Is It Safe for Babies to Sleep in Swings, Baby Seats, and Car Seats?

Infant sitting devices, such as swings, baby seats, and car seats can help baby fall asleep but parents should always move baby into a crib once he or she is asleep. Having a car seat is a must if you want to to have baby along when you drive, but once you know that babies shouldn’t sleep in sitting devices, you may want to consider whether you really want to purchase swings and baby seats, which can be costly.

Most parents are still happy to buy these seats and swings. That’s because when baby starts crying and screaming, there is nothing that you, as a parent, would not do to soothe them. You’ll carry them around, sing to them, even swing them in your arms, but it seems that nothing does the trick as well as baby swings, vibrating chairs, and even car seats. Babies enjoy spending lots of time in motion and tend to fall asleep quickly in these seats and swings without lots of tears and fuss.

For the parents of a newborn, however, the safety of the child should be their number one concern. The risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is high among newborns since they are delicate and require constant supervision. While some parents cannot imagine functioning without rocking devices, they need to stay cautious because those devices are on the list of things that can cause SIDS.

Babies and Sleep

Infants spend the majority of their time sleeping, but that does not mean that parents can leave them without supervision all the time. On average, newborn babies who are from 0 to 3 months old can sleep up to 20 hours per day, but they wake up often. Babies from 3 to 6 months sleep from 10 to 18 hours, and those from 6 to 12 months spend around 14 hours sleeping. Sleeping is a big part of their lives, and newborns need a safe sleep environment.

Why Are Sitting Devices Not Safe for Sleeping?

Rocking devices are convenient, but also dangerous, and babies should not spend much time in them, especially not without someone around them. It is not a secret that infant swings have received a bad name due to the numerous cases of sleep related infant deaths associated with them. Swings, car seats, and even strollers have been linked to both SIDS and to suffocation. In the case of SIDS, it seems to be about baby’s sleep position. As for suffocation, a baby can easily roll over and block his own airway. This can lead to silent suffocation in just a few seconds.

Reading about these risks can be disturbing. Parents who loved their rocking, bouncing or vibrating devices are now confused; are these seats and swings unsafe? That depends on whether or not you let your baby sleep in them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents do not use infant sitting devices for “routine sleep,” and some companies have even recalled those models that, in particular, rock.

We know that the easiest way to lull babies to sleep is to keep them in motion. The problem is that carrying a baby around the house can be painful for a parent’s arms and back. That is why sitting devices have become so popular. Car seats, for example, are still the safest way for baby to travel, but are meant to be used in cars only. Also, it is important to keep an eye on small passengers in car seats, even when you’re driving in the driver’s seat.

Rockers and swings of all types require constant supervision, but parents should also take note of the recommended age and weight of the baby as noted in the user manual that comes with the device. If your baby is too small or too heavy for a specific device, do not risk its use. If restraints and seat belts are included, use them as directed in the manual. And the most important thing of all: once your baby falls asleep in these devices, take them out and place them in a bassinet or a crib. Use rockers and swings only to lull kids to sleep; babies should not spend their sleeping hours in them, it is just not safe.

smiling asian baby in bounce seat

The proof? A 10-year long study showed that 3.3% of all SIDS cases have been linked to baby swings and seats, and most of them occurred in car seats, both in the car and at home. Another study analyzed 47 sudden infant deaths associated with sitting and rocking devices and found that car seats were involved in up to two-thirds of all cases of SIDS. In contrast, slings were to blame in 5.11% of cases while swings and bouncers each came in at 4.9%. Strollers were last on the list with 3.6% of SIDS cases linked to their use.

Baby equipment like swings and seats can be expensive. That’s why some parents think that borrowing a sitting device from friends, family, or using one outgrown by an older sibling is the perfect way to save money. Unfortunately, this is a terrible idea. Parents can get away with using secondhand clothing, but buying or borrowing secondhand baby equipment is not recommended. A secondhand sitting device may have been recalled, or damaged by use, leaving it unsafe for baby.

One of the biggest scandals in the baby seat industry was when baby product manufacturer Graco recalled 12 of its models, representing roughly 3.7 million of its entire line of car seats, after a series of consumer complaints. Kids II recalled its sleeping rocker after it was linked to five infant deaths, and Fisher-Price’s famous Rock ’n Play was recalled after being connected to at least 32 infant deaths over the past several years. Parents who own infant sitting devices should remain vigilant readers and keep up to date on recalls of these items.

twins in rockers

What Is a Safe Sleep Environment?

We eliminated swings, vibrating chairs, rockers, and car seats as safe sleep options, so where can a baby sleep safely? Only in a crib, of course. But cribs and bassinets can also be dangerous, and they have been the cause of many SIDS cases. If you are wondering how that is that possible, well, sometimes parents cannot resist shopping for all those cute cushions and toys for the crib, and the problem is that all of them represent a threat to the baby sleeping near them.

Babies need to sleep on their backs, on a flat and firm surface, without any plush toys, fluffy blankets, or decorative cushions around them. The risk of suffocation with all those unnecessary items in a crib is just too high. All parents need for the safe sleep of their child is the most boring-looking empty crib, without bumpers and all the other fanciful attractive items that a baby cannot even use. The mattress should fit the crib to the millimeter; it must be the right size.

Baby asleep on back in crib

Keep Watch Over Baby

Although sitting devices have definitely been game-changing devices for parents, like everything else, baby seats and swings come with their own potential hazards. There are controversies and safety concerns surrounding these devices, so parents need to be sure that they are buying the safest infant seat or swing available. Besides making sure you purchase the safest sitting device, parents should be careful never to leave babies in them at length or without supervision, especially when baby is asleep.

The bottom line? The only sleeping spot for a baby is her crib. Use infant seats and swings only to lull babies to sleep or to calm them. Once baby is asleep, it’s time to pick her up and place her in her crib. And since safety regulations are constantly updated, parents should check online lists of recalled sitting devices often, to avoid any hazards.

Because when it comes to baby swings and car seats, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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About Selena Thomas

Selena Thomas is a content writer for Counting Sheep. A writer by day and a reader by night, she's fond of writing articles that can help people in improving both physical and mental health. Also, she loves traveling and inspiring people with her blogs.