Should Your Baby Nap in the Infant Swing?

130 Flares Filament.io 130 Flares ×


If you have a baby at home, then you know a thing or two about baby gear, don’t you? ;) The crib, the changing table, the toys…how can such a little person need so much stuff?!

Here’s a piece of gear most parents are very familiar with: the infant swing. Do you have one of these? If so, then you know first-hand how nice it can be to settle your baby snugly into his swing, turn it on, and then walk away as your little one is gently rocked to sleep. Win!

Of course, your baby may not be a fan of the swing; not every baby is! But if you have a swing-lover at home, chances are you’ve put your baby in the swing for naps at least a few times. Naps tend to be fussier times of the day for infants, after all, and many parents reach a point at which they’re willing to try anything to make naps easier.

Enter the swing.

But is this a good idea? Should you let your baby take naps in the swing? That’s the topic we’re tackling in today’s post.

Safety First: No Prolonged Sleep or Unsupervised Sleep in the Swing

Convenience is important for parents, but the safety of our babies takes first priority. So first, let’s address the safety concerns surrounding letting your baby sleep in the swing.

Here’s the general rule to remember: it’s not safe to let your baby sleep in the swing for prolonged periods of time, especially if your baby is unsupervised. The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines in 2011 which advised parents to avoid using baby swings as sleep aids.

According to the AAP, sitting upright for long periods of time (in a swing, for example, or in a carseat) can make it hard for babies to breathe well, and that can lead to an increased risk of SIDS.

For these reasons, it’s probably best not to let your baby sleep in the swing at night. However, some short periods of supervised swing-napping during the day are considered safe (provided you strap your baby into the swing tightly, and that you don’t put any loose blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in the swing with your baby.)

Infant Swings Can Be Great Tools for Soothing Fussy Babies

We don’t want to leave any of you with the impression that swings are unsafe, though — not at all! Used properly, swings can be excellent tools for calming fussy babies and giving parents a bit of much-needed peace.

That’s especially true in those early weeks, when your newborn baby just won’t sleep. Using the swing to cope with your newborn’s erratic sleep patterns and colicky behavior is just fine.

Nicole’s Note:
“I remember distinctly one particularly difficult day when my son was 6-8 weeks old and I could NOT get him to sleep in ANY way whatsoever. Not nursing, holding him, swaddling him, or anything. He was so fussy and crying a lot. I couldn’t take it anymore and put him in the swing. He still cried 10 minutes, but then FINALLY fell asleep! A couple months later, at Christmas, we were teased that he was going to ‘get drunk’ from the swing, because of how fast he liked it moving by 4 months old. For a spirited baby, he needed a faster speed and even when rocking in our arms, we had to perfect the ‘hard rock’ as we called it. The swing was a God send in those early weeks, but of course only temporary.”

Allowing Your Baby to Nap in the Swing Too Often Can Cause Problems, Though

Unfortunately, though, the “too much of a good thing” rule does apply to your baby’s swing. Remember, our babies and toddlers are quick to form habits.

We’ve talked before about how rocking your baby to sleep, or letting your baby sleep constantly in your arms, can backfire. It can become a habit for your baby, and pretty soon you’ll find she won’t settle for anything less than being rocked (or held) each time she sleeps.

The same hold true for naps in the swing. If your baby is a frequent swing-napper, you may find that he won’t nap anywhere else. And at that point, you may start to feel like the swing is causing more problems than it’s solving!

Our Recommendation: Begin as You Mean to Continue

As Nicole’s said before, it’s best to begin as you mean to continue. And that’s a good thing to keep in mind when you use your infant swing. Again, it can be a great tool for banishing your baby’s cranky spells, but it’s not something you’ll want to use for all (or even most) of your baby’s naps.

Instead, we recommend that you get to the root of your baby’s napping problems and work to solve them, instead of using the swing as a “band-aid” fix. If your baby is struggling with naps and is past the 4 month mark, then you can try sleep training. If your baby is younger than 4 months, she’s too young for real sleep training, but you can still work to build a foundation of healthy sleep habits.

Is your baby a “swing-napper”? How have you worked to build healthy napping habits with your little one? Share your story below!

Tired of using the swing to make naptime happen? Ready to get to the root of your baby’s naptime struggles? Check out Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-to” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (for babies) or The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (for toddlers). Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. Or, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and teleseminars. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a sleep plan; sometimes you’re just close to the situation or too tired to!

