“Can my baby sleep in a Mamaroo?” is a common question asked by sleep deprived parents…
If you’re here reading this article, you probably have at least an inkling that the Mamaroo seat is not safe for infant sleep.
You’re probably wondering, “Just how unsafe is it?”
In a state of utter exhaustion, maybe you’ve found yourself thinking or saying things like the following:
- I know babies aren’t “supposed to” sleep in swings, but I have to do what works for my family.
- I know sleeping in a Mamaroo isn’t recommended, but all that matters is that my baby is happy, healthy and growing.
- I let my baby sleep in a Mamaroo when he’s fussy and I can keep an eye on him. It’s the only way I can maintain my sanity.
- I let my baby sleep in a swing occasionally. Anything is fine in moderation.
- Letting my baby nap in her Mamaroo is the only way I can get stuff done.
- I let my baby sleep in a swing because it’s better for his reflux. It eases my anxiety about him choking on his spit up.
- My baby sleeps so much better in a Mamaroo. He’ll give me long stretches of sleep, which I desperately need.
The unfortunate truth is that the scientific evidence does not support these personal philosophies.
While these thoughts are well-meaning and relatable, each of the above statements is dangerous and/or untrue.
Towards the end of this article, we’ll take a look at the counterpoints, line by line.
Now, let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about the safety risks of letting your baby sleep in a Mamaroo swing…
Table of Contents
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What is a Mamaroo?
The Mamaroo infant seat is a high tech baby swing by the brand 4moms.
It has 5 types of motions to select from, each of which can be adjusted to a faster or slower speed. It also has 4 different sound options and an MP3 plugin.
All of this can be controlled with an app on your phone, or on the Mamaroo’s control panel if you prefer.
The seat of the swing has an adjustable recline, so it can be positioned relatively flat all the way up to fully upright.
Is the Mamaroo swing safe for infant sleep?
The Mamaroo swing is not safe for sleep.
This includes overnight sleep and supervised naps.
(Like I said earlier, you probably kind of already know that swings are unsafe for sleep. The real question is whether ignoring this advice is risky, which I’m going to get to in the next section).
Swings are not intended to be sleeping devices and do not meet federal standards for infant sleep.
This is, in part, because swings do not provide a firm and uniformly flat sleep surface, which is necessary to minimize the risk of SIDS.
The AAP advises in regard to swings,
“If an infant falls asleep in a sitting device, he or she should be removed from the product and moved to a crib or other appropriate flat surface as soon as is safe and practical.”
What are the risks of letting a baby sleep in a Mamaroo?
If you don’t understand the complex biological mechanisms at play, it’s very easy to brush off any advice not to use a Mamaroo swing for sleep
(For the record, most people don’t understand these mechanisms. Which is why you’re seeing pictures of babies sleeping in swings, bouncers, and nests all over your social media.)
Let’s take a high-level look at what can go wrong when babies sleep in swings.
(Later, we’ll come back to the question of whether it’s risky, given that so many people do it and their babies are alive and well).
Risk #1: Positional Asphyxia
When placed at an incline, a baby’s head can slump forward and cut off his airway, causing suffocation.
Risk #2: Rebreathing of C0₂
When a baby turns his head into the fabric of the swing’s contoured or padded side, he can rebreathe his exhaled carbon dioxide, causing oxygen levels to drop.
When the swing is in motion, these risks are exacerbated because the movement lulls a baby into a deep sleep.
This may sound like a good thing; but actually, a reduced hypoxic arousal response means that it’s harder for a baby to wake himself up if he’s having trouble breathing.
The AAP explains,
“The ability to arouse from sleep is an important protective physiologic response to stressors during sleep, and the infant’s ability to sleep for sustained periods may not be physiologically advantageous.”
But what about if you’re watching…?
Is the Mamaroo safe for supervised naps?
The question that’s probably at the tip of your tongue right now is whether it’s okay to let your baby nap in a Mamaroo in the daytime—while you’re awake and in the room.
This may be surprising… (It was to me)…
Supervision does not make it safe for your baby to sleep in a Mamaroo swing.
The reason is scary—but knowing this will help keep your baby safe…
Asphyxia is a silent killer.
This means that when a baby is having trouble breathing, there is no fight for life to warn parents that something is wrong.
Often, the caregiver only notices when it’s already too late.
This is why it’s critical to never make exceptions to the basic rules of safe sleep.
For all sleeps, babies should sleep in a regulated crib, bassinet, or play yard.
Products in these 3 classes have undergone rigorous safety testing for infant sleep.
Related: Safe Sleep 101 (a beginner’s guide to preventing SIDS)
But don’t lots of people let their babies sleep in swings?
Indeed they do.
And yes, the majority of those babies survive.
That doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Sadly, thousands of babies die every year because their caregivers weren’t following the ABCs of Safe Sleep.
It only takes about a minute for a tragedy to occur.
Knowing that SIDS is the #1 cause of infant death, and importantly, that it’s almost entirely preventable, you have to ask yourself if this is a risk you’re willing to take.
So, should you “do what works for you?”
Before we get into the FAQs, let’s come back to some of the rationalizations and beliefs discussed at the beginning of this article.
We’ll go line by line and address the inconvenient truths about safe sleep.
Be warned, some of these counterpoints are worded harshly.
This isn’t to scare you.
This is to remind you that the risk of SIDS shouldn’t be ignored—particularly since 99% of SIDS deaths could have been prevented.
"I know babies aren't 'supposed to' sleep in swings, but I have to do what works for my family."
Lots of things fall into the “you do you, mama” category—but practicing safe sleep should not be one of them.
This is because safe sleep, much like car seat safety, is a matter of life and death.
"I know sleeping in a Mamaroo isn't recommended, but all that matters is that my baby is happy, healthy and growing."
All of that can change in (literally) a minute.
Babies who are happy, healthy, and growing are not precluded from the suffocation risk of sleeping in a Mamaroo swing.
"I let my baby sleep in a Mamaroo when he's fussy and I can keep an eye on him. It's the only way I can maintain my sanity."
The sanity thing is a very real benefit (I seriously get it)—but, sadly, silent death is a very real risk.
As parents, we have to get creative and find other ways to get through the 4th trimester. (Which I know is much easier said than done.)
Remember, there is no fight for life. Suffocation can happen before your eyes.
"I let my baby sleep in a swing occasionally. Anything is fine in moderation."
While this argument may work for conditions that develop over time (i.e. flat head syndrome), this doesn’t apply to a tragedy that could strike all at once.
For perspective, think of SIDS like a car accident. Replace “sleeping in a swing” with “not using a car seat in a moving vehicle”…
‘Letting a baby ride in a car without a car seat is fine in moderation.’
That sounds crazy, right?
This isn’t to scare you, but to remind you of the importance of taking the simple step of placing your baby in a safe crib, bassinet, or playard for every sleep.
"I let my baby sleep in a swing because it’s better for his reflux. It eases my anxiety about him choking on his spit up."
Flat on his back is actually the safest position if your baby spits up.
The NIH says: “When babies are in the back sleep position, the trachea lies on top of the esophagus. Anything regurgitated or refluxed from the esophagus must work against gravity to be aspirated into the trachea.”
If you have concerns about your baby’s health, speak to your pediatrician.
"My baby sleeps so much better in a Mamaroo. He'll give me long stretches of sleep, which I desperately need."
As we’ve discussed, it’s actually a good thing that babies sleep so poorly. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)
The ability to easy wake up from sleep is a life-saving mechanism.
It’s especially important when a baby is placed in an unsafe sleep environment, such as a swing.
To be clear: None of this is to say that the alternatives are simple.
When it comes to surviving the 4th trimester, everything is easier said than done.
If you’re struggling right now and the Mamaroo has been your saving grace, this should be your takeaway:
You haven’t found the right solution yet.
You have to keep troubleshooting and problem-solving.
It’s time to explore other ways to survive, such as involving your partner more, taking advantage of help from other loved ones, or hiring assistance if it’s within your means.
While none of these options is a fraction as easy as letting your baby sleep in a swing, they are the only way to get through this really challenging time without letting your baby sleep unsafely.
Now, let’s get into the FAQS…
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to using a Mamaroo safely
Is the Mamaroo worth it?
This really depends on how much your baby enjoys swinging during awake time.
I expected Aden to love his Mamaroo, but we didn’t get a whole lot of use out of it. He enjoyed it from time to time, but those moments were short-lived.
Lots of babies REALLY enjoy swinging, though, so it’s possible your baby will be different!
If he/she does like the swing, it’s a great opportunity to get some stuff done around the house — or drink a hot cup of coffee for once!
The #1 thing to keep in mind is that if you use a Mamaroo seat safely (i.e. by not letting your baby sleep in it), your window of use is substantially limited.
What if my baby unexpectedly falls asleep in the Mamaroo?
You should move your baby to a safe sleep space if he falls asleep in a Mamaroo swing or any unregulated infant sleeper.
(Ideally, you would notice if your baby started to look tired and move him before he fell asleep).
Is the 4moms brand promoting the Mamaroo infant seat responsibly?
Compared to other brands, such as Snuggle Me Organic and Dockatot, 4moms does a decent job at not encouraging their Mamaroo swing to be used for sleep.
They do occasionally share images of babies sleeping in swings on their instagram account. They’re few and far between, but 4moms could absolutely do better.
These could be better as well.
This excerpt from 4mom’s website shows that they are encouraging users to follow AAP guidelines to use a flat and firm surface, which is great:
Is the mamaRoo® infant seat approved for overnight sleeping?
No. Since it is neither a flat surface (there is always a slight recline) or a firm surface, as recommended by pediatricians, we cannot recommend that it be used for overnight sleep.
However, this statement would be more accurate if it didn’t specify overnight sleep, and instead referred to sleeping in general.
The Mamaroo seat user manual doesn’t go far enough in discouraging its use for sleep, either.
While this “suffocation hazard” warning is correct that the seat should not be used for prolonged periods of sleeping, it sends the wrong message that the Mamaroo is safe for short periods of sleeping.
Given what we know about how quickly an infant can suffocate while sleeping at an incline, these warnings fall short.
Can you put a swaddled baby in a Mamaroo?
No. The restraint system should be used as intended by the manufacturer, which in this case, means that the infant’s legs should come through the holes of the harness. This isn’t possible if the baby’s legs are inside a swaddle.
Read more about swaddling here:
- My Baby Can Roll Over… Now What? (Everything you need to know about keeping your baby safe during sleep when he starts rolling over).
- How to Keep a Baby Warm at Night (A complete guide to safely keeping your baby warm at night without blankets).
Is the Mamaroo considered an inclined sleeper?
While not advertised as a “sleeper,” for all intents and purposes, the Mamaroo seat would be considered as such.
As the 4mom website says, there is always a slight recline, even when the seat is reclined as far as it can go.
We know from a Consumer Reports investigation that inclined sleepers have been linked to at least 93 deaths and that the federal government has proposed banning all such products.
Infants should sleep flat on their backs in a crib, a bassinet, or playard that meets CPSC standards.
Swings, seats, sleepers, nappers, nests, pods, loungers, etc. do not meet federal standards for infant sleep.
Is the Mamaroo breathable?
4moms claims regarding one of their fabric offerings, “The cool mesh seat fabric is a breathable, mesh material.”
Breathable is simply a marketing term that doesn’t have any regulatory standards.
My baby sleeps in a swing but not in a crib — what should I do?
Given how unsafe this is, the only thing to do is eliminate the option of using the swing for sleep.
It’s too risky to transition gradually. The baby should stop sleeping in the swing immediately.
It will probably take time for your baby to adjust to sleeping flat on his back in a safe crib (or bassinet or playard), so be mentally prepared and recruit as much help as you can.
If your baby is at least 4 months old and you have pediatrician approval, you can start sleep training.
We used a modified Ferber method when Aden turned 4 months old and it worked like a charm. He’s been an incredible sleeper ever since!
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Articles related to the safety of sleeping in a Mamaroo
- Safely Using a Pack ‘n Play: The Evidence-Based Guide (Can you add a topper?)
- Snuggle Me Safety: The Evidence-Based Guide (Is it safe for naps?)
- How to Stop Swaddling: The Ultimate Swaddle Transition Guide
- Other safe sleep articles