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Weaning Baby Off the Swing

Weaning Baby Off the Swing

For most babies, the swing is a handy tool to help ease the occasional disruption of teething, growth spurts, and days when naps just aren’t happening. For about 15% of babies, according to Dr. Karp, the baby swing will be a crucial newborn survival tool.

You will know you are the parent of one of these babies because the thought of your baby outgrowing the swing will cause you to break out in flop sweat.

Baby Outgrowing the Swing?

This comes up a lot, so lets pause briefly to consider the reality that your child will NOT outgrow the swing.

The average US baby weighs 7.5 lbs at birth and will hit 21+ lbs by their 1st birthday. Modern Fisher Price swings have a weight limit of up to 25 lbs and Graco swings can handle babies up to 30 lbs. This means that your baby will have outgrown their need to swing far before they need to physically vacate the swing. So you can stop Googling toddler swings because I promise, you won’t need one. Honest.

When Should Baby be Out of the Swing?

Most babies will only need the swing for a short time and will be happily sleeping without motion by the time they are 3-4 months old. Some babies need extra soothing and might be in the swing for as long as 6 months. A very small group of babies (those who have reflux or who are just extra sensitive) may need to stay in the swing until they are 8-10 months old.

baby in swing taking a napThere is no obvious litmus test to know that your baby is ready to move into their crib. You simply try to dial down the speed now and then and see where that gets you. If your baby takes a 2 hour nap when the swing is on speed #4 and a 20 minute nap when the swing is on speed #2, then you know it’s not time yet. One day soon you’ll put your baby in a non-moving swing, the door will ring, and while you’re signing for a FedEx package, your baby will fall asleep sans-swinging. And voila!

But just in case FedEx doesn’t come to your house at naptime, you can also wean your little motion-junkie out of the swing the old fashioned way.

The 8 Step Process to Successfully Weaning Your Baby Out of the Swing

1

Put your baby into the swing AWAKE.

The swing is a powerful tool to help your baby learn to fall asleep without you (bouncing, rocking, feeding, etc.) them to sleep. However if you’re still (bouncing, rocking, feeding, etc.) your baby to sleep and THEN putting them into the swing, you’re not taking advantage of this capability. Yes you’ll be able to slip your already sleeping baby into the crib and feel like a huge success. But that leaves you navigating the treacherous waters of “putting baby down awake” on your own. While this can be done, it’s generally a lot easier with the swing. So take this opportunity to work on “put baby down awake” IN the swing, BEFORE you start weaning OFF the swing.

2

Give baby lots of great sleep cues.

Ideally your baby is sleeping in the swing with a great wind-down routine, tight swaddle, loud white noise, and possibly a pacifier. Thus when you remove the swing from the equation, you still have 3 other wonderfully soothing sleep cues to work with. If you’re just plunking your sleepy baby in a swing without additional sleep cues, removing the swing leaves you…nothing! Even if your baby is sleeping just fine in the swing without any additional sleep-aids, the swaddle and white noise will be your friends when it’s time to transition to the crib.

3

Start weaning with bedtime.

Almost all babies transition to the crib more easily at bedtime than they do for naps. Once you’ve mastered crib sleeping at bedtime, move on to the first nap of the day.

4

Move the swing NEXT to the crib.

For most of you, the swing has been next to your bed. Now it’s time to move it so that it’s next to baby’s bed.

5

Progressively decrease the speed of the swing.

Continue to put baby in the swing awake. Start decreasing the speed. Note: Despite my love of Fisher Price Baby Swings the only issue is that the difference between the highest and lowest speed is, well, negligible. The bottom line is that you want your baby swinging on the lowest speed possible, with a swaddle and white noise, NEXT to their crib.

6

Put your awake baby in a non-moving swing.

If it helps, you can manually swing the swing a little bit to help them fall asleep. But you want to do this as little as possible (or minimally decrease the amount of swinging each day). The goal is for your baby to sleep in a motionless swing. Once your baby is falling asleep in a motionless swing…

7

Put baby in the crib.

I can’t promise you a tear-free transition. Sometimes there is some mild complaints about the change of scenery. But generally it IS mild (<20 minutes on night #1).

8

Repeat the process for naps.

Note: sometimes swing-loving babies are sleeping happily in their crib LONG before they make the transition to naptime. It’s not at all uncommon to have a 4 month old night-sleeping in the crib but napping in the swing until they are 6 months old. So if the nap transition isn’t happening for you today, take a break. Try again in a week or two. There’s no rush.

Start With Step #1 – put baby in swing awake is the most important step in the process! If you aren’t putting baby in the swing awake you’ll likely find yourself with a baby who takes short naps and wakes frequently at night once you transition to the crib. AND you’ll have to climb Mt. Put-Baby Down-Awake later. Only now you will have removed the swing from your arsenal of powerful soothing tools.

Anybody have any experiences they would like to share? Stories from the trenches?

{Photo Credits: Mike Liu and Mpisti}

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217 Comments


  1. What do you do if your swing dies and you can’t buy another one??? Do you just try the baby in a non moving swing with a swaddle and cross your fingers?

    • It depends!

      If baby was close to being done then the “finger crossing” technique might work gangbusters. Otherwise you can call the manufacturer for a new motor – they’re really easy to swap out and sometimes they’ll ship you one free or super cheap. If none of those are options then maybe Craigslist?
      Alexis recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

      • Thanks for your reply :) our swing died yesterday morning during the first nap of the day which resulted in a short nap. We tried our 5 month old in the non moving swing yesterday for both naps and bed. We still used white noise and a tight swaddle. I just pushed the swing super slow a couple of times and within 4 minutes, our little guy was asleep. He slept 1. 5 for the 2 nd nap and almost 2 hours for the third. He fell asleep in 10 minutes that night and fussed a little overnight. I just tied a long blanket to the swing and would give it a pull if he started to fuss. He slept until 745am in a non moving swing!!! Usually he is up between 6-7am so I wonder if he was ready to ditch the motion?

        • I should add that the only reason our son woke during first nap was because of the super loud noises the swing was making as it made its way to swing heaven:)

  2. Hi there,

    My baby won’t sleep anywhere comfortably except for the non-moving swing. My question is when should we transition him to his crib? His swing has always been in his room and he goes into it like butter! He will be semi-awake but as long as he is cushioned into the swing seat he is happy. We tried a few times to put him in his crib and they were total fails. We are totally okay with this, but I just want to know when we would ideally transition in from non-moving swing to crib. He is almost 5 months old.

    Thanks!
    Julie

    • Probably never although you’re in luck, there are some people on Etsy who are making toddler and even big=kid swing molds so you can keep your child happily swing sleeping until college.

      I KID!

      Personally I would focus more on the “semi-awake” part and move to “fully wide awake.” I’m guessing that getting MORE awake will get put you in a better position to get him into the crib.

      Good luck!
      Alexis recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

  3. Hi,

    My baby is 13 weeks old, and he loves his swing. I have tried the crib several times and he doesn’t even sleep for 5 minutes. Few weeks ago he began to make noises as if he was uncomfortable in the swing, as a result I put him on my bed (because he totally hates his crib and I do not feel comfortable having him out of our room just yet), totally flat, on his back, and he slept for 3 hours, then he began to make the noises of being uncomfortable again, and I put him back on his swing, and he slept for 4 hours. My question is if it is okay to make these transitions during the night? is this normal?
    Nika recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

  4. So I have the opposite problem, a 4 month old who will nap in her crib but won’t sleep at night. Lately she’s been sleeping next to me, but the last few nights she’s been sleeping in her swing (after lots of time cuddling, nursing and everything else to try an get her to sleep). The first night she slept for 7 straight hours and I had to wake her to nurse or I was going to explode, and then she slept for 4 more hours. I’d love any ideas.

  5. I wanted to follow up on my post about weaning from the swing. I want to say, it’s been very successful! Baby is now officially 5 months, and doing all sleep in crib! I have to stay, this kid used to not be able to put himself to sleep for the life of him. The swing was my savior. For all of us who were panicking about baby not being able to sleep out of the swing…please do not. They will transition themselves out of the swing when they are ready with YOUR help. I had baby sleeping in a non moving swing (at night) for 3 weeks. Then the first night he slept in the crib, it was rough for the first 5 minutes. Just make sure to use plenty of the sleep cues. My son has decided to rollover in crib as well, so I had to get rid of the swaddle immediately. I sort of panicked about that too…but he proved to put himself to sleep by talking to himself.

    For all of us parents (I’m a second time parent), the panic is real when a routine works and then all of a sudden it changes. But we have to remember that babies are adaptable! Our babies are growing up!

  6. Found your blog after Googling Toddler Swing. LOL

    Thanks for the info!

  7. Can you gradually decrease the speed of the swing during one nap session? For example..can you have it on speed #3 at the beginning of the nap, then gradually decrease the speed every 1/2 hour or so, or should you have it at one single speed for the whole nap and then try it on a different speed on a completely different nap session/day?

  8. My almost 4 month old boy loves the swing so much. He always sleeps in it day and night. He totally hates the crib. When he was 2 months old, he would sleep with me in my bed for half of the night, but he doesn’t even do that anymore. When he wakes during the night, I pull him into bed for feeding and he falls asleep while feeding. Then he just wants to nurse for comfort. I try to give him pacifier after that but he fusses then I finally have to put him back in his swing. I have tried putting him in the swing when he is awake but it doesn’t work. He wants to be rocked in my arms to sleep or wants to sleep while nursing and then has to be put in the swing. I sometimes worry when will he be able to sleep on his own in his crib.

