Infant swings can seem like a cure for sleep-deprived parents whose babies won't go to sleep any other way. They can rock and soothe babies to stop crying and help them sleep. However, swings aren't a long-term cure. Not only should babies only spend short periods in a swing, but you should stop using the swing permanently once your baby exceeds the weight limit or starts trying to crawl out of it.
When Your Baby Falls Asleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions parents against using swings as sleepers for infants. Though you might use the swing safely to get your baby to fall asleep, you should remove your baby from the swing once he is asleep. If your baby sleeps in the swing, he could slouch or slump, which could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The AAP also recommends never allowing your baby to be in the swing unsupervised.
When 30 Minutes Have Passed
Even if your baby does not fall asleep in the swing, you should not leave him in the swing for extended periods. Consumer Reports recommends not leaving a baby in the swing for more than 30 minutes at a time. Extended swinging periods can cause your baby to get dizzy. Even if your baby is not swinging, both the AAP and Consumer Reports note that extended periods in the swing in a prone position can increase the chances that your baby will develop a flat spot on his head.
When Your Baby Exceeds the Weight Limit
Every infant swing has its own weight limits, but the typical weight limit for most swings is 25 pounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 percent of boys will reach 25 pounds by the time they are 16 months, and 50 percent of girls will reach that weight by the time they are 20 months. When your baby is too heavy for the swing, you should stop using it for any amount of time.
When Your Baby Can Climb Out
Even if your baby has not yet exceeded the weight limit for the swing, he might be mobile enough to start trying to climb out of it. If this is the case, you should stop using the swing immediately. Children as young as 12 months might have the mobility to start trying to climb out, which can lead to a fall and a head injury. Even if you strap your baby into the swing with the harness, which you should do every time you put your baby in the swing, if your baby tries to climb out, he could become tangled and hang from the swing by the straps, causing injury. According to Consumer Reports, 1,800 children under age 5 were injured as a result of baby swings in 2005, and one baby dies each year from swing use each year.