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Rebecca Desfosse @RebeccaDesfosse

5 Tips for Using a Baby Swing to Calm Your Baby

The swing seems to magically soothe your crying baby, but how much is too much? Learn the do's and don'ts of this popular gadget.

You'd do just about anything to soothe your fussy baby, especially when you're busy making dinner, helping your oldest with homework and answering an email -- all at the same time. Enter: the baby swing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Infant swings can be a valuable asset when parents need help soothing a fussy baby or a safe place for their child while they catch up on housework."

Simply settle your little one snugly into her swing, turn it on and let the swing calm your crying baby while you cross some things off your to-do list. However, swings aren't babysitters and shouldn't be used in every situation.

Here's how to use a swing correctly:
 

  1. Use the Swing to Soothe
    Baby swings are well-loved for a reason. "For some infants during the 'fourth trimester,' swinging is incredibly soothing in nature," says Alanna McGinn, a certified sleep consultant and founder of the Good Night Sleep Site. She points to pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp's technique for soothing crying or fussy infants, which includes the five S's: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, suck and swing. According to Dr. Karp, using a swing recreates the rocking motion of being in the womb, which is especially helpful for calming newborns.
     
  2. Don't Let Your Baby Snooze in the Swing
    The swing might be your baby's version of relaxing in a hammock, but sleeping while swinging should be kept to a minimum. "A baby swing isn't meant to act as a sleep environment," says Amy Lage, a pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Well Rested Baby. The sleep that your child gets in a swing is not as beneficial as sleep that happens in a stationary location. During motion sleep, it's hard for your baby's brain to get into a restorative state, explains Lage, which could mean that your child is building up a sleep debt whenever she uses the swing.

    "Once your child reaches 2 months of age, put away the unnecessary sleep prop," she says. If your baby does fall asleep in the swing, pick her up and carefully move her to the crib. If she fusses, stay with her and rub her back until she falls back to sleep. If you find that your little one will only fall asleep in the swing, try rocking, walking around with her, giving her a pacifier or using some sleep training tricks to teach her to self soothe.
     
  3. Forgo the Bells and Whistles
    "More" isn't always better. You can find dozens of different types of swings on the market -- ones that have back-and-forth or side-to-side movements (or both), colorful mobiles and more. According to McGinn, most of these features don't make a difference to your baby, but she specifically says that parents should avoid ones with light projectors and added entertainment that can overstimulate your little one. The one feature she does recommend? A white-noise sound that will help soothe your baby.
     
  4. But Don't Overdo It
    While swinging is a great way to soothe your crying baby, it should not be your own soothing mechanism. According to the AAP, you should limit the amount of time your baby spends in seats, like swings, bouncy seats or car seats to prevent your little one's head from becoming flat. The swing also restricts your baby's movements, and keeping her secured in just one position can be detrimental to her development. Though there isn't a set-in-stone time recommendation, limit swing time to no more than a few hours each day.
     
  5. Check Safety Recommendations
    Your baby's swing likely comes with its own manual, but following a few general rules will ensure that the swing is safe for your little one. Before picking out a top-of-the-line model, check that it meets the AAP's safety regulations. Young infants under 4 months should always use the most reclined swing position, and if the seat adjusts to a 50-degree angle or more, use shoulder straps to keep your baby secure.

    While rocking, the seat should remain fairly flat to ensure that she doesn't fall out. Check the swing carefully to make sure that it doesn't tip over easily, and make sure that your baby can't pull off any toys or mobiles on the swing that could pose a choking risk. Also remember that you can't just put your baby in a swing and leave him. Keep your baby within your line of vision or do frequent checks if he happens to fall asleep.


Want more soothing tips? Check out these 3 Soothing Baby Music Ideas.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.