At one point or another, you'll probably find yourself pacing the floor with your baby, rocking her in your arms to calm her or get her to sleep. A swing can get that job done while giving you a break. Accustomed to months in the womb, your newborn or young infant may like the gentle, rhythmic motion of a swing. The bonus for you is that it can be a safe place to put her down. It may also help calm a colicky newborn. Swings usually have a partially reclined setting for snoozing and sometimes another one for sitting up.
Full-sized baby swings are designed for indoor use, for babies from birth to 25 or 30 pounds, although a few models can be used for babies over 30 pounds. Many offer a variety of speeds, music, and toy bars.
Most swings on the market today are battery-operated, providing up to 200 hours of swinging time. They emit a low churning noise that can be soothing for some babies, but irritate others. Most swings move from front to back, though several also swing from side to side, cradle style. Using a harness is a must no matter which type of swing baby uses.
Some swings feature a plug-in option, eliminating the constant need for batteries. Electric and battery-powered standard-sized swings are lightweight, yet they're cumbersome to move, which is why they're typically a fixture in a living room or kitchen for a while. They take up a fair amount of floor space, so they may not be ideal if room is scarce. You're most likely to use the swing in your baby's first few months of life. After that, you might even abandon it altogether. Keep in mind that while most babies enjoy swings, some don't like the rocking, no matter which type you buy--though they may change their mind after a few tries.
Whether you use a swing frequently or only once in awhile, never leave your baby in it unattended.
Lisa Gulley, a Virginia mom of four boys from 6 years to 3 months, has had two swings. The first, a bare-bones model, was a nice place to put the babies in but they almost never fell asleep in it. For her youngest child, she got a fancier swing with a mobile and a more comfortable seat, and says he frequently falls asleep in it.
Gulley keeps her swing in the kitchen so when she's feeding her older boys the baby can watch the action (or his mobile) and stay safe. "It is just incredibly handy to have him there as a place to put him and know he is safe and he will not get trampled," she says. "And if he falls asleep in it, he can stay there."
A swing can also be handy if your baby needs to take short naps in a semi-upright position because she has a stuffy nose or other breathing issues.
But you don't want to park your baby in a swing for long periods or let him sleep in it overnight. We recommend no more than 30-minute intervals, even if he seems content. More time could make him dizzy. If you're drowsy while your baby's swinging, put him in his crib before you fall asleep. You don't want to wake up and find that he has been swinging unattended for hours. (Learn more about why you should avoid parking your baby in a swing, bouncer, car seat, umbrella stroller, or other baby chair.)
Also, don't forget that babies need plenty of time being held and cuddled. And they also need time on their bellies. "There is nothing you can do that's better than getting down on the floor and interacting with them and playing with them," says Ben Hoffman, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University, who's on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "I have to remind people on a regular basis about the importance of ‘tummy time.'"
The best place for your baby to sleep is in a crib, but if she has a cold or breathing issues and you want to use your swing to help her sleep, talk with your pediatrician first.