The Swing Method and Pick Up Put Down EP 8

August 18, 2016 |  by  |  0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, Podcast

There’s been a theme running through our podcasts and no it’s not my propensity to say “um” a lot. It’s that establishing independent sleep is crucial. Not easy, but essential. While there are many methods to foster independent sleep, this episode focuses on two: the swing method and Pick Up Put Down (aka PUPD).

The Swing Method

Baby swings for sleep are not sanctioned by the AAP and shouldn’t be used for preemies or particularly small newborns, so check in with your pediatrician first. But for parents of older babies, the swing can be an invaluable tool to help your child sleep better. This is hugely effective for motion junkies (hint: if you spend 6 hours a day bouncing your baby on the yoga ball, your child is a motion junkie).

And while improving the quality of your baby’s sleep is a laudable goal, the swing also provides a solid path to teaching your child to fall asleep without you.

Pick Up Put Down

Popularized in the book No-Cry Sleep solution, this method involves doing whatever you normally do to help calm your child but putting them down before they’re actually asleep (this is the “pick up” portion). If they get upset you pick them back up (aka the “put down” portion). Repeat until they fall asleep without you.

This podcast will provide a detailed overview on:

  • How to use these methods
  • When to use these methods
  • Which one might be best for you
  • What you should expect to see happen
  • How to tell if it’s not working for you

Additional Reading

Dr. Karp on babies sleeping in swings
How to wean your baby off the swing
Tools to make the swing even more awesome
More on making gradual changes to your bedtime routine

Let us know what you think and leave us a comment below! If you have a specific question or issue you would like us to tackle in a future podcast episode, feel free to drop it in a comment or email us at

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  1. Great episode! A million thanks for publishing your swing technique. It has been a lifesaver with both my kids. I’m also really glad to hear you address the safety issue…i think it’s safe, but then you hear a story about a baby suffocating during a car seat nap.

    I do think, however, that you need to credit Tracey Hogg the baby whisperer for pick up put down. As I recall, that’s the term Hogg uses in her book. I don’t think Pantley ever uses the phrase “pick up put down”.


    • That’s an interesting question. My enormous baby book library does not include a copy of Tracey Hogg’s book so I can’t check publishing dates to figure out “who said it first.” But Pantley definitely delves clearly into this whole “pick up and put down” thing in great detail. Who originated the concept? Don’t know!

  2. Hello Alexis!
    I love your blog and read about every word of it with my first terrible sleeper. My second is 7 weeks and so far much better, but she is in the swing for naps. Most of the time I can nurse her for just a bit before a nap to get her drowsy and put her in her swing awake, but not always. Bedtime she sleeps in a co sleeper in our bed and does ok–3-4 wake ups but I nurse her to sleep each time including bedtime. Since I have never been able to get either of my babies to fall asleep without nursing at least close to bedtime (Eat play sleep my a$$!) my question is two fold: 1)how awake does she need to be before putting her down? Is it ok to nurse till she starts to fall asleep and then plop her down or do I have to separate it with another activity? And more importantly 2) how much effort should anyone put into “drowsy but awake” at this stage, knowing that most likely our babies will hit the 4 month sleep regression and we’ll have to fall back on whatever sleep crutches we can to get them to sleep at all? If it all goes out the window around 4 months can we just nurse/rock/bounce without guilt until then?

    • Hey Christine,

      Congratulations on your new peanut! For now I think it’s great to nurse till drowsy. She’s only itty bitty. But your goal is “all the way awake.” Eventually you’ll want to nurse, read a few books, and THEN put her down to fall asleep.

      I would consider 2-4 months the IDEAL time to master 100% awake. It doesn’t get any easier after that so if you’re already leaning that direction, lean a bit harder over the next few weeks 😉

      I don’t agree that it all blows up during the regression. Remember that the science of regressions is sketchy. Depending on the study only 40-60 % of babies will have any given regression, and duration and severity are variable. So maybe you’ll get lucky this time! Who knows!

      Good luck!