    • I wouldn’t worry about the crib just yet but I WOULD worry about teaching him to fall asleep in the swing. I know he wants to be rocked to sleep in your arms but I would really push the swing (because you know he loves it). What happens if you put him in there and leave for 20 minutes at bedtime? What happens if you put him in the swing awake, don’t turn the motor on, but rock him manually in there? Or maybe try this with your hand on his belly (gently of course ;)? I would commit to him falling asleep IN the swing AT bedtime for 3 nights. There’s nothing you can’t handle for just 3 nights right?

      See what develops with that route. Once he’s falling asleep IN the swing you can start worrying about your plan to gently wean him into his crib ;)
      Alexis recently posted..Weaning Baby Off the SwingMy Profile

  9. Hi,

    My son is 5 months old and has been sleeping in a non-moving swing for the past two weeks at nap time (he has been sleeping in the crib at night since 5 weeks old and has no issues there). I have tried putting him in the crib for naps this week but he fusses/cries for at least 10 minutes no matter how tired he is and once he falls asleep he only sleeps for 45 minutes max. He has not been swaddled for a month or so since he can roll over now. Everything else on the list checks off – he is in a dark room, white noise, has had a naptime routine since 2 months – but he won’t take the same long naps he was taking in the still swing just last week! Is he just not ready for the move to the crib? I really want him to nap in the crib but I am not sure if I should just keep trying or go back to the swing and try again later. Help please!

  10. Alexis,
    My son is over 11 months old and still naps in his swing. He has slept in his crib at night since birth and is a wonderful night sleeper, sttn very early. He’s a very active baby and when I’ve attempted to transition to crib for naps he just cruises around it for a while (10 minutes or so) and then the screaming starts. He has never successfully fallen asleep in it. We’ve given it 30+ minutes a few times before giving up and putting him in the swing. Typically he will complain and not sleep, and after 20 minutes we go in and tell him he needs to go to sleep and always after we leave after going in he gets and stays pretty hysterical, so going in definitely does more harm than good.

    So your suggestions about decreasing the swing speed are great and we’ve started doing that, but since he goes to sleep seamlessly in his crib at night I wonder if something else could be going on with the naps. Sometimes I think his urge to move around is stronger than his need to nap and that it’s the fact that he’s strapped into the swing rather than the motion that he needs.

    He’s a very small baby (17 pounds) so we aren’t in danger of outgrowing the swing but as we close in on a year (and have upcoming vacation) I’d like him to be more flexible! On camping trips he’s typically been able to fall asleep but naps are very short. In the car he’ll sleep well too on the occasions that we have to travel and time his naps in the car, I think because he knows there is nothing else he could be doing so he sleeps.

    Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • I think it’s as simple as this – the part of the brain that manages day sleep vs. night sleep are different. Just because he’s figured it out at night doesn’t mean he can translate that “skill” to naptime. Also the biological compulsion to sleep at naptime is a lot more weak so it’s “harder” to fall asleep during the night. Can you put him to down awake in a non-moving swing and have him happily fall asleep and nap in there? If no – THAT’S your nap homework. Keep slowing the swing till you get to that point. When that’s happening routinely put the swing next to the crib for naptime. Get him used to that location. Then move him to the crib. Let me know how it goes ;)

  11. Hi! So I’m hoping you have some advice! My son is almost 6 months old. He’s been napping and night sleeping in a swing since he was a newborn. It bought me some descent naps and the periodic 4 hour stretch at night. That was pretty temporary though. He naps for 30-45 minutes at a time every 2ish hours. He wakes at night every 1.5-3 hours. Nap time and first initial put down for bed I put him in the swing awake. The other wakings in the middle of the night he nurses and falls asleep. My problem is (other than being a zombie from no sleep and having two under two) is that the swing is the only thing (other than nursing) that can put him to sleep. The reason I need the swing to come to an end is bc he is beginning to really squirm and twist himself in it when he wakes up and gets ansy for me to get him. I need help a. Getting him to sleep in his crib and b. Maybe gaining even one extra hour of sleep. Please help!!!!

    • They nap thing is may not be fixable – that may just be where he’s at right now. But for bedtime my advice is to not nurse him when he wakes up 1.5-3 hours later. What you do at an early wakeup can set you up for an association you’re trying NOT to develop. Confused?

      You don’t nurse at bedtime because you don’t want to establish a nurse=sleep association. But nursing 1.5 hours after bedtime can do exactly that (and I’m pretty confident it IS happening). So no nursing 1.5-3 hours after bedtime. If he wakes up you could ignore (recommended) or send partner in. But no nursing early in the night. Try that out for 3-5 nights and see what happens. I’m pretty confident you’ll see a dramatic decrease in the requests to nurse at night.
      Alexis recently posted..When Your Kid Won’t Stay in BedMy Profile

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