The CAN-BABY-SLEEP-IN-BOUNCER is a question as old as the bouncer itself.
Still, to date, the answers are obviously not clear enough to put it to rest. Today, I’m taking on that challenge – to answer it comprehensively, yet clearly – in a way that leaves no room for interpretation and dilemmas.
The answer is pretty straightforward but it’s the WHY part that’s a must-know for every parent, so I recommend taking the time to actually read this whole article, even if you get your answer early.
So, can a baby sleep in a bouncer?
No, a baby should not sleep in a bouncer. That also goes for a bouncer seat, swings, car seats, and any baby product that inclined at an angle greater than ten degrees.
I know this might not be great news because it is convenient, especially if they like it, but a baby should only sleep on a firm, flat surface during the first year.
Again, I’ve heard stories from parents saying that a swing or bouncer is the only place where their baby can fall asleep. I’ve even had parents get mad at me for being so direct.
I can’t help it, it’s the harsh reality – if you do some reading on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and the sleep safety rules, you’ll notice a pattern – a bouncer breaks many of them.
Eye-opening stats about sleeping in a baby bouncer or a car seat
Sudden Infant Death sounds like a hellish scenario that happens “to someone else.” It gives me the chills to talk about it, but l it’s every parent’s duty to educate themselves and face the music on things we might be doing wrong.
Every year, there are about 3,700 baby deaths that are somehow related to sleep devices.
The scarier part that relates to sleeping in swings is that only about two-thirds of the number is SIDS – the rest is clearly defined as bed strangulations and accidental suffocations. Most of these happen in a car seat because there’s so much more room for improper use.
To be more precise, between car seats, baby bouncers, and swings, the death toll is 348 babies over a span of ten years, as per the 2019 study titled “Infant Deaths in Sitting Devices” and published in the Pediatrics journal (source).
What it all means for you
We go back and forth and talk about car seats and bouncers, so I get it if you’re overwhelmed.
Let me try and interpret what I said above in a way that directly applies to baby bouncers.
This is the gist – whether it’s a car seat or a bouncer, it’s fair to say that the dangers of sleeping in sitting devices are similar.
There are risks related to a car seat that aren’t present in bouncers (like car belts) and vice versa (like toppling over).
However, the main risk relates to positional asphyxia and it’s there in both bouncers and seats. It means that the baby’s muscles aren’t developed enough to keep their head upright. If they drift off propped up, the baby’s head might slouch and their airways might close.
Other risks of sleeping in baby bouncers
Apart from the positional asphyxia, there are risks that I deem as secondary because they’re more obvious and/or far-fetched.
Toppling over / falling
As the baby grows stronger, the risk of the bouncer toppling over as the baby turns grows exponentially. I have two tips here – choose a sturdy bouncer (even if it means spending ten more bucks), only place it on the floor and don’t leave the baby unattended in a bouncer.
Flathead syndrome (positional plagiocephaly)
You probably already know that the baby’s skull is still forming in those early months.
If any one part of it is constantly pressed upon, it may flatten. It can happen in a bouncer if they’re spending too much time in there, especially if you’re not changing the bouncer angles up.
Babies that spend too much time in swing and bouncers start crawling and walking later. This is because the instincts for these skills are promoted when they move freely, like playing on the floor or during tummy time.
Agitation and sleep problems
If you have a bouncer with overhead mobile toys, it will stimulate the baby. They’ll keep reaching for the toys until their limbs are too tired. Still, their brains continue to be stimulated and they can’t do anything about it.
It’s agitating, can lead to hyperactivity and sleep problems, and lower success in sleep training.
What to do if your baby falls asleep in the bouncer?
I hear this argument all the time – “My baby is a restless sleeper and they only fall asleep in the bouncer.”
And I understand it because I too had restless bub on my hands.
If they tend to doze off in the bouncer or swing, you might use it as a tool to get them drowsy and move them to a safe environment like a crib before they drift off to a deep slumber. In this scenario, the bouncer should be positioned to an angle of no more than 10 degrees and you should supervise all times.
Can a baby nap in a bouncer?
No, a baby should not nap in a bouncer. As soon as you notice them being drowsy, transfer them to a safe baby bed (flat and firm).
How long can a baby be in a bouncer?
A baby should be in a bouncer for no longer than an hour a day, split into 3 sessions of 20 minutes max.
It goes without saying that you should closely follow the size and weight guidelines defined by the manufacturer. Most babies will outgrow the bouncer by the time they’re 9-10 months old.
Have babies died in sleeping in bouncers?
Yes, babies have died sleeping in bouncers.
About 3% of all sleep-related deaths happened in sitting devices as per the 2019 study at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine (source).
Can baby sleep in a rocker?
No, a baby should not sleep in a rocker.
The risks of sleeping in a rocker are similar to those of sleeping in a bouncer and include SIDS, suffocation, flathead syndrome, and sleep problems.
Related terms that might confuse you
I commonly see a range of terms used to describe devices similar to a baby bouncer, and just wanted to clarify that here. What we said above goes for the following products too: baby swing, bouncy chair, bouncy seat.
Resume of the can-baby-sleep-in-bouncer dilemma
I am well aware that some babies sleep better in bouncers. If this describes your bundle of joy, you’re probably fuming right now because you see me as the part of that world that’s too strict on the parent.
I accept that. I remember those feelings, most parents go through them – it feels like the world is out to get you and no one is making it any easier.
When that cloud of anger mixed with sleeplessness goes away, one thing remains – zero risk is the ONLY way to go about things when it comes to a sleeping baby, whether it’s overnight sleep or short naps.