  3. Hi Alexis we just heard your podcast and found the tips interesting only problem is we have 4 month and 4 week old baby who really knows what he wants and knows how to ask for it very loudly, and that is nursing and being rocked to sleep (motion junkie !!). One of the problems is that he always fights going to sleep even when being rocked. We’ve done yoga ball, adult swing in the park, and any kind of motion you can imagine and it’s like the 14 month old baby that you described that knows what’s coming and begins to cry, kick and push away. I feel PUPD would not work with him since he seems to get angry and only escalates (to the point of almost throwing up) the couple times we tried it. He was sleeping in a rock and play and I’ve managed to get him in the crib but putting him down fully asleep and carrying him and rocking him every time he wakes up too early. My question is should I go back to a swing with a difficult baby or what other method would be worth trying to teach him to fall asleep on his own?
    Ps- he already rolls over and wakes himself up, so not sure if starting to swaddle him would be an option.

    Thanks in advance and we desperately need your help.

    • Well I hope it was clear in the podcast that PUPD is not a guaranteed win. To be honest I’m a bit “meh” about it but it definitely works for some.

      I think he’s old enough and is wise to your ways. Fights sleep is almost always a sign that he KNOWS your sneaking out after he’s asleep and FIGHTS sleep to prevent that. CIO might not be a bad alternative to consider.

      If the swing WORKS (meaning he can and will fall asleep independently IN it) thats 100% your ideal solution. You could even swaddle him IN the swing as he’s strapped and thus can’t flip. If you think that situation would lead to independent sleep then GO for it (see swing posts – how to, and how to wean OFF of here for more).

      Agreed however, no swaddle in the crib due to rolling. The swaddle would JUST be to help him fall asleep solo in the swing. If he can fall asleep solo SANS swaddle that’s even better.

      Good luck!

  4. First off, LOVE your podcast. I get a little happy during the late night feedings when it pops up.

    I have a 9 week old who seems to struggle to stay asleep for his day time naps in his crib (suspecting mild reflux honestly, but hey). I swaddle, white noise, ect. So today I am giving the swing a try, and so far so good! He did his usual “Wake up after 15 minutes of sleeping” but went back to sleep. Hallelujah.

    My question is however, would it be weird to do day naps in the swing, and night sleeping in the crib? The swing seems to stop swinging after an hour, so currently not an option for night time, and he seems to sleep a bit better at night in his crib than during the day. (However, he has no idea as to what he wants to do at night yet. One night it is every hour for a bit – oh geez – than the next night its 3 hour stretches, one night two 4 hour stretches, and even…. Yay… ONE 6 hour stretch… once… emphasis on the “once”)

    I supposed I wonder if it would create some confusion if he sleeps in the swing during the day and the crib at night? Yet I hear that day time sleeping and night time sleeping are two different worlds, so maybe it wont be weird? Or maybe he is small enough that whatever I do he will just go with it for now … 🙂 ….?

    • Hi…I had my baby sleeping in the crib at night, and swing/pac n play downstairs for naps during the day and it was fine! I think the most important thing is to have some sort of naptime routine (a story or two, a song, a shortened version of bedtime routine). And then the baby learns to associate that for naps.

  5. You say in the Podcast that these methods aren’t ideal for babies older than 4ish months. What about babies approaching 6 months?

    • (I’m not an expert….) I would say if you want to give it a try then go for it. The older the baby gets the more consistent you need to be. Also just go in understanding that there will be tears no matter kind of change you make.

  6. Awesome Podcast!! I love listening. With a 3 month old, baby sleeps takes up so much space in my brain right now. Its nice to listen to other people who care about it too:). I think it was great that you pointed out that “sleep training” can begin at any age and that is not the same thing as CIO. I always want to avoid full on CIO so I begin gentle sleep training methods around 2 months. I used my own style of PUPD with my first baby. It was pretty hard to do, but since sleep was total crap I stuck with it.I can’t wait to hear more podcasts!

  7. Just wanted to share if you get the Fischer Price swing with “Smart Connect” there is an app that you can use on your phone or iPad that allows you to set the swing to “continuous” and it will not shut off.

  8. Thank you for your podcasts and website, you are awesome!

    My daughter is 9 weeks today and has been able to transition to sleeping in the swing (most of the time) during the day and are getting better at incorporating more napes during the day (before we were lucky to get 2 quick naps in between 9 am and 5pm).
    Now that we are having more success with the day time sleeping we want to tackle the night time. She currently sleeps on me (and I lightly sleep too). She is still a very small baby but is growing and moving more making me feel less comfortable with her sleeping on me. She absolutely refuses the swaddle at night thrashing her body around and crying until it comes off and wakes almost instantly when put in a swing, bassinet or rock n play. Do you have any suggestions of how to make the night transition easier? I just end up nursing her to sleep where she end up sleeping on me for the rest of the night. Please send help 😉

  9. Is it a terrible idea to introduce the swing for naps for a 3 month old that sleeps through the night in her bassinet at night? Our kiddo is a great night sleeper, but only naps in her ergo while walking.

    • Why not do bassinet at night and swing for naps? Because I DO think the swing is your best bet to gradually break free of ergo naps and ergo naps, while lovely, present a dead end road (consider she’ll be napping for the next 4 years).

  10. Thank you for this amazing post. Our kiddo is sound asleep in the swing as I type. I don’t know what to do with my newfound freedom.

  11. Hi – love your podcast! Hoping the swing method will work for my 3 month old – he is a motion junkie that wakes up a lot at night (every 1-2 hrs) and only naps on me in the rocking chair. I need a break in a bad way! When you say gradually decrease the swing from 6 to 5 to 4 and so on – do you mean 1 decrease per nap, per day or decrease multiple times in one nap? Thanks! Fingers crossed that this works!

    • Whut?

      So if your kiddo is sleeping in the swing on speed 4 and is happily sleeping then TOMORROW put it on speed 3 for all sleep. If he continues to sleep fantastically then the day after, speed 2. Etc. Keep dropping 1 level PER DAY. Hope that clarifies!

      • Yes – thank you! Sorry if it was confusing. Made sense in my head but I’m not getting any sleep so…….

        Also, when do you start putting them in the swing drowsy instead of fully asleep?

  12. What do you suggest with a 9 week old who is able to fall asleep on her own in a swing and in a bassinet, but only stays sleeping for 30 minutes for naps.. she will wake up and not want to go back to sleep UNLESS she is in the swing.. she can fall back asleep in the swing… how should I handle transitioning from swing to flat surface when she wakes up after 30 min???

    • Short naps are really common for young babies like yours, a lot of babies don’t start to consolidate naps and nap longer till they are 6 months or older (assuming they are falling asleep independently by that time).
      Alexis’ post discusses how to wean the baby off the swing when you’re ready to. For now, if she takes long naps in the swing, why not keep her in the swing?

      • Okay!! I’m just hesistant with napping in the swing because i don’t want her hooked to the rocking motion. We have it on the lowest setting and she is falling asleep unassisted in it. We have it in our living room right now (bedrooms are upstairs).

        When do you suggest transitioning her??

        • How about waiting till she’s 3 months? By then, you will be out of the newborn phase and things might be a little smoother, she will be a little more older. And you can try the weaning method and see how it goes, moving the swing to her room at that point, then moving her to the crib. And if she’s not ready by then, you can try again in another week or two. Good luck!

  13. We just started using the swing method for our 6 week old who didn’t want to nap during the day. She has taken to the swing and is now napping better. We have not used it at night and are still putting her to bed in a rock n play. I nurse her and pat her back/rock her to sleep at bedtime. My question is…should we just do the swing method all around? I’m afraid that I am still having to assist her in sleeping at night in the rock n play, it will hinder her transition to the crib and going to sleep on her own. Any help or advise appreciated!

  14. Independent sleep certainly is the goal, but she’s so tiny that I wouldn’t worry about it now. If swing for naps and rock n play for night is working, then I’d stick with that. There wouldn’t be any harm in trying the swing at night, but don’t worry if you’re still having to rock her to sleep. It’s perfectly ok to do that at this age. (I was afraid my little one would never be able to sleep in her crib, but she transitioned effortlessly at around 3 months. So you’re still fine. :-))

  15. Thanks Heather for the comment. The swing was working so well for a few days and now she wakes up constantly in it and cries. Not sure if it will work.

  16. There was a time that my daughter was mainly sleeping in our swing. My husband, who was concerned that she’d become an addict, jokingly made the comment that we’d have to get a custom one made in adult size. I said, there is an adult sized swing – it’s called a hammock!

  17. Jessica StClair

    Hey Alexis!

    I thought you might like to know that the Fisher Price swings being sold now do NOT turn off automatically, yay!!! They also have a 5 pt harness.

  18. First, thank you for the amazing content.
    Second, a quick question: can I, mom of a 5 month old son who is dead scared of SIDS, do the swing method with a rocking cradle? I’ll just manually rock it till he falls asleep and try to rock it less vigorously every few days until no rocking. Would this work?

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