A baby swing can feel like your best friend when it comes to calming a colicky newborn or just giving your arms a break for a few minutes. But no matter how content your little one looks as she rocks back and forth, don't be lulled into overlooking some important swing safety basics.
That's the warning for parents from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which recently approved new federal mandatory safety standards for infant swings, set to go into effect in May 2013. According to the commission, 351 swing-related accidents involving infants took place between 2009 and 2012. Since 2002, approximately 15 deaths attributed to infant swings have been recorded, with at least five of these fatalities due to slump-over suffocations.
Included in the new swing safety standards is a stronger, more explicit warning label telling parents and caregivers to use the swing in the most reclined position until an infant is 4 months old and can hold up its head without help (as a way to prevent slumping over). Swings will also undergo stricter manufacturer testing for tipping, folding, and problems with restraint systems. Additionally, battery-powered swings will require power pack designs that prevent battery leakage and overheating.
Many manufacturers are already in compliance with new regulations, but older swings—including that gently-used swing at the consignment shop you've been eyeing—may not be.
Based on these revised CPSC recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also come up with a new list of safety tips for keeping babies safer in infant swings, no matter what make or model you own. These include:
- Infants under age 4 months should be seated in the most reclined swing position to avoid slumping over and suffocating.
- Before using, test the swing to make sure it's stable and balanced, and not in danger of tipping over or accidentally folding up.
- When the baby is in the swing, the swing's cradle surface should stay fairly flat while in motion so the infant will not tip or fall out.
- Seats should have adjustable shoulder straps to keep the infant from falling out. Do not use a swing with a properly working restraint system.
- Toys on mobiles attached to the swings should not be pulled off easily; when in doubt, remove hanging toys.
- Caregivers should make sure the baby is not heavier than weight limits specified on the swing label or instructions.
- Limit time in swings as a way to prevent head flattening.
- Caregivers should never leave a baby in a swing unattended.
What else should parents be aware of to keep their swinging babies safe? Number one on the list, according to the AAP is: don't use the swing as a place for your baby to sleep. Allowing babies to sleep in swings ups the risk for undetected slumping over. If your baby absolutely loves to drift off while in motion, just move him or her to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible.