The health nurse: How to get off to a good start with the baby hammock

By Health Nurse Kathrine Klem Vernersen @sundhedsplejerske_kathrine, June 2023

As a health nurse, I am often faced with questions related to baby's sleep. The 1-4 week old baby needs to sleep approximately 15-18 hours a day. However, there are big differences between children, and while some children can sleep just under 15 hours a day, others can sleep more than 18 hours.

In the first few weeks of life, babies often fall asleep easily. After a few weeks, some parents find that their child may find it harder to settle down. This can lead to many hours of rocking on a Pilates ball or restless wandering around the living room floor to help your baby settle down. There can be several reasons why your child may feel more restless and it is important to contact your health nurse if you are unsure of the cause. Often it can be a stomach upset or a reaction to the day's impressions that can trigger restlessness. In these cases, a baby hammock can help your baby calm down and give parents a much-needed break.

The baby hammock

Most babies like to be rocked and find peace in the rocking motion that reminds them of the movements inside their mum's tummy. Newborns in particular find it easy to fall asleep in a baby hammock, where they find peace in being enveloped by the soft fabric of the baby hammock, which reminds them of the time inside their mum's tummy. The fabric of the baby hammock shields the baby from sounds as they are condensed, just as they were when the baby was in the womb. A canopy on the baby hammock can shield the baby from bright daylight, making it easier for the baby to find peace.

Perhaps you're a parent who has considered getting a baby hammock but feel unsure about how to use it? Maybe you've already invested in one but are unsure about how to get the best start with the baby hammock?

That's why I've put together my top tips to help you get off to a good start using a baby hammock.

My best advice

1. Baby hammock with or without cradle bouncer

Some children will find peace without the hammock moving and being rocked by a cradle bouncer. For them, being enveloped in the fabric of the baby hammock can bring them peace. Other children will recognise the rocking motion of the cradle bouncer from their time in their mother's tummy and will find peace there.

2. Mattress Stiffener? When?

The 0-3 month old baby is placed in a baby hammock without a mattress stiffener. The child should be able to move their head freely to the sides and not lie on a duvet, blanket or anything else that can block their airways.

If the baby is older than 3 months, it is recommended to use a mattress stiffener in the baby hammock, as the baby will fill the hammock more and therefore need a flatter surface for the baby to move freely. The free movement allows the child to roll, so you should always pay attention to your child when they are in the baby hammock.

3. Timing can make a big difference

Choose a good time to practise the first time in the baby hammock. As with anything new, it's a good idea to introduce your baby to something new when they are comfortable and have all other needs covered such as food, dry nappy, eye contact etc. This could be after the child has eaten and seems tired without being overtired. You can also try putting the baby in the baby hammock shortly after falling asleep in your arms and let the baby hammock be the safe embrace while you take a little break.

4. Preparation

Not all children will need to be bounced by a cradle bouncer. Some children will find the baby hammock itself soothing and feel shielded, which will provide peace for sleep, while others will need the motion of a cradle bouncer to calm them down. My best advice is to try it out.

If you use a cradle bouncer, it can look a bit rough the first time your toddler is moved up and down in a baby hammock. The cradle bouncer is tested and safety-approved, as well as being made for the purpose of rocking a baby to sleep.

You can test the baby hammock and cradle bouncer without the baby in it but with an object that weighs the same as the baby before using the cradle bouncer. This can familiarise you with the cradle's settings and movements so you feel better prepared before your baby tries it for the first time.

5. Listen to your gut instinct

Parenting comes with a gut instinct that develops and strengthens day by day. You may find that there are different opinions about using a baby hammock. My best advice is to find out what works for you and your baby. A good night's sleep for the baby can give parents a much-needed and important break.

6. Everything in moderation

A baby hammock is a great alternative to help the child and parents rest and sleep, but should never be a replacement for the child's bed. That said, don't worry about your child developing a bad habit of preferring to sleep in a baby hammock. Think of the baby hammock as an alternative.

7. Prevent a favourite side

Pay attention to whether your baby tends to have a favourite side and put the head on the opposite side when putting your baby to sleep. This applies not only in a baby hammock, but wherever your baby sleeps.

8. Look forward

Prepare to have your hands free and time to rest, drink hot coffee, parent an older sibling, take a bath or just take a small but well-deserved parental break. The time after becoming someone's mum or dad is intense. It's natural to need a little break, and the baby hammock can be a great alternative that gives your child the necessary sense of security and the opportunity to rest and sleep.

Finally, it should be mentioned that not all children take long naps in the baby hammock, but the baby hammock can often provide the opportunity for a rest, a little extra nap or extend a nap that would otherwise have been shorter.