130 Flares Twitter 5 Facebook 100 Google+ 4 Pin It Share 21 Email -- Buffer 0 Filament.io 130 Flares ×
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

15 Responses to Should Your Baby Nap in the Infant Swing?

  1. Marie says:

    No matter what I do my son never really sleeps the same way the only thing consisent is the times that he lays down. Sometimes he falls asleep in his swing sometimes he fall asleep on me or the bed. However the amount of time he sleeps is never the same, sometimes I think he just doesnt like sleeping.

  2. Kathy says:

    My husband and I fought over this like crazy when our son was a baby. I was dead against it, he insisted that we all needed some sleep. We didn’t do it often enough to make it a habit, but at times, it was a lifesaver. So sorry to see that it is now considered a SIDS risk, because as time passed, I decided that I wouldn’t fight him on it if there happened to be another baby in the household.

  3. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Marie — how old is your baby? This sounds like typical newborn/young infant behavior to me :)

    @ Kathy — we did the same thing in our house. I’d use the swing to save my sanity, but I tried not to make it a regular thing. Although I do confess to letting my kids sleep in the swing at night a few times when they were newborns (before the SIDS recommendations came out.) Wouldn’t do it now, though — I’d be too worried!

  4. Sara bobkin says:

    My daughter napped in her swing until she was 8 months old. I fought it in the beginning bc I didn’t want her to be ‘spoiled’ by it. But she would only nap for 30-45 min in the crib and would sleep for hours in the swing so I conceded defeat. I decided it was more important gor her to get the sleep she needs then where that sleep was happening. I also used it as a tool to transfer her to her crib starting around 3.5 months. I gradually reduced the speed and once she was sleeping in a non moving swing for a couple weeks into the crib she went. She slept through the night from 4.5 months (sporadically before then but then we hit the 4 month regression) and we haven’t looked back. Naps took longer but now she sleeps in her crib like a champ. I understand the AAP warnings and the supposed SIDS risk but it worked for us and i will probably do the same with my next child. I firmly believe now when they are ready for the crib ill know and it will be relatively easy to make the transition. Hopefully the next one liked the swing!!

  5. Eryn says:

    My 9month old son has been napping in a swing since starting at daycare full time at abt 3.5 months. He refuses to nap in the crib at daycare and there are quite a few babies who nap in the swing. So, on the weekends, we try to emulate the swing nap at home. This worked, until a couple weeks ago and now DS will only nap on mommy! I’ve tried to put him in the swing or the crib and he just won’t sleep. I also find it particularly hard to sleep train when he isn’t being sleep trained at daycare… any advice? Does the 9month sleep resgression affect naps, but not night sleep?
    Sometimes I think to myself, we’re going to wean soon and I’ll miss this snuggle time.
    He sleeps in his crib at bedtime for a good 5-6 hour stretch, then we co-sleep after that first waking.

  6. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Sarah bobkin — thanks for sharing all these details about how you made the swing work for you! Love helpful personal stories like these. :)

    @ Eryn — it can be VERY hard to figure out a good sleep training plan when daycare is involved. Lots of parents struggle with that! We have an article on that topic planned, actually, so stay tuned for that.

    I think it’s normal for naps to be harder than nights (at least, for some babies.) Naptime sleep is very different than nighttime sleep (you can read more about that here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-naps-2/why-baby-and-naps-different-than-night-sleep/)

    You’re always welcome to take a look at our free guides. We have one on napping (http://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/) and one on sleeping through the night (http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/). You could also check out our sleep consultation packages, if you want a consultant to help walk you through the intricacies of sleep training while your baby is in daycare (https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/)

    Keep us posted on how things go, Eryn! And thanks for commenting. :)

  7. Ashley says:

    My 6 month old has napped and slept in the swing on and off but mostly on this entire time. First it was due to his acid reflux, we could not lay him flat on his back, he absolutely would not go to sleep if he was flat, we conquered the reflux and got him on a good eat, play, nap routine with a good 3-4 hr total nap time throughout the day with only his last nap in the swing and he was sleeping through the night consistently at 4 1/2 months… He has now started daycare and picked up the runny nose and congestion and wakes up throughout the night again :(… I think its mostly due to his congestion that he has never experienced, and a little due to teething. But he is now sleeping in the swing again because it seems he breaths better propped up and I also read to prop them up when congested. It has been 2 wks of waking again throughout the night after 2 months of consistently sleeping 8+ hrs. He has been coughing and congested so I am hoping it is just due to that and this doesn’t become a habit. He has been to the dr and he said just nose drops and suction. His oxygen levels and ears and everything else was ok.

  8. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Ashley — As I say in the post, some napping in the swing, especially when babies are young (as yours is), is fine. Sleeping in the swing at night, however, is iffy. The AAP recommends against it, so that’s not something we advise parents to do.

