Q&A: newborn who will only sleep in the swing

Shannon writes:

"I know you addressed this some in your "sleep week" article, but I was hoping you could give me some hope regarding my 9-week-old. I know you said for the first 12-14 weeks let them sleep any way they will. Well, she sleeps only in her swing or on our chests. After spending two days trying to get her to sleep in her crib, she would only sleep for 15 minutes tops... then she would wake up for an hour or two... sleep for 15 minutes... etc. We tried everything... different positions, trying to simulate the "feel" of the swing (it's not the motion that she needs because she will sleep in the swing when it's off too). Needless to say, after two days, she was near delirious - arms waving erratically; shaking her head quickly - that is when I quit. Nothing was worth seeing her like that.  I put her in the swing and she has been asleep since (that was 4 hours ago).

Everyone tells me not to worry about it and that she won't go to kindergarten with the swing.

My question is... If she isn't going to go to kindergarten with the swing, then how is the transition going to happen? Am I going to have to go through the horrible heartache of the past two days again when she gets too big to sleep in the swing?

Please tell me you have or know someone who has been through this. I just really want to know what to expect."

I think you have good people surrounding you, if they're telling you not to worry about it right now. Because really, what can you do at this point that isn't going to stress everyone out unduly?

It sounds like you're in a good spot if she'll sleep in it when it's not moving, because simulating the motion of the swing would be the toughest, most exhausting part. It sounds like she relaly likes being upright. That could be just a preference, or it could mean that she feels uncomfortable while she's flat, and that points to reflux or other tummy troubles.

If she does have some mild reflux, then the cure is to keep her on an incline while she sleeps, which you're doing. I'm going to assume that she doesn't have more severe reflux with spitting up since you didn't mention that, so there's no need for Zantac or any other meds for it. If keeping her upright is enough to help her, then you're golden.

I'm not saying she definitely has reflux, but I am saying that it's possible, and if she does, she's certainly lucky to have parents who are going along with what she's expressing a need for (very clearly, I might add, which means she's used to your responding to her) instead of what they think they should do.

Now, whatever reason she's sleeping in the swing, she'll either outgrow it soon (my bet would be right around the 12-week mark), or you're going to have to figure out some way to transition her out of it when she gets too big. Jo-Ann had a son who would only sleep in his infant car seat, and in this post we all were figuring out how to transition him out of it by figuring out exactly what about it he liked, and then replicating those conditions in his crib. You can do the same thing with your daughter and the swing, by observing what it is about the swing that she needs. You already know it's not the motion. Is it the upright position? The sides that kind of coccoon her? The smell? There are all sorts of things it could be, and if you can isolate those, you can replicate them. But you probably won't be able to figure that out for another few weeks at the least. 9 weeks is just the beginning of the cusp of the start of their making sense to adults.

My other suggestion is to start using a musical lovey, if you can. When you feed her, put the lovey (playing its music) snuggled in with the two of you, so she starts to associate the lovey and its music with drifting off to sleep with a full tummy. After a week or so of this you can start using the lovey to help her transition to sleep if she's fighting it, or to soothe her if she comes out of sleep briefly. When it's time to transition her out of the swing, the lovey will be helpful in getting her to sleep in a different spot.

It sounds like you guys are doing really well. Even if you do have to go through a swing step-down program, it'll be easier when she's older and a little more stable. The lovey will help. And she may grow out of it without your even doing anything.