Do You Need a Baby Swing?Published on 07/25/2023 · 10 min readWith all the baby gear and gadgets out there, it's hard to know what you need and what you don't. Baby Expert Alex K. weighs in on the importance of baby swings!
Photo by Bluedog Studio
When it comes to absolute necessities when preparing for a baby’s arrival, all you really need is food, shelter, clothing, and love. Everything else is a bonus, sometimes even overboard, and while something like a baby swing might seem like a must-have, it’s not, but it certainly can make caring for an infant (a baby less than age one) easier.
Until you begin to understand the personality of your newborn—which takes time—it can be tough to determine how much use you’ll get out of a baby swing, that is, a padded chair suspended by a sturdy frame that can rock front to back and/or sway side to side. Many babies love the soothing and rhythmic motion of swings, but some can’t stand them, so keep that in mind when budgeting for your baby gear.
Baby swings tend to be among the more expensive pieces of baby gear, ranging from around $50 to $300, and you’ll only be able to use a baby swing for six to nine months before your child starts trying to climb out (that’s when it’s time to put it away for the next baby or re-gift it).
While they’re great at freeing hands for busy moms, dads, grandparents, and other caregivers, a baby should only be left in a swing for up to 30 minutes at a time, and they are not recommended for safe sleep unless under careful supervision.
Those are just some general recommendations. All baby swings are different, so check each manufacturer's guidelines regarding age and weight limit, and always consult with a pediatrician about what is best and safest for your child.
For those wondering whether an infant swing will make a difference in their first year of raising a child, it’s worth considering its purpose and benefits as it fits into your lifestyle, as well as where you plan to use it (around the house or on the go) and how much you want to spend. There are also different types of baby swings, including mechanically operated swings, plug-free bouncers, and manual rockers.
A baby swing may very well be worth it if you fall into the following categories:
You Need Extra Hands
While we all love to get our baby snuggles in, there are times when you need to put a child down for certain tasks, bathroom breaks, a quick shower, or to simply free up your hands. Taking breaks from holding a baby doesn’t make you a bad parent; in fact, this can be a good thing to do as babies who learn to self-soothe will be less fussy in the long run.
If you’re the type of person who likes their house to a certain level of tidiness, a baby swing is a worthy purchase. Doing basic chores around the house while keeping an eye on your child will be much easier when they’re content in a swing. While some parents swear by baby carriers or slings, I found it to be near impossible and borderline dangerous to clean the house with my infant in a front pack (think about how many times you bend over while cleaning; you’ve always got to be wary of where the baby is to avoid bumping their head).
If you are going to be alone with your child most of the time and don’t have others to hold them, a swing could be a great addition to your daily routine together. In addition to the side-to-side swaying and/or front-to-back rocking motion, which can sometimes be customized to different swing speeds or modes, many swings have toy bars, mobiles, vibration settings, and/or music such as nature sounds, white noise, and other melodies to entertain your baby. Some are even Bluetooth-enabled so that parents can control the swing's different motions and timer with a phone or tablet.
Baby swings and bouncers are also made with various fabrics, some of which are removable and machine-washable, which can make life easier for cleaning spit-ups, blowouts, and such. Pay attention to the fabrics used as some are more baby-friendly, breathable, and softer than others, ensuring the comfort of your child year-round. Most offer adequate body support and many come with a newborn insert for extra padding, but some do not.
It's also worth keeping in mind that many babies only enjoy swinging for 20-30 minutes at a time (my oldest only tolerated 10 minutes at a rip). After 30 minutes, they should be picked up and put into a different position (e.g. tummy time) or simply held to keep them healthy and happy.
Oftentimes, babies like swings so much they’re lulled to sleep by them (just imagine how relaxing it would feel to be rocked in a gliding swing), but nap time should be in a safer space—on a flat, firm sleep surface, such as a bassinet or crib, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics—or watch the baby closely to ensure their airways are open while they doze in the swing's most reclined position.
You Have the Space
Full-sized baby swings take up precious real estate in your home. While not all are gigantic, cumbersome machines, many of them are. I had the Graco DuetSoothe Swing and Rocker, which I loved, but it wasn’t easy to move around the house.
Expert tip: the seat on this two-in-one, full-size swing detaches to become a portable rocker, but only rocks manually by hand or foot once it’s away from the electronic base, which partially defeats the purpose of a self-propelled swing. Still, I got a ton of use out of the detachable rocker as I could move my baby around the house with me.
When shopping for baby swings, take careful note of the dimensions and footprint size to ensure you have adequate room in your home (enough space for an armchair), and it’s not going to be annoyingly in the way. Consider where you’ll put it—preferably centrally located and in a spot you can easily see from where you spend most of your day inside. The less you have to move it, the better.
Most swings run on batteries and/or electricity via wall plugs. I would recommend using the plug-in option as much as possible to avoid having the battery power run out while in use. When deciding where to place it, be sure it’s near a wall outlet.
If you want a more compact, portable swing, they make those, too. Look for a lightweight (less than 10lbs) swing that folds down for easy storage or transport, like the Baby Jogger city sway 2-in-1 Rocker and Bouncer.
Expert tip: low-to-ground swings like this one might not be ideal if you have pets and want to keep your child higher off the ground away from them. Be mindful that pets can jump up on almost any swing so always keep a close eye on your baby and fur babies when in use.
Your Baby Is Colicky
If you already have a baby and they have colic, meaning they cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason, a swing could be your lifeline to sanity. Some babies find swings agitating, but others will be soothed by their rocking, swaying, or even vibrating movements—the only way to find out whether a swing helps a fussy baby is to try them in it. If at first they resist, give it some time. The comforting design of swings can grow on the child and help them relax.
On many swings, the seat pad can recline at different angles, which can help a baby with colic or reflux by adjusting as needed to their preference. Generally, newborns with reflux improve when seated in a more upright position, and the same goes for a colicky baby if they cry while laid flat.
Keep in mind that infants under four months should be placed at the most reclined angle to ensure they don’t fall out, according to the AAP. Again, follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines for recommended seat angle according to age and weight, and always securely fasten the safety harness around a child in a more upright position, especially as they begin to roll and sit up on their own. That’s usually when it’s time to stop using the swing.
Pay attention to maximum weight (and minimum weight) guidelines for specific swings; they usually are made for babies from 6 to 20 (or even 30 lbs). Some bouncers convert to stationary toddler seats with higher weight limits for lounging rather than bouncing.
You Have the Funds
If you plan to have multiple children to extend a baby swing’s use or aren’t wary of its cost, then go for it. Swings are a useful tool to have at home when it comes to soothing your baby while giving your arms a break.
Alternatively, if you can borrow someone else’s swing to see how your baby likes it, that’s also a great idea.
Bouncers are another option for baby seats, but unlike swings that move side to side to mimic the swaying motion of someone holding them, a bouncer doesn’t move rhythmically or automatically. A baby’s own movements can propel it into an up-and-down bouncing motion, or a simple nudge can move it back and forth, depending on the type of bouncer.
Some baby bouncers come with a toy bar with plush toys that hang above the baby as they sit. They are more affordable and usually smaller and better for traveling than swings, which makes them a useful item for many parents, caregivers, or anyone who may watch the baby occasionally and wants something for their home.
When a Swing Is a Bad Idea
While baby swings present a lot of potential “pros” to parents, their mechanical components make them frequent flyers for recalls, so be sure to sign up for Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recall emails in case your swing is deemed defective or dangerous.
In terms of baby swing safety, they aren’t ideal for every living situation. A swing or bouncer must be placed flat on the floor and never on an elevated surface, like a table, countertop, or furniture. If you have other children or pets who could risk your baby’s safety while in a swing (by hanging on it or pawing at them), then a swing is probably something you should do without.
If you plan to leave your baby unattended for long periods in a swing, that’s also a safety and suffocation hazard. Also, a swing is not designed for safe sleep as babies should be transferred to a bassinet or crib if they fall asleep in one. Rather, a swing is a daytime device for calming or entertaining a baby.
On the entertainment note, don’t hang anything from the top of a swing other than the toys or mobile it came with, and make sure those toys can’t be easily pulled off. If you think your baby needs more stimulation, invest in a swing with more engaging features for them to look at.
Expert tip: babies four months old and younger can only see about 8-10 inches away from their face, and they don’t start seeing colors and 3D objects until they’re about five months old, according to the American Optometric Association. Considering that, the colors and objects on a swing are far less important than how the swing moves.
To Swing or Not to Swing
I hope this general rundown of baby swings gave you some insight into whether it’s appropriate for you and your baby. Every baby is different, but swings can be used in a variety of ways, from a simple seat to a more robust, stimulating, safe place for your infant at home or other venues you venture to. As Baby Experts, we’re here to help you with these kinds of decisions, so be sure to connect with one of us here on Curated so we can talk through it!
This content is meant to be informative and add to your understanding of this subject, but it is not definitive nor a replacement for your own sensibility. Neither Curated nor any Curated Expert is responsible for any liability resulting from information or advice shared here. Please consult with a medical professional for any health concerns.