Baby Sleeping In Swing – Is it Bad for the Spine?

Last Updated on May 4, 2023

Swinging your baby to sleep might seem like a great idea, but it could be doing more harm than good if you use it for a long time. A new study has found that babies who sleep in swings for an extended time have poorer spine development and are at risk for spinal problems later in life.

This is because when babies sleep in swings, their heads and necks are constantly being pulled forward.

If you want to ensure your child’s health and well-being, it’s best to put them down in their crib for naps and bedtime. Swinging can be a great way to soothe your baby, but only when done safely and for limited periods of time.

Is Baby Sleeping in Swing Bad for Spine?

Baby sleeping in swing bad for spine

Yes, excessive use of a baby swing is not good for the spine. Your baby’s little spine is still developing. So, too much swing might cause some problems later on.

If your baby falls asleep in the swing, it’s best to transfer them to a crib. It’s fine to use the swing for short periods of time during the day, but using it all day long is not a good idea.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) warns against it since it increases the risk of SIDS. According to the AAP, babies should only sleep on a flat, firm surface.

When a baby keeps his head in one position against the back of the swing for extended periods of time, it may cause plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome.

It is not also good for the baby’s developing hip bones and can lead to dislocation of the hips. So, it is best to use a baby swing only occasionally and under supervision.

Additionally, baby swings can also interfere with a child’s natural development of motor skills and coordination.

Therefore, it is important to limit the amount of time your child spends in a swing and to make sure that they get plenty of tummy time to help strengthen the neck and back muscles.

If you’re worried about your baby’s spine, talk to your pediatrician. They can check your baby’s spine and make sure everything is developing normally.

Also read: Baby swing high weight limit

Five phases of baby spine development

To better understand whether a baby sleeping in a swing is bad for the spine, you must first grasp the five stages of baby spinal development.

Phase 1 – the primary spine curve

At birth, a newborn’s spine is concave, forming a C form. Newborns do not have enough strength to support their spines and necks on their own, so they rely on you to help them.

When your baby tucks their feet in and brings their knees to their chest, this posture reduces pressure on the developing spine. 

In the womb, this curve develops, giving rise to a newborn infant’s convex “c-shape”. During this stage, the “fetal position” aids in maintaining correct alignment for the baby.

Maintaining proper alignment throughout this period allows the infant to breathe adequately, digest food effectively, avoid excessive pressure on their spine and hips, and allow their body to regulate temperature appropriately.

Also read: Can swinging baby cause brain damage

Phase 2 – promoting thoracic kyphosis in newborns

The middle of the spine, where the ribs are, has a backward curve known as kyphosis. The spine here curves somewhat outward, giving the back a softly rounded appearance. The typical range for this curvature is 20 to 50 degrees.

There are a number of devices available on the market that can help to promote thoracic kyphosis in newborns. The most common type of device is a kyphotic device, which is designed to fit around the baby’s chest and help support the spine’s natural curve.

Kyphotic devices are typically made from soft, pliable materials such as foam or fabric. They can be adjusted to provide the support needed for each baby.

Kyphotic devices are generally used for babies who are born with mild to moderate scoliosis or who have developed scoliosis after birth.

And when carrying a newborn, an infant sling should be used to promote thoracic kyphosis. The baby should not be placed in a front or rear pack upright until they are able to pull themselves up and stand for several minutes.

Only use the infant sling while the baby is in the side-lying position. Parents should avoid putting their children upright too soon. Placing an infant in a front or rear pack before his spine has completely developed may result in scoliosis and spinal instability. 

When placing a baby in a car seat, always use the 5-point harness. The AAP states that “buckle positioning is critical for proper restraint of the infant.”

The shoulder straps should be at or below the infant’s shoulders and the lap belt must be positioned low on the hips and thighs. The chest clip should be centered on the chest at the armpit level.

Using a car seat with an anti-rebound bar is also recommended to help protect your baby’s spine in case of a collision.

Babies can be born with kyphosis, but other types of the condition often emerge as children approach adolescence.

Also read: Swings for colic babies

Phase 3 – secondary spinal curves development in months 3-6

The secondary curves, or cervical and lumbar lordosis, occur next. A baby will raise their head off the ground in the prone posture (on their stomach) in this age range.

This is when the standard cervical lordosis or forward neck curve is formed. During this period, encourage as much tummy time as possible. Face each other and lie on your back while facing the infant.

Then, both of you may practice lifting your heads. This game will help to form cervical lordosis in the kid and parent.

Lumbar lordosis, or the lower back’s inward curve, starts to form around 4 months. This is due to sitting and “tripoding,” where an infant props themselves up on their arms and legs.

As they try to reach for things, they use their back muscles more and start to develop this curve. You can help by providing upright toys for your baby to grab at and reaching for things together. Tummy time is still important during this age as well!

Also read: What to do if baby falls out of swing

Phase 4 – lumbar lordosis in baby spine development (months 6-12)

The last spine form emerges as the baby crawls and develops lumbar lordosis—place items in front of the baby to encourage them to crawl toward it.

Also, placing the infant on their back and linking the opposite hand to the toe may aid in establishing this neurological link.

Cross crawl is crucial to brain development since it connects the opposite foot and hand. 

The baby’s spine will continue to grow and develop during these months. The lumbar lordosis, or the curve in the lower back, will become more pronounced.

This is due to the baby’s head growth and the development of the muscles in the back. The lumbar lordosis helps balance the baby’s head on top of their spine and allows them to sit upright.

During these months, it is important to provide opportunities for tummy time. Tummy time helps to strengthen the muscles in the neck and back and also helps to prevent Flat Head Syndrome.

Phase 5 – 12+ months – walk attempts and the spine

Between 11 and 16 months, most toddlers start to walk. Most babies take their first steps sometime between 9 and 12 months, but some may begin as early as 6 months or not until they’re 15 or 16 months old. If your baby isn’t walking by the time they are 18 months old, talk to your child’s doctor. 

The baby should be able to pull themselves up and try to walk when they are a few weeks old. Walking should be encouraged as soon as the infant can pull themselves upright and not before.

To help ensure that your baby normally develops, be sure to:

-Encourage your baby to move around on their own as much as possible when they are awake and alert.

-Avoid carrying your baby all the time. It’s important for them to learn how to move independently.

-Place your baby on their stomach several times a day for “tummy time.” This will help strengthen the muscles in your baby’s neck and back.

-Provide plenty of opportunities for your baby to practice standing up, holding on to furniture or someone’s hand, and taking steps.

Also read: When to stop using baby swing

Should Your Baby Sleep in an Infant Swing?

Should Your Baby Sleep in an Infant Swing

A baby should not sleep in an infant swing. It’s because allowing a baby to sleep in a swing may raise the risk of SIDS.

The majority of swings are upright sitting positions. If a child falls asleep in a swing that is positioned vertically, their head might fall forward and obstruct their airway, putting them at risk of SIDS.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests transferring them to a safe sleeping location when a baby falls asleep in a swing. Remember that the swing is not a substitute for a crib or bassinet.

The AAP also recommends using a flat and firm surface like a crib or play yard with a tight-fitting sheet for your baby to sleep on.

However, some parents find that their baby sleeps better in the swing, while others find that their baby does not sleep well in the swing and would prefer to have them sleep in a different location.

Whatever it is, it’s best to transfer them to a safe sleeping location, if your baby falls asleep in the swing.

Drawbacks of Using Baby Swings

Drawbacks of Using Baby Swings

As much as baby swings can be a lifesaver for parents, parents should be aware of several drawbacks to using them.

  • Reduced safety and increased chances of injury are other concerns with baby swings.
  • Keep your infant awake in a stationary swing. The rate of infant sleep would be reduced. 
  • Using baby swings for prolonged periods can lead to deprivation in the child’s development. This is because the child is not allowed to move and explore their surroundings.
  • Lack of sleep and SIDS risk increase when babies spend too much time on baby swings.

By slowly transitioning from naps in the swing to naps in the crib, babies will be better prepared to sleep independently by the time they are six months old.

Lack of Sleep and Risk of SIDS: Other Concerns

Growing evidence suggests a link between lack of sleep and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden, inexplicable death of an infant under the age of one. 

While the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown, experts believe that it may be linked to several factors, including a baby’s sleeping position, exposure to tobacco smoke, and possibly a lack of sleep.

Studies have shown that sleepy babies on their stomachs or sides are at a higher risk for SIDS than those who sleep on their backs.

Sleep deprivation may be caused by treating illnesses or sleep fragmentation caused by respiratory or digestive problems, fever, or airway blockages during sleep.

If you’re concerned about a lack of sleep and SIDS, you can do a few things to help ease your mind.

First, make sure your sleepy baby is on their back. This sleep position is the safest for infants and can help reduce the risk of SIDS.

You should also keep your baby’s sleep environment clean and free of clutter and loose bedding.

Finally, don’t smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS. 

What if the baby is used to sleeping in the swing?

When a newborn falls asleep and is not in a reclined posture, their head might fall forward due to the weight of their head. It may cut off the oxygen supply in some situations, causing suffocation. To help babies sleep safely, they need a flat, hard surface.

If your baby is used to sleeping in a swing, you might worry about how they will sleep when put down on a flat surface. There are a few things you can do to ease the transition.

First, ensure that the surface you are placing your baby on is a firm sleep surface and comfortable. A soft mattress or pillow might not be ideal for a newborn.

You can also try swaddling your baby or using a white noise machine to help them feel more secure. Make a safe sleep environment. 

If your baby seems resistant to being placed on a flat surface, slowly get them accustomed to it.

Start by placing them on their back for short periods of time while they are awake and alert. Once they seem comfortable, you can try putting them down for naps and nighttime sleep.

If you are still worried about your baby’s safety, talk to your pediatrician. They can give you some peace of mind and help you find the best sleeping solution for your family.

How to break baby’s habit of sleeping in a swing?

How to break baby's habit of sleeping in a swing

Though a baby swing is necessary for parents, your baby should not sleep in a swing because it isn’t the most secure place for them. Regarding baby swings, one of the most important concerns is safety. Swing is not the safest place for your baby all the time.

Here are some helpful hints for moving your baby to a crib or bassinet:

  • If your baby is less than four months old, get them into a crib or bassinet as soon as they’ve fallen asleep in the Swing. This may aid in their gradual adjustment to sleeping in their own cribs.
  • If you’re not yet ready to sleep train your baby, but she’s over 4 months old, it’s time to consider it.
  • Try gradually decreasing the amount of time your baby spends in the Swing. If your baby is used to sleeping in the Swing for extended periods, start by reducing the time by 15 minutes each day. You can also try putting the Swing on a lower setting so that it doesn’t rock as much.
  • Make sure that the crib or bassinet is comfortable and inviting. Put some soft toys in the crib so that your baby has something cozy to look at. 

Be patient! Breaking a habit can take time, so don’t get discouraged if your baby doesn’t immediately start sleeping in the crib. Just keep trying; eventually, your baby will get used to sleeping in a new spot.

Wrapping up:

In conclusion, limiting the amount of time your child spends in a baby swing is best. Swinging can be a great way to soothe your baby, but only when done safely and for limited periods of time.

If you’re worried about your baby’s spine, talk to your pediatrician. They can check your baby’s spine and make sure everything is developing normally.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Dr. Leah Alexander

Dr. Leah Alexander is a board-certified general pediatrician and has been practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey since 2000. Since 2005, she has been working as an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey. She also enjoys cooking outside of the medical profession. Read more

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