Baby swings can help soothe a fussy baby and settle him down for a nap, or allow him to sit upright, interact with others, and get a good view of his surroundings for stimulation and play. However, swings aren’t mechanical babysitters. There are certain situations when you need to stop using the swing for your child’s safety and healthy development.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), stop using the baby swing when your child is asleep, limit swing time, and stop completely when your baby can climb out.
While these general safety guidelines are pretty clear, every baby grows at his own pace, and every household has unique routines. Let’s look at the specific situations that you should stop using a baby swing.
Table of Contents
- Stop the swing once your baby falls asleep
- Limit swing time to 30 to 40 minutes each session
- Stop or lower swing time if your baby is overdependent on it
- Stop using the swing completely when your child can climb out
- Check for signs that he has physically outgrown the swing
- Stop using a swing that doesn’t meet safety standards
- Swings are great, but your baby’s safety comes first!
Stop the swing once your baby falls asleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a strong warning not to let your baby sleep for long periods in a seating device like baby swings, baby carriers, bouncy chairs, strollers, or sling.
Infants have weak neck muscles, so they can’t hold their heads up or adjust their position if they feel uncomfortable. If they fall asleep in a semi-upright position, they can slump over and find it difficult to breathe.
While you can use the swing to help your baby settle down, move him to a flat and firm surface like a bed or playpen once he’s asleep.
The AAP also tells parents not to have a “false sense of safety” because your baby is buckled in a swing. An average of 35 babies die every year while they were in a baby swing, and in almost all cases the parents were distracted or asleep, or the person watching the baby was not the primary caregiver.
To avoid any accidents, use the swing only when you can check your baby frequently, and teach babysitters or nannies about when to stop using the swing.
Limit swing time to 30 to 40 minutes each session
As a mom, I understand that one of the biggest reasons you use the swing is that it’s your only chance to do chores or even sit down and have a real meal. Your baby is safe, and you get a break!
That’s perfectly okay, but set each “swing session” to 30 minutes to an hour. The rocking motion can make your baby dizzy, and he may throw up his milk or get a headache (if your baby is fussy after spending time in the swing, this is probably the reason).
For newborns who still have a fontanel—the soft spot in the skull—staying in one position too long can cause the back of the head to become flat. While that won’t affect your baby’s health, it will affect his appearance.
Swing time shouldn’t replace skin-to-skin contact, cuddling, and tummy time. These are all important for your baby’s physical and emotional development. While swing time also provides stimulation and opportunity for interaction, it limits movement and doesn’t allow your baby to practice turning, stretching and twisting.
Stop or lower swing time if your baby is overdependent on it
Babies are creatures of habit, and if you use the swing too often, it may become an ingrained part of their routine.
When that happens, your baby will not be able to sleep or soothe himself without being rocked. That creates problems down the road, when he has outgrown the swing, or at night when you have to stay up and carry him.
Mix up swing time with other soothing methods like playing music, baby massages, or quiet time in the crib. While your baby may take longer to fall asleep, he will learn how to entertain himself or settle down on his own—an important skill for his development and your sanity.
Stop using the swing completely when your child can climb out
At around six months, babies have more upper body strength and can lean forward with their full body weight. They may also want to be more active, and will try to wriggle out of the harness and climb out of the swing.
Babies develop at a different pace, so this can happen earlier or later than 6 months. When this happens, it’s best to stop using the swing completely.
First, the swing may topple or fold over when your baby is very active. Second, your baby now seems ready to spend more time crawling and learning how to walk. Instead of strapping him into a swing, create a baby-safe area where he can play and move around.
Check for signs that he has physically outgrown the swing
Babies grow really fast, and before you know it he’s too big for the swing. Check your swing’s maximum weight capacity and recommended age limit.
However, you should also look for physical signs that the swing can no longer provide enough back support. Is your baby hunched over in the swing, or does he seem uncomfortable when he sits there for long periods?
Also check if the chair is too small and restricts his movement, or if the harness is too tight or too flimsy or too tight. Some babies can injure themselves from excitedly banging against the harness.
You also need to observe if your child’s longer arms can now reach the sides of the swing, which can cause possible injury too if his fingers get caught.
Stop using a swing that doesn’t meet safety standards
Check reviews of baby swings before you buy them. If you are buying one secondhand, make sure that it’s not in this list of product recalls and double-check for damage and wear and tear.
Swings are great, but your baby’s safety comes first!
Baby swings can keep your baby entertained and give you a much needed break, but you need to know when to swing and when to stop. Following these guidelines can help ensure that your child is safe, and that he still gets enough stimulation through other kinds of play for his growth and development.