Learn about safe sleep for babies

It’s a common scenario: Your infant is fussy and upset, and the baby swing is the only thing that calms them. So you skip the crib and let them nap in the swing. But is it safe to do so?

Here’s what you need to know about infant swings, along with some overall tips on safe sleep for babies.

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Is It Ever Safe to Use a Baby Swing?

Baby swings are fine to use for short periods of time, but only in situations when you’re keeping an eye on your child. For instance, a swing can be a blessing when you’re trying to make dinner or quickly check your email. The rocking motion can keep your baby calm and happy.

Even a short nap in the swing is okay if you’re in the same room and supervising your child. But letting your baby sleep all night in a swing can be dangerous. Babies — especially those under four months old — have weak neck muscles and can slump over, leading to suffocation.

Infant death in sitting devices

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), about 3,500 infants in the U.S. die each year from sleep-related causes. Some die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while others die from suffocation or strangulation.

A recent study in Pediatrics looked at nearly 12,000 sleep-related infant deaths over a span of 10 years. Nearly 350 of those children (about 3%) died while in sitting devices. (Sitting devices include car seats, swings, bouncers, and strollers.)

Most of those sitting device deaths were due to suffocation. Premature infants or those born at low birth weight were at higher risk, as were those exposed to secondhand smoke. Deaths in sitting devices were also more likely when someone other than a parent was watching the baby.

To use a swing safely

A baby swing can be safe, but only when used properly. Here are some tips for using a swing safely.

  • Read the instructions thoroughly. Make sure to assemble it according to the directions and fasten any straps properly.
  • Make sure grandparents, friends, and babysitters know that your baby shouldn’t sleep for long periods of time in a swing.
  • If your child falls asleep in the swing, transfer her to a crib for the night.
  • Check product recalls. You can see if there is an active recall on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

It can be tempting to let your sleeping baby stay in the swing, especially when you’re exhausted yourself. This is not only dangerous, it’s also reinforcing bad sleep habits. Your baby will get used to the rocking of the swing and won’t learn to fall asleep in her crib.

Safe Sleep for Babies: Dos and Don’ts

There are many steps you can take to promote safe sleep for babies. Likewise, there are behaviors to avoid.

Do:

  • Provide a safe sleeping environment for your baby. That means a firm crib mattress with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Always put your baby (up to one year of age) to sleep on her back. SIDS rates declined dramatically after the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development launched the “Safe to Sleep” program in 1994.
  • Breastfeed if you can. Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of SIDS.
  • Keep the baby’s bassinet or crib in the same room with you at night. Room-sharing decreases the rate of SIDS as much as 50%. Place the crib close to you so your baby is within view.

Don’t:

  • Use a swing, car seat, or bouncer as a substitute for a crib. And never leave your baby alone in a sitting device.
  • Fill the crib with blankets, bumpers, pillows, sheepskins, stuffed animals, or other soft bedding.
  • Overheat your baby. Dress her in one layer more than you’re wearing. If she’s sweating, she’s too hot.
  • Smoke around your baby. Secondhand smoke is a risk factor for SIDS.
  • Let your baby sleep in the same bed with you. Your baby will be at a greater risk of SIDS, strangulation, and suffocation. Instead, keep the bassinet or crib in the room with you.

Remember, always check with your pediatrician if you have questions about safe sleep for babies.

Sources

Pediatrics, Large study sheds light on infant deaths in sitting devices, Link

American Academy of Pediatrics, How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained, Link

The International Childbirth Education Association, The New AAP Guidelines on SIDS and Safe Sleep Recommendations, Link

New York Times, Some Babies Sleep Better in Car Seats and Swings, but Are They Safe? Link

CDC, Helping Babies Sleep Safely, Link

American Academy of Pediatrics, Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation, Link

National Institutes of Health, Key Moments in Safe to Sleep History, Link

National Institutes of Health, Fast Facts About SIDS, Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.