This post is written in collaboration with Sovende Børn.
Moonboon works closely with the NGO, Sovende Børn (in English: Sleeping Children) and their team of specialists, to provide updated, relevant advice and guidance on children's and babies' sleep. Read more about Sovende Børn at the bottom of the post.
COMMON QUESTIONS FROM PARENTS REGARDING THE USE OF A BABY HAMMOCK.
When an infant needs to sleep, many parents intuitively pick up their baby, cuddle the baby and start rocking/moving up and down to calm the baby's nervous system in an attempt to help the baby fall asleep.
A baby hammock mimics this rocking motion, which may, at least to a certain extent, help relieve your arms and back when your baby needs to be rocked.
Below, we will answer the questions parents commonly ask us when new to using a baby hammock.
1. WHAT MAKES A BABY HAMMOCK DIFFERENT FROM A CRADLE OR A REGULAR BED?
Babies are born into a world where there are a lot of visual impressions to take in and gravity to relate to. Neither factor is present to the same degree inside the womb. A myriad of impressions are therefore perceived as dramatic changes to a newborn.
When babies need to calm down to fall asleep, it may therefore be a good idea to create a shielded environment that is a bit reminiscent of the womb. Inside the womb, the baby was exposed to very few visual stimuli, was enveloped by the placenta, and was often rocked to sleep or to rest when the mother moved around.
Some babies wake up immediately, or after a short time, if they are placed in a fixed cradle or bed. In contrast, a baby hammock can create a feeling of being held and rocked, and many parents find that their baby thrives really well with the rocking, shielded experience that the baby hammock offers.
2. WHY IS MY BABY ABLE TO SLEEP FOR SEVERAL HOURS IN THE BABY HAMMOCK WITH A HAMMOCK MOTOR, BUT WAKES UP AFTER 40-50 MINUTES WITHOUT THE MOTOR?
A baby's sleep cycle is approximately 40-55 minutes long. After this, there will often be a slight awakening before the next sleep cycle kicks in. Some babies have an easier time moving on to the next sleep cycle, while others need help getting there. Both scenarios are normal.
For many babies, the rocking motion helps them move on to the next sleep cycle.
In this way, the baby hammock can be used as a tool that helps the child fall asleep, whilst at the same time, it relieves the parents from carrying the child. It is also important to focus on the well-being of new parents and the opportunity to take breaks during the day.
3. HOW LONG IS IT SAFE FOR A BABY TO SLEEP IN A BABY HAMMOCK?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to answer specifically how long a baby can sleep safely in a baby hammock; there is simply no research available in this area. If the baby lies comfortably and seems to be happy sleeping in the baby hammock, then there is basically no time limit. It is important that the baby can move freely, and, in particular, is able to move his/her head to either side (a hammock stiffener may help).
Variety is a good thing. This explains why it is not advisable for a baby to sleep in the baby hammock only. A baby may also sleep in a baby carrier, such as a stretchy baby wrap, take a contact nap in the arms of its parents or sleep in a pram or bed.
Please note that there may be special conditions, e.g., colic or disorders, where sleeping periodically only occurs in the baby hammock. More information about this issue can be found below.
It is up to you to assess what you are most comfortable with. There are no official guidelines from the National Board of Health as to how much or how little you may use a baby hammock. As a rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to trust your instinct.
4. CAN A BABY BECOME DEPENDENT ON THE ROCKING MOTION?
The short answer is “Yes”. However, ‘dependent’ has negative connotations. There is no reason to think that this ‘dependence’ is negative. In practical terms, this means that the baby gets into the habit of falling asleep while rocking – and that is actually a good thing.
As a matter of fact, research shows that you can help your baby fall asleep faster, easier and more calmly by putting the baby to sleep in the same way every time, thus, intentionally creating a comforting habit for the baby.
This does not mean that you have to rock the baby to sleep, but for most children, this is one of the things that works really well, in line with rocking the baby in your arms.
5. REFLUX AND COLIC – IS A BABY HAMMOCK STILL A GOOD IDEA?
A baby hammock is often a particularly good help for babies who, for various reasons, have difficulty calming down or do not feel comfortable. For example, this is the case with children who suffer from colic or reflux.
Some babies with reflux will find it uncomfortable to lie in the baby hammock without a support base, as the curvature of the body can add a bit of pressure to the stomach, thus worsening the reflux disorder. In most cases, a support base may remedy such discomfort. However, some babies will be so affected by the reflux that they need to be in an upright position for 30-60 minutes after a meal before being laid down.
6. CAN MY BABY CHOKE ON VOMIT?
If the instructions on ensuring that the child can move his/her head freely from side to side are followed, the risk of the child choking on vomit will be the same as if the child is put to sleep in a bed.
Decades ago, children were put to sleep on their stomachs, partly for fear that the child was at risk of choking on vomit if supine. However, this proved to be an unfounded fear as the trachea is located above the esophagus when supine; reflux and vomit would have to run ‘upwards’ to enter the trachea when the child is in a supine position.
The recommendation on the supine position, allowing free movement of the head, applies worldwide and takes into account that the child may vomit.
To learn more and see graphic illustrations, please go to (in English): https://rednose.org.au/article/will-baby-choke-if-he-she-vomits-while-sleeping-on-the-back
7. A BABY HAMMOCK CAN BE A USEFUL TOOL DURING A DIFFICULT TIME
Parents of uncomfortable babies will often experience a huge relief when they manage to get the baby to sleep in the baby hammock. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to relate to other people's comments about bad habits or mentions of 'dependence', if you are already doing your absolute best to meet your child's need for comfort and care and find that the baby hammock provides much-needed relief.
The baby hammock can be an invaluable tool for families who face these challenges and work on overcoming them.
8. IS IT SAFE TO PUT MY JUST-BORN BABY IN A BABY HAMMOCK?
As long as you follow the instructions regarding placement of the baby in the baby hammock, it is safe.
In case of a just-born baby or a child who is very small in size, it is important that you make sure that the baby is lying stably in the baby hammock and does not tilt to the side. Pay special attention if you use a support base, as this will typically create more space in the hammock. The baby is therefore no longer 'cuddled' by the sides of the baby hammock.
It is a good idea to place a baby duvet across the hammock. This way, the baby lies on top of the duvet and is cuddled by the duvet on each side. The duvet creates volume on both sides and 'cuddles' the baby. Now, the baby is not able to roll to the side or get his/her head covered by the duvet.
This safety tip even applies to slightly older children who kick frequently in their sleep. In Denmark, it is common to place a duvet over sleeping babies, but many children sleep just as well feeling cuddled by the duvet from below and on each side.
9. DOES SLEEPING IN A BABY HAMMOCK CAUSE A FLAT BACK HEAD IN BABIES?
Concerns about causing a flat back head are not related to sleeping in a baby hammock or bed, pram, baby bouncer, playmat or whatever else you might have in mind. This applies to all types of supine positions throughout the day.
It very much depends on the amount of time the child lies down and the pressure being in a supine position naturally imposes on the head.
You can prevent a flat and crooked back head by varying the positions in which the child sleeps, how the child is 'handled' during the child's waking hours, and by making sure that the child is not consistently lying on the same side. This will be true regardless of how the child is lying in bed.
10. HOW CAN I ENSURE THAT MY BABY'S HEAD IS ADEQUATELY SUPPORTED WHILE IN A BABY HAMMOCK?
When my baby needs to go to sleep:
It may be a good idea to put a support base in the baby hammock, which allows your baby to better move his/her neck. Increased mobility can help prevent a flat or crooked back head, and at the same time enables the baby to turn his/her head to the side, which is an advantage if the baby, for example, needs to regurgitate.
A contact nap where the child sleeps stomach-to-stomach with a parent is also a really good solution for relieving the pressure on the baby's head during sleep.
REMEMBER - The parent must be awake during contact napping. Otherwise, another adult may supervise both the sleeping parent and the baby.
When my baby is awake:
In general, make sure that the child does not lie on his/her back for an extended period of time during waking hours. When the baby is given milk, whether breastfed or given a bottle, you can vary the side you put the baby on. The same applies to which side the baby sleeps on; if the baby sleeps together with the parents in their bed or in a bed next to it. Many babies tend to turn in the direction of the comfortable, familiar scents of their parents.
If you need to keep your arms free while the baby is awake, baby carriers, such as a stretchy swaddle wrap, may be a convenient option. The baby can also lie on his/her stomach for a while, as long as the baby finds it comfortable.
If your baby always turns his/her head towards the same side, if there is a bald spot on one side of the back of his/her head or if the baby's head shape starts to become crooked or flat at the back, then it is time to seek help from a health visitor or your own doctor. They can put you in contact with the right professionals in your specific location.
- A baby hammock mimics the shielded, rocking motion that the baby is used to from the womb. Similarly, the hammock also simulates the all-natural rocking motion that the vast majority of parents make when holding their baby in their arms.
- Babies enjoy being rocked and often find it easier to fall asleep when being rocked. This is not a bad habit, but common sensory stimulation, which the child is both used to and needs, such as in connection with sleep.
- Your baby needs to be able to move his/her head freely. Using a support base in the baby hammock may be a good option for ensuring free head movement. However, it is important that the baby is not able to roll around in the baby hammock when the support base is in use. It might be a good idea to fill up the hammock with a duvet placed under the baby.
ABOUT SOVENDE BØRN
Sovende Børn is an online universe for parents and professionals seeking guidance and information about babies and children's sleep and sleep issues.
The purpose is to give parents and professionals the right tools to make informed choices that suit the individual child's sleep situation.
On the website and social media outlets, you will find updated and reliable information about available research, as well as webinars, workshops, courses, etc.
Thank you for being among our readers.
I’m Marie, mom to a little boy. And I’m the woman behind the Moonboon company making organic and sustainable baby accessories that respect people and the environment.
Have a look at our baby accessories here.
I want for my son to sleep in optimal conditions, and I want the same for your baby. That’s why I’m especially proud of our GOTS certified hammock and the specially designed motor that has helped me and many other parents sleep better at night.
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