A swing provides a gentle rhythmic motion, which babies are accustomed to from their months in the womb. If you're like countless parents, you may consider a swing a godsend, especially for calming a colicky newborn and defrazzling your nerves. It also comes in handy if your baby needs to sleep in a semi-upright position because she has a stuffy nose or other breathing issues.
Full-sized baby swings are designed for use from birth to 25 or 30 pounds (depending on the model). Most swings on the market today are battery-operated and driven by a motor that uses batteries, which may provide up to 200 hours of swinging time. Such models emit a low churning noise that can be soothing for some babies but may irritate others. Most swings move from front to back, though several models also swing from side to side, cradle style.
Some brands of swings feature a plug-in option, eliminating the constant need for batteries. Electric and battery-powered standard-sized swings are lightweight, yet they're cumbersome to move, which is why they're typically a fixture in the living room or kitchen for a while. They eat up a fair amount of space, so they may not be for you if floor space is scarce. You'll use the swing the most in your baby's first few months of life. After that, you'll probably use it less, or maybe even abandon it altogether unless your baby is addicted to motion. Keep in mind that some babies don't like the rocking of a swing, no matter which type you buy, although they may change their minds after a few tries. Windup swing models, in which you crank a handle at the top or side of the frame to propel the swinging action, are relics in the marketplace; we don't know of any new models for sale. If you happen to buy one at a tag sale and it stops working, don't try to remove the spring housing to fix it. The spring is under tension and could injure you if it's released.
Buy new, not used
Older swings may not have an adequate restraint system or may have broken or loose parts, which can put your baby at risk of falling.
Look for a swing that has a sturdy, stable frame with strong posts and legs and a wide stance to prevent tipping. The bottom of the legs or frame should not protrude so far that you're likely to trip over them, though. Examine the seat. It should be well padded, washable, and have a crotch post with a waist belt (if it's not a travel version) or a secure three-point--or preferably five-point--harness. It should also have a partially reclining position for snoozing and a position for sitting up. If you buy a cradle-style model, make sure it's firmly mounted underneath; the cradle-to-frame connection shouldn't feel loose or flimsy. To find the safest swing possible, look for the JPMA certification seal, which means the model meets the latest requirements of product-safety standards developer ASTM International. Give yourself a good half hour to assemble the swing. Make sure it's stable by swinging it without your baby in it, pushing down on the seat a little to make sure it's secure.
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