What to Know Before Buying a Baby Swing

Buy a swing that fits your needs—and keeps your baby safe.

baby swing

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It may feel like buying a baby swing is almost as complicated as buying a new car. There are so many specs and features to compare, different colors, shapes, and sizes, and—of course—safety measures to keep in mind.

Many parents think about buying a baby swing to help with the unpredictability of baby sleep and allow them to get some rest from endless rocking, shushing, and lullaby-singing.

If that sounds like you, there's no need to stress over all of the choices of baby swings before you. We're here to help. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about buying infant swings so you can make a confident choice about whether it's right for you and your family.

Should You Buy a Baby Swing?

First things first—do you really need a swing for your baby? No! It’s a totally optional addition to your baby registry.

But need and want are two different things, and many parents find that their swing turns into an invaluable tool for surviving the first few months of their child’s life

“An infant swing is great for lulling a baby to sleep or keeping the baby entertained during short tasks,” says pediatric hospitalist Charnetta Colton-Poole, MD, FAAPS. 

Newborns aren’t huge fans of being put down, especially in environments that don’t closely mimic the feeling of being snugly held against a heartbeat or rocked back and forth in the arms of a parent. While a swing doesn't come close to substituting for the real thing, it can keep some babies happy enough to free up your hands for a bit. 

Baby Swing Safety

A swing can be a perfectly safe way to entertain and distract your baby during the day when you need a break. Before you buy a swing, though, it’s important to know its intended purpose. 

“[A swing can be] instrumental for occupying a child during daytime, maybe when you’re in the vicinity and want to give them a place to rest and hang out a little bit,” says Gary Kramer, MD, a private practice pediatrician in Miami, FL.

While many parents rely on the infant swing to get through the day, you shouldn’t use it to get through the night or for sleep. Keep these dos and don’ts for baby swings in mind. 

Do
  • Let your baby spend some “awake time” in the swing, observing and self-entertaining.

  • Put your baby in the swing while you vacuum or do another task nearby.

  • Experiment with different speeds, movements, and sounds to see what your baby likes or doesn’t like.

  • Use the swing to help your baby fall asleep, if needed.

Don't
  • Leave your baby unattended in the swing.

  • Allow your baby to sleep for prolonged periods of time, like overnight or for long naps, in the swing.

  • Leave the safety straps unbuckled or unsecure.

What to Look for in a Baby Swing

You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a baby swing, but it’s hard to know what you’ll need until you get to know your baby a bit better. 

“There are many different swings [but] overall, what one child may like, another may hate,” says Dr. Colton.

Swing features vary pretty widely by brand and model, but some of the most common features include: 

  • Multiple speed settings for gentle soothing or more vigorous rocking
  • More than one type of movement, i.e. side-to-side, back-to-front, bouncing, and vibrating
  • Quick folding for portability 
  • Removable covers for easy washing
  • Head support cushion
  • 5-point harness safety straps
  • Long-lasting battery power or A/C adapter
  • Multiple song options and/or nature or heartbeat sounds
  • Adjustable seat for age-appropriate inclines

If you’re planning to buy a swing before your baby is born, your best bet is to either buy the simplest swing possible (one that just rocks back and forth on different speed settings) or one with a ton of different bells and whistles (so you can accommodate any of your baby’s preferences).

Best Ages for a Baby Swing

Instead of age, think weight. Newborns can weigh as little as five pounds or as much as 10 to 11 pounds, so there’s too much variability for swing manufacturers to make recommendations based on age.

Most swings set a minimum weight at five pounds (so you may not be able to use your swing right away if you have a premature or low birth weight baby). As far as a maximum weight, you’ll need to check the guidelines for your specific model. Dr. Kramer says most cap out at about 40 to 50 pounds, though it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use your swing that long. Once your baby hits some mobility milestones, it may not be safe anymore. 

“A larger child is going to be more mobile—rolling, twisting, and turning—and you don’t want them falling out of the swing,” he explains.

Exactly when your child will become this mobile depends on a lot of different things and can range from four months to eight months. Make sure you know what your baby is capable of, and keep an eye on what they’re doing when they’re in the swing. 

Tips for Using a Baby Swing

Keep these tips in mind to get the most use out of a baby swing, and keep your baby safe.

Choose a Flat Spot on the Floor

Swings should never be placed on furniture or on bumpy, uneven surfaces. It’s fine to bring your baby swing outside on a nice day, but make sure the ground is flat and stable.

You should also pick a spot out of the way of foot traffic, so nobody accidentally crashes into it or trips over it.

Adjust the Incline as Needed

Most swings can recline forward or backward, and the angle you choose depends on how old your baby is and their latest developments. 

“With an infant less than four months old, keep it in the most reclined position,” says Dr. Kramer, who adds that very young babies don’t have strong enough head and neck muscles yet to accommodate a more upright seat. “If it’s too far forward, those muscles could collapse and the swing becomes a suffocation hazard.” 

After four months (or the development of your baby’s muscles), you can start to adjust the swing forward—but Dr. Kramer says, at this point, it’s especially important to correctly use the swing’s shoulder straps to keep your baby in the seat. 

Don’t Let Your Baby Sleep in the Swing

Parents are more likely to let their guard down—and stop supervising their baby—when they’re asleep in the swing.

We’ve said it before, but it’s important to reiterate that swings are not designed to be a safe sleep environment. If your baby needs the swing to fall asleep, that’s OK, but they shouldn’t stay sleeping there.

“Once the baby is asleep,” says Dr. Colton, “move them to a flat surface like the crib or bassinet.”

Always Be Within Eyesight of Your Baby

It’s tempting, we know, to lie down for a quick snooze, hop in the shower, or run next door to chat with a neighbor while your baby is cozily confined to the swing. But the reality is that tragedies can happen in a short amount of time with young children; your baby should never be left unattended in the swing for longer than a quick bathroom break. 

Follow the Specific Directions on Your Swing

The easiest way to keep your baby safe in the swing you purchased is to follow your swing’s directions and guidelines.

Use any accessories—like mobiles or canopies—as instructed, buckle your baby in the seat with the original straps, and always stick to the swing’s weight guidelines for use, including when to start using the swing, when to stop, and how to position it based on their size. 

A Word From Verywell

As you can see, baby swings can be an invaluable help for parents in the first few months of their child's life. They allow you to be hands-free and take a rest from holding your little one.

If your baby ends up loving their swing, that's great! Just don't be tempted to let them sleep in the swing, no matter how cozy they look.

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