Are Baby Swings Safe?

For many parents, baby swings are a lifesaver. Most babies have periods of time where they are fussy and only seem to be happy when they are held and in motion. Yet we all know that busy parents can’t spend every second of the day walking, bouncing, and shushing their babies.

Baby swings give parents’ tired arms a needed break. Finally your baby is happy and you can wipe down the kitchen counter or eat a meal in peace!

But as useful as baby swings can be, they have a mixed reputation. You may have heard about some baby swing model recalls over the years; you may have also heard that baby swings sometimes pose dangers.

This is true, but this good news is that when used properly and under supervision—and most notably, when your baby is awake, not asleep—baby swings can be safe and you can get the much needed break you deserve.

What Dangers Do Baby Swings Pose?

The greatest danger that baby swings pose is when your baby falls asleep in a swing. And it’s not just baby swings.

The American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) advises against letting your baby fall asleep in any infant seating device like bouncy chairs, swings, and other carriers.

There is a risk in allowing your baby to sleep anywhere but on a flat, firm surface, on their backs, for their first year of life. This includes night sleep and naps.

That said, it is safe for a baby to sleep in their car seat when in the car. The issue is that when the car seat is used outside of the car, a caregiver's use of the seat often changes in a way that increases the risk of injury or death. For instance, caregivers often unbuckle or loosen the chest clip or leave the chest clip closed but the crotch buckle open. These scenarios can lead to strangulations and asphyxiations.

The risk from baby swings and other seating devices is that when your baby falls asleep in a semi-upright position, their head falls to their chin, increasing their risk of asphyxiation. As such, the AAP recommends transferring your baby to their safe sleep environment (crib or bassinet) when they are about to fall asleep in the swing.

According to the AAP, “if your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible.”

What the Research Says

Hearing the news about baby swings and sleep can come as quite a shock to parents! Many parents find that the swing is the only place their babies can take a reliable nap. Some parents even use swings for nighttime sleep. You may be wondering just how dangerous this practice can possibly be.

Studies show that swings are a dangerous place for a sleeping baby. According to a study published by the AAP, which looked at deaths over a 10-year period, nearly 35 infants die each year while sleeping in “sitting devices” (baby swings, car seats, strollers, and bouncy chairs).

The researchers looked at 11,779 infant deaths that occurred during sleep and 3% (348 deaths) occurred in a “sitting device.” Of those, 62.9% were in car seats (the majority of these deaths occurred in non-traveling situations, it should be noted); 35% occurred in baby swings; and 5% occurred in strollers.

These deaths did not occur completely randomly. The researchers found that there were certain factors that made death more likely, including:

  • Incorrect use of the harness on the “sitting device”
  • Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

Additionally, babies were more likely to die in a “sitting device” if the person who was caring for them was sleeping themselves or was otherwise distracted. Death was also more likely if the person caring for the baby wasn’t their primary caretaker.

Other Risks of Infant Swings

Risk of death isn’t the only risk of infant swings. If not used properly, baby swings have a few other potential issues.

Injuries

As the AAP notes, between 2009 and 2012, over 350 “swing-related incidents” occurred. Of those, 24 injuries were reported, as well as two deaths.

In addition, over the years several baby swings and infant sleepers have been recalled due to infant injuries as well as deaths. These incidents are often linked to improper use of the harnesses, which cause babies to fall out of the devices or which pose a strangulation risk. That’s why it’s always important to check to make sure that you are using the product correctly. You also should ensure your product is in good working order (especially if it’s second-hand), and that it hasn’t been recalled.

Flat Heads

Keeping your baby in any kind of infant carrying device for long periods of time increases their risk of developing a flat head. This is a concern even during your baby’s waking hours.

According to the AAP, “parents also should limit the amount of waking time that their baby spends in a seat such as an infant swing, bouncy seat, car seat or carrier to prevent the baby’s still-soft head from becoming flat as a result of being in the same position for too long.”

Safest Ways to Use Baby Swings

All of these warnings and tragedies may make it seem like baby swings are a flat out “no.” But that isn’t the case! While caution is advised when using a baby swing—and it’s very important not to let your baby sleep in a baby swing—there are several ways to use baby swings in safer manners.

Here are some tips for making baby swings as safe as possible for you baby, as outlined by the AAP:

  • Do not let your baby sleep in an infant swing; if they fall asleep, transfer them to a firm, flat sleep surface.
  • If your baby is under four months, have them sit in the most reclined position on the swing; this decreases the chance of them falling forward and possibly suffocating.
  • Make sure your baby swing can’t tip over easily; make sure it can’t fold up easily either.
  • Baby seats that can be used at a 50 degree angle or more should also have shoulder straps to keep your baby in place; always use the shoulder straps provided on a baby swing, and make sure you are using them correctly.
  • Do not use baby toy mobiles that your baby can easily pull off.
  • Consult the weight limits on your baby swing and don’t put your baby in the swing if they are too heavy.
  • Check to make sure the cradle of the swing stays mostly flat while the swing is in motion and while it is still.
  • Tummy time will help build your baby’s core and neck strength; the AAP recommends 2–3 minutes of tummy time 2–3 times per day.

A Word From Verywell

As a parent, it can feel very stressful when you read about all the potential dangers that your baby may face. You may feel overwhelmed, confused, or you may even begin to question if the warnings you are hearing are correct.

It can be helpful to take a breath, read the safety guidelines over again, and then consult your baby’s pediatrician with any lingering questions.

In the case of baby swings, it’s important to remember that baby swings in and of themselves do not pose dangers. It’s all in how you use them.

Be sure that you use the swing according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, that you check your swing for any recalls and broken parts, and that you always have a watchful eye on your baby. Most importantly, only use baby swings for recreational purposes, rather than for putting your baby down for a nap or for the night.

If you follow the safety guidelines carefully, you can breathe easily, and your baby swing can be the parenting lifesaver it’s meant to be.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained. Updated December 23, 2020.

  2. Liaw P, Moon RY, Han A, Colvin JD. Infant deaths in sitting devicesPediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20182576. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2576

Additional Reading
  • Colvin J, Han A, Liaw P, Moon R. Infant Deaths in Sitting Devices. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20182576. doi:https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-2576.

  • Korioth T. Safe and sound: tips for using infant swings. AAP News. 2013;34(1):25. doi:https://doi.org/10.1542/aapnews.2013341-25d.

  • Moon R. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. Healthy Children website. Updated February 10, 2020.