Every parent has been there — stressed beyond belief, sleep-deprived, and begging the nap gods to make their exhausted baby fall asleep. And you know what usually helps? A little ride in the baby swing. But once they doze off, can babies stay in the swing to sleep? Child safety experts want you to know the answer is a resounding no.
Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, tells Romper that swings don’t meet the standards of safe sleep set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP recommends babies always sleep alone, on their back, flat, and only in one of three places: a safe crib, a bassinet, or a pack-and-play. Any of these other products are really not designed for sleep. A swing is not a place for babies to sleep for naps or routine sleep,” she says.
Swings aren’t a safe sleep spot because they’re not flat and usually have a lot of padding inside. Both of these things put little ones in danger of blocking their airway.
“The problem is they have this huge head, weak neck muscles, and a very small airway, so they can get into a position where the airway is compromised and they can’t breathe, and they don’t have the ability to correct it so they can breathe again,” says Dennis. “The younger they are the more they’re at risk, and it could also happen to an older child.”
Tammy Franks, program manager for the National Safety Council, says in an interview with Romper that babies are especially at risk for sliding into a dangerous position in the swing if parents aren’t using all the straps, belts, and buckles it comes with.
“One of the contributing factors is people aren’t necessarily following the manufacturer’s guidelines, so are you using the harnesses and buckles and fastening them properly? Use swings under direct supervision,” she says.
In fact, Franks adds that swings aren’t even categorized the same as bassinets or similar products. That means they’re not required to meet the same standards for sleep safety as something like a crib. “In an AAP policy statement from 2016, they refer to swings as a sitting device, like car seats. Think of the swing as an activity or a sitting device rather than a sleeping device. Cribs and bassinets meet really stringent standards for sleep safety.”
Dennis knows how many parents use swings to help their babies fall asleep. She says the most important thing is to let them fall asleep while you supervise them in the swing, but move them to a safe area once they’re successfully snoozing.
“With any of these swings or sitting devices, if they fall asleep in one of them, the parent should move them as soon as possible to a crib, flat on their back. Also, be sure to read the owner’s manual, especially new parents who don’t necessarily realize all the features and warnings of their swing. The owner’s manual would tell you there’s a position for the younger baby that’s reclined a little bit, so even when they’re awake, they need to be in that reclined position to keep their head back and airway open.”
Tammy Franks, program manager for the National Safety Council
Cynthia Dennis, RN, coordinator of Safe Kids Northeast Florida at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville