Babies sleeping in swings: Is it a safe practice?

Weary parents may see swings as an attractive option, but pediatricians warn: not so fast
By Kait Hanson

Most sleep-deprived parents will share that anything that might help their baby sleep more soundly is a tempting option. Baby swings are appealing for this reason, but is it safe for a baby to sleep in a swing or bouncer?

“Swings offer hands-free ways to comfort and soothe infants using vestibular stimulation, rocking, swaying, vibration, extra padding or cradling,” Dr. Jane Sneed, a pediatrician at The Children’s Clinic of St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro, Arkansas, explained to TODAY Parents. “A swing can also be moved easily throughout the home, keeping an infant nearby.”

Should babies sleep in a swing?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against using infant swings for sleep.

“Babies should sleep on their backs on firm, flat surfaces,” Sneed said. “The absence of a firm, flat surface places a baby at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome.”

Newborn sleeping in swing

Dr. James Hahn, a pediatrician at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Greendale, Indiana, shared that infants, especially newborns, do not have the muscular tone to keep their heads up and neck straight.

“They can slump over in the seated position which could cause suffocation,” he said. “This is especially true in swings that have an upright, rather than reclined position.”

Infant swings can be helpful when a parent needs a few minutes to themselves or to help soothe a fussy baby, but safety precautions should be considered.

“Older baby equipment may not meet today's standards so parents should make sure their equipment is not expired or damaged,” Hahn said. “There's also the risk of infants falling out of swings while they sleep so parents should utilize straps if available.”

What if baby falls asleep in swing?

Hahn suggests that if the baby falls asleep in a swing, the caregivers should move the child to a firm sleep surface.

“A swing should not become a substitute for a crib,” he said. “Babies will sleep when they are tired, regardless of location. When parents say ‘my baby only sleeps in the swing,’ I challenge that this is a learned trait, and one that needs to be replaced with a safer alternative.”

The AAP suggests that the safest place for babies to sleep is a crib, bassinet or portable crib with a firm mattress and a tight sheet.

Dr. Adam Hurst, an Arkansas-based pediatrician and father of three, recommends parents focus on sleep from day one to avoid any sleeping roadblocks.

“If parents let infants sleep in car seats, their arms or swings during the day, it sets the infants’ routines and preferences,” he shared. “The babies, in turn, will have a more difficult adjustment sleeping at night in a safe sleep environment.”

Experts agree that while swings are not a recommended sleeping device, they are still good to have around to soothe or busy babies.

“No need to get rid of them,” Hahn said. “Just use them as they were intended.”