This Hammock-Like Baby Sleep Method Is Going Viral, But Is It Safe?

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BabySleeping

“Parents are desperate for infant sleep solutions that actually let them get sleep themselves,” says Dr. Rebekah Diamond, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University and the author of Parent Like A Pediatrician. (1)

Parents are on the search for safe and effective sleep solutions, spiking engagement on TikTok videos discussing infant sleep solutions — some of which are controversial. 

Recently, TikTok creator and model Willow Allen shared videos of a hammock-like swing, underneath one of which she added a caption reading, “The only way I could get my baby to sleep in his crib.” (2) Allen explains that the hammock is a traditional Inuit swