What Are the Dangers of Swinging a Baby by the Arms?

Although it can be enjoyable to engage with your baby and play physically, professionals recommend against some types of play because of the possibility of injury. Even something as innocent as swinging a baby by the arms can have painful repercussions for the child. By understanding the dangers, you can avoid possible injury.

Dangerous Play

Babies often enjoy the thrill of a little rough and tumble play. Although a baby’s giggles and squeals can be encouraging, some types of play can be dangerous for a small child. Jerking a baby’s arm can result in injury. In addition, holding a baby by the hands and swinging the baby around in a circle can also be exceedingly dangerous for a child, states the University of Nebraska-Lincoln website 1.

Possible Injuries

A baby’s elbows and shoulders cannot withstand the stress exerted on them from jerking and swinging. Possible injuries include:

  • nursemaid’s elbow
  • when an elbow injury occurs,
  • a dislocated shoulder
  • when a shoulder injury occurs
  • states the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin 2

If a child’s elbow dislocates, a forearm bone moves out of place where it attaches to the elbow. A dislocated shoulder is a similar situation, except that it occurs at the shoulder instead of the elbow.

Injury Indications

If your child has an injury to the elbow or the shoulder, he may cry or report significant pain in the arm. The child may stop using the arm, due to the pain, states the KidsHealth website. The child may hold the arm straight down from her side or close to her body with a slight bend at the elbow to minimize the pain. Pain and a refusal to use the arm are the main indications of injury. Generally, dislocations do not involve significant swelling or other visual signs of injury.


A physician will diagnose the injury to the arm, determining whether it is a dislocation or a fracture. An X-ray is not necessary to diagnose a dislocation, but an X-ray must diagnose a fracture. Once a physician confirms a dislocation, moving the bone back into place is a fast and simple process that the doctor performs simply by moving the child’s arm in a quick movement to pop the bone back into place. The procedure may cause a quick, sharp pain, but it recedes almost immediately.

Future Issues

Once an elbow or shoulder dislocates, it may be more likely to happen again due to the soft tissues around the joint stretching and not providing tight support for the joint, states the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Parents and caregivers will need to exercise caution to ensure the child’s elbow or shoulder do not dislocate again.