    However, I do understand your point about needing to prop your little guy up, since he seems congested. I think you’re probably right, and that his night waking could be due to illness and congestion. It seems like most babies and toddlers end up spending the entire winter battling nasty colds, doesn’t it? No fun (for them or for their parents!)

    I’d say use the swing as needed during the day; nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to stay sane! But avoid using it during the night, when you’re not awake to supervise. I’d also advise you to avoid using the swing so much that you create a long-term habit. I know that’s easier for me to say than it is for you to do, but try to keep it in mind.

    As always, you’re welcome to download our free guide (http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/) Some of those tips and techniques might help you get your baby sleeping well again at night.

    Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have further questions, Ashley! And thanks for commenting. :)

  9. Casey says:

    I understand the AAP’s recommendations and their safety concerns, but I also think people need to understand that what is safest and what actually helps babies sleep are not always the same thing. Before a certain age, little ones need a lot of soothing and help falling asleep. If it isn’t practical or even possible for that soothing to come always from you, a swing may be the way to go. In order to make it as safe as possible, though, why not make use of the many wonderful options that are now available to parents? Use a swing that reclines like a cradle for sleeping (although this does not eliminate the concern, clearly) or actually purchase a rocking bassinet to benefit from the modern convenience of automated rocking while still putting baby in a safe back to sleep position. And if you can “swing” it, why not use a great baby breathing monitor to help you detect any possible breathing disruptions that arise. I haven’t used one yet, but here is an infant motion detector that can be used with any sleep surface, not just in a crib, because baby wears it: http://www.amazon.com/Snuza-Halo-Baby-Movement-Monitor/dp/B002ITOC7S. Register for a product like this instead of a designer crib set and you will have a lot more assurance that your child is okay even when you have to perform some less-than-ideal gymnastics to get him or her to sleep soundly.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that a monitor is a good replacement for safe sleep practices and no device can spare you from having to face the consequences of failing to establish good sleep habits, but I think helping your little one get enough sleep is of the utmost importance. So when it seems like your baby’s sleep needs are in conflict with recommendations about ideal sleep conditions, it’s time to think about practical solutions.

    For a very persuasive but admittedly non-medical take on the issue, I highly recommend the blog Troublesome Tots: http://www.troublesometots.com/how-to-get-baby-to-sleep-better-part-2/

  10. Casey says:

    Update: Note that in my previous post I do not mean to imply that monitoring is definitively effective in preventing SIDS. Scientific evidence has not been effective at assessing that claim one way or the other, and the actual cause of SIDS is unknown. Although testimonies abound from parents who believe they prevented the death of an infant when a monitor detected a long episode of apnea, it cannot be determined with certainty whether the infant would have died without intervention. And since efforts to determine the actual cause of SIDS (not risk factors associated with it) have been futile, it is impossible to know at this time whether any amount of monitoring or intervention can prevent its occurrence. So please understand that I am not saying the use of monitors can replace safe practices because they are equally effective at preventing SIDS. There is no evidence to that effect.

  11. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Casey — I think I understand your general point here, and I agree. Every parent needs to have boundaries when it comes to following safety precautions. Safety should be first, but there are limits, right? After all, if we put safety above all else, we’d probably never let our kids ride around in our cars, or be exposed to direct sunlight. ;)

    I totally understand that for some moms, using the swing for some night sleep is a must, if they’re going to maintain their sanity. I get that. I did that with all three of my kids from time to time, actually! It was never a regular thing, but there were times when I thought to myself, “If I don’t get a couple uninterrupted hours of sleep tonight, I might actually die.” And so into the swing they went!

    However, that’s not something we officially recommend here at the Baby Sleep Site. We stick closely to AAP recommendations when we advise the families we work with. And for that reason, putting babies into their infant swings at night isn’t something we recommend. We get that parents may do it from time to time, but it’s not something we’re going to advise.

    Hope this clarification helps. Thanks for speaking up, Casey, and for offering your insights! :)

  12. Adrianna says:

    My son was diagnosed at two weeks old with severe reflux(GERD). They said due to the severity to avoid dairy and soy proteins.. They also recommend have him sleep at a 45 degree angle.. We did everything we could.. We tried elevating his crib mattress, sleeping in his car seat, but found that our swing adjusted to the perfect angle for him to sleep.. He loved it.. I don’t know what we would have done those few months with out it.. We had to rotate between the crib and swing so he wouldn’t rely on it. But honestly when my next child arrives if he/she has same issue I will be allowing them to do the same.. Telling us it increases the risk of SIDS but also telling those parents to children with GERD issues to elevate them is hard to believe.. I ran a fan and a humidifier for the first 8 months for fear of SIDS.. Multiple recommendations all around from every doctor but none can tell you how your child will react to it.. Every child is different and my son needed his swing to get him past his worst reflux stages.. Most children out grow it by one but my son going on two still has it. Sometimes the perfect angle he finds today still matches his swing which is stored away since he out grew it..

  13. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Adrianna — thanks so much for bringing up the reflux issue. That’s something I neglected to mention in the article, but you’re absolutely right — babies with reflux really do sleep better if they’re propped up at a slight angle!

    I think your point dovetails nicely with the point Casey made earlier — it’s important to follow safety guidelines, but only within reason. It seems like you did exactly the right thing here; your doctor directly advised you to sleep your son at a 45 degree angle, and you used the swing to do it. I think anytime a doctor who knows your child personally advises something that conflicts with a larger, more general recommendation by the AAP, your doctor’s recommendation should take priority. Sounds like that’s exactly what happened in your situation.

    Thanks for making this point, Adrianna, and for reminding us that babies with reflux really need to sleep in the swing, especially for those first few months.

  14. Lil says:

    Where do I start, oh my. This is great advice based on common sense for the majority of people but in our house our DD dictated to us what would work or not. There was no compromise at all, no worrying about bad habits or even SIDS because there were only certain things that would work and that was IT. My DD, when she was a baby, responded to nothing except nursing, holding, and the swing. We read books to get pointers and tricks and tried everything we read, we shushed, rocked, bounced, walked, everything. Nothing ever worked except for me to nurse her to sleep and then hold her through her naps (if I even moved a muscle after she was asleep, even deep sleep, she immediately woke up screaming and I’d have to start all over again for a nap.) At night I dozed sitting up holding her for the first four months and then at four months a friend of the family heard I was losing my mind and gave us a swing to borrow. DD HATED to be put in it during the day and when she was awake, screamed and screamed and threw up all over herself. But at night it was different. Every night I would do my usual nurse her for four to six hours until she was finally in a deep enough sleep for me to move and then I would carefully get up and put her into the swing and turn it on. She would sleep for about three hours like that, then she’d get up and we’d have to do the four hour process again. Sometimes she’d go back to sleep enough that I could put her back into the swing, sometimes I just had to hold her afterward. She slept in that swing every night from the time she was four months old until she was a year old. She was swaddled (in a Woombie suit) and couldn’t get out. I used the straps/seatbelt and she was secure. For the whole first year of her life I got maybe 2-3 hours of sleep per day/night, and the ONLY time I got sleep after she turned four months old was when she was in the swing. I tried and tried to get her to sleep in other places, and to sleep on her own, fall asleep on her own, wean from the swaddle, but she would just scream and scream and get so upset that it took over an hour (or several hours) to calm her down again before we could even try to nurse her to sleep. When she was a year old she started to seem uncomfortable in the swing and so I bought an ebook from this site on how to sleep train her, because I needed to get rid of the swing, the swaddle, and get her to learn how to fall asleep on her own all at the same time and I was lost. She did OK, we’ve had setbacks but as a 2-year-old she can still put herself to sleep for naps and at night, even if it is still with a lot of screaming initially each time. The point of all of this is that without the swing I would have gotten absolutely NO sleep at all in the first year and that’s just not physically possible. And even then it was maybe 3 hours total, because up to a year old I still had to hold her for all of her naps so I couldn’t really sleep then either. I had people telling me I was “baby whipped” and I just needed to let her cry. SO I did, when she was 10 months old,because they were telling me she was beyond ready at that age, and so they’d get off my back, and she screamed and cried for hours and got so upset I was up all night with her because she couldn’t calm down after that. She just wasn’t ready for anything other way to sleep. While she cried it out, I went in and calmed her down periodically, checked on her, rubbed her back, all of that. It made no difference. She wailed hysterically. After that people left me alone about it. And back she went into the swing, by herself, every night, until she was a year old and started showing signs of being ready for something else. So that’s why, when I read this article I can appreciate the information because it is probably helpful for most of the babies out there, but mine wasn’t having ANY part of expert’s wisdom on how she was supposed to be sleeping. So we just did what worked and at night, that was the swing. I literally wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for the swing.

  15. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Lil — thanks for sharing your story in such detail! Very helpful. I agree that while it’s good to make yourself aware of what the “experts” have to say, it’s also good to be mindful about what needs to happen in your own house, in order to keep everyone sane and alive. ;)

    Glad to hear your little girl is sleeping better now, and that you’ve graduated from the swing! Thanks for commenting, Lil.