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How to Get Baby to Sleep Better- Part 2

Baby and Mommy Sleep in Chair While Nursing

I just loveloveLOVE this picture. Been there, done that.

If your baby is Pulitzer prize-winning sleeper who falls asleep easily, takes 1-2 hour naps every few hours throughout the day, and has been sleeping 4-5 hours at a shot at night since he was 4 weeks old, then huzzah! You won the big prize – a baby who sleeps well. Congratulations!

However I’m guessing that is NOT your baby. In fact YOUR baby probably takes naps so short you wonder if they’re really just LONG blinks. YOUR baby is up so often at night you no longer bother putting on pajamas. YOUR baby has never SEEN the inside of his crib except for that one time you tried to put him in the crib only to have him scream so loudly you thought he needed immediate medical attention. And you’re starting to wonder when things are going to get better because you’re so tired you would willingly give up a kidney for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Sleep is like oxygen. You don’t really give it much thought until you can’t get enough of it. Then it’s ALL you can think about.

If you haven’t already done so you might want to swing back around to visit How to Get Baby to Sleep Better – Part 1. If you’re using these techniques and your baby is STILL not sleeping well, it’s time to pull out the big guns. Or shall I say, THE big gun.

Baby Swings Help Babies Sleep Better

Babies fall asleep more easily and sleep longer when they sleep in baby swings.

How do you know the baby swing is for you? Your baby should be sleeping in a swing, 24-hours a day, if she is less than 6 months* old and you answer YES to any of the following:

  • Is it difficult to get your baby to fall asleep at naps and/or bedtime?
  • Does your baby consistently take really short naps (<30 minutes)?
  • Does your baby wake up too often at night?
  • Is your baby older than 3 months AND only falls asleep nursing/rocking/being patted to sleep?
  • Does your baby wake up at night and then STAY awake? (i.e. You and your baby are up from 2:00 – 4:00 am every night?)
  • Is your baby in your bed (and you would like to get him out)?
  • Does your baby sleep like a champ in the car, stroller, or when carried (but nowhere else)?
  • Are you concerned that your baby might have reflux?

* There are some instances where babies OLDER than 6 months do really well in the swing. Babies with reflux or food allergies often need the soothing motion of the swing past 6 months

Why the Baby Swing?

Newborn Baby Asleep in His Swing

Baby swings provide two key elements to help babies sleep. The first is that baby swings simulate a consistent rocking motion which is almost identical to the motion your baby experienced when she was still inside the womb. Before she was born, your baby slept when you were out and about (during the day) because the natural motion soothed her to sleep. It wasn’t until the motion stopped, usually when you lie down to try to sleep, that she woke up and started to party in there. The swing simply provides the soothing motion that (from baby’s perspective) is a perfectly natural condition for sleep.

Secondly the swing provides a really effective way to gradually help baby learn to fall asleep on her own. This is really important so let me repeat that: baby swings are fantastic tools to gently help baby learn to fall asleep on her own. Helping your baby learn how to fall asleep on her own solves/prevents ALL SORTS of challenges down the road (especially if your baby is a troublesome tot). If you’re struggling to get your baby to fall asleep on her own, the swing is the answer.

Also, even fully reclined the swing keeps baby slightly upright. Almost all babies have an undeveloped valve at the top of their stomach, which enables stomach contents (milk, formula, stomach acid, etc.) to get pushed up into the esophagus. Sleeping with the head slightly elevated enables gravity to keep their food IN their stomach. And unlike wedges you put in the crib (which don’t work – babies end up rolling off of them almost immediately) baby swings have straps that keep your baby safely in the upright position.

My Baby Won’t Sleep in a Swing

When I work with families in person they almost always resist the idea of the swing.

  • The babies in the diaper commercials are all sleeping in their crib so obviously I should be able to get MY baby in the crib too!
  • If I put get my baby used to sleeping in the swing what do I do when she outgrows it? Won’t she go to college sleeping in a swing?
  • If my ultimate goal is to have my child sleeping in HER crib in HER room then let’s work on that and forget all this swing ridiculousness!
  • And of course the classic…

  • But MY baby HATES the swing!

Then we work on HOW to help baby sleep in the swing, WHEN to transition your (now) happily sleeping baby to their crib, and then HOW to make that transition happen. And it works. And every family I’ve ever worked with now loves the swing. And every baby has happily made their way into their own crib. When they were ready.

Your Baby Swing Homework

1

Sign Up!

I’ll be writing more about how to get your baby swings (how to use, how to get out of, etc.) over the next month or so. Don’t miss out – use the form to the right to subscribe to TroublesomeTots or become a fan on Facebook to make sure you get those posts sent to you as soon as they are available!

2

Ask Your Pediatrician

I’ve never had a pediatrician raise any concerns about the use of a swing. And certainly noted pediatrician Dr. Karp is a huge proponent of the use of baby swings. Still I don’t know the medical history of your baby so just to be safe, a brief conversation with your pediatrician should put any concerns you have to rest.

3

Get A Swing

There are two primary options for baby swings – Graco and Fisher Price. If money is tight you may be able to get your hands on a recent model & good condition swing on Craigslist. Although generally I recommend getting a new swing if you can. Especially if your baby is a newborn you’ll be using it A LOT.


{Photo Credits: Lisa Stout and Caleb Zahnd.}


103 Comments


  1. Hi,
    Just wanting to ask if you consider hammocks to be similar to swings – my 3 month old sleeps in a baby hammock (a New Zealand brand as that’s where we are from – but similar to the American Amby) but he is rapidly outgrowing it and I am nervous about the transition to a stationary cot. Obviously the hammock doesn’t bounce/swing the whole time, but it does bounce quite vigorously which we use to settle him..

    • Last I read, the Amby wasn’t available in the US anymore due to hazards – YIKES! But yeah it’s somewhat similar although it doesn’t have persistent motion (the bouncing only happens if YOU bounce it). Ideally you would back off on the amount of bouncing you do when he’s falling asleep, moving to a point where you put him in it, don’t bounce at all, and hopefully he falls asleep in there while it’s relatively stationary.

      At THAT point the cot transition should be relatively painless. Goodluck!

  2. What do you do when your baby takes short naps even in a moving swing? My daughter is 12 weeks and we put her down awake in the swing. Shes clearly tired, yawning is starting, beginning to seem fussy, been awake about an hour 15 min. Yet, when shes in the swing, she still takes like 20 min to fall asleep (while yawning a lot and fussing here and there). She is swaddled.
    When she finally falls asleep, its only for half an hour, then she wakes crying. The swing is in motion the whole time.
    What do we do then? help!

  3. I love this page, but my pediatrician office was not a fan of the swing. My baby has reflux and dairy intolerance and when I went back to work I wanted him to be able to sleep in the swing or bouncer at daycare. Since that is completely prohibited where I live. Well the dr office refused,because it goes against what the certifying boards recommendation to prevent sids.

  4. How do you put a swaddled baby in a swing? I want to swaddle her, but I also want her buckled in so she doesn’t fall out while I’m sleeping. What’s a sleepy mom to do?

  5. Hi!
    I love your articles and have recently trained my daughter to sleep in a swing using your baby swing hater article. I’ve signed up for your newsletter today as well!
    I’m looking for your follow up article on how to move your baby from sleeping in a swing to sleeping in a crib. Can you let me know where to find this article or whether or not it’s been written yet?? Thank you! You’ve helped me so much with your info! I’m a big fan of yours now.

  6. We may be from different countries here but I’ve always been told that swings/bouncer chairs are not safe for nighttime sleeping as the baby should not be left unattended in them due to deaths having occurred. This has been repeated in the press but also by sources that I assumed were to be trusted such as ISIS (not that one!) and the Lullaby Trust. For that reason I’m interested that you say that no paediatricians have raised concerns on their use. Unless i have misunderstood and what you mean is use the swing to get them to fall asleep and then move them into the crib each time? Can you clarify please?

  7. Stephanie Meade

    Every time I put my Baby in her swing, she sits for about 10 min before she starts fussing, despite the music/white noise/nature options, angle of the seat or speed of the swinging motion. She will not fall asleep…any ideas??

  8. I agree with Sarah’s comment from January – how do I put a swaddled baby in a swing? If she falls asleep in the swing unswaddled she would wake up as I try to swaddle. Or if she’s swaddled I wouldn’t be able to strap her in.
    TIA

    • You can definitely strap in a swaddled baby! Just make a little “v” in the fabric between their legs. When you swaddle there should be plenty of loose fabric there to make a “pouch” with sufficient space so the leg strap can still fit in there. It may take a little scooting around but you can do it!

  9. Hi,

    I couldn’t find the “How to Get Baby to Sleep Better- Part 3”. Thanks for the tips! Loved your website.

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