-2014, out of 11,779 sleep-related deaths, 348 occurred in sitting devices, like car seats, bouncers and baby swings. So if your baby does fall asleep in their swing, it’s best to move them to their bassinet or crib on a flat surface as soon as possible.
Can a newborn use a baby swing?
You should check the manufacturer guidelines carefully, but in general your newborn should be fine in a baby swing. However, if your baby is a preemie then it’s possible their birth weight might be too low to use a swing safely (consult a paediatrician to make sure it’s ok). When your newborn is using a swing, make sure it is in the most reclined position possible (this is important for babies younger than 4 months old – as it will avoid them slumping and minimize their risk of suffocation)
Providing you monitor your newborn baby carefully when they are in the swing, in some ways it’s more concerning when your baby is too big to use one, or when they are physically developed enough to try and climb out. You need to make sure you check the product instructions carefully so you know what the maximum weight limit is for the swing, and keep an eye on when your baby starts crawling (at this stage it’s likely they won’t want to stay in a swing for very long!).
Bright Starts Whimsical Wild Baby Swing
How to use a baby swing?
Here are some tips on using a baby swing to ensure your baby is safe and secure:
- Make sure your baby is only in a swing for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.
- No sleeping in the swing.
- Don’t use a swing when your baby exceeds the maximum weight limit.
- Stop using a swing if you can see your baby is trying to get out.
- Make sure a parent is always close by to keep an eye on the baby. Never leave an infant unattended.
- If the swing seat can recline at more than 50 degrees, then your baby will definitely need shoulder straps to prevent any risk of them falling out. However, swings should have a harness anyway so you should use it at all times.
- Don’t push the swing as this can increase the chance your baby may fall out, or the swing could tip over (if you have other children at home, it’s important they understand this)
- Never carry your baby in a swing from one room to another. This is dangerous as your baby could easily fall out.
- Some swings have different speed settings. It’s best to start off on a more gentle setting, particularly for newborn babies. Older babies may like a faster speed.
- Make sure any mobiles that come with the swing won’t detach too easily. You should avoid giving your baby any toys while they are in the swing.
- Don’t use the swing on an uneven surface. It should be flat.
- Make sure the swing is sturdy and doesn’t tip over or fold too easily.
- Finally keep an eye on product recalls. It doesn’t happen that often, but you want to know there is no safety issue with your baby swing. This is why it’s always a good idea to register the product when you buy it, whether it’s Graco, Ingenuity, Fisher-Price or other manufacturer so they will let you know if there is a problem.
- Here is a link for Graco baby product recalls.
- Here is the link for Ingenuity (the parent company is kids2)
- You can check for Fisher-Price product recalls here (Mattel is the parent company)
Graco Simple Sway Swing
Benefits of using baby swings
Babies love to be rocked, hugged and shushed as it reminds them of being in the womb. Unfortunately it’s impossible for parents to do this all the time, so a swing can help give parents a few minutes respite, particularly if you have a very fussy baby. The gentle rocking motion of a baby swing can soothe most newborns, and they are quite snug to lie in so it helps to create the feeling of the womb (if only to a little degree). Furthermore, many swings have mobiles with lights and sounds to distract your baby for a few minutes.
Disadvantages of using a baby swing
There is a risk that some baby swings may overstimulate your baby, due to all the rocking and sounds and lights if there are mobiles at the top.
This was the case with my daughter when she was couple of months old. She just became fussier the longer she stayed in the swing, even when I tried different speed settings, and with/without music and lights. However, we kept the swing as we planned on having a second child. When Daniel was born, he loved his swing and found it very soothing. He was quite a colicky baby in the evenings so maybe it just helped to calm him down a bit. The swing we had was the Mama and Papas Starlite Swing (forgot to take pictures at the time as we’ve now sold it). It was a great product and I highly recommend it.
As well as overstimulation, there is the danger that parents can become too dependent on the baby swing to calm their baby when they’re upset or distressed. Make sure you try different ways to soothe your infant throughout the day and make sure they have tummy time to strengthen their core muscles.
The final risk is that your baby spends too long in the swing which can lead to the flattening of their head. They may also fall asleep which you should avoid, so you must keep an eye on your baby when they’re in the swing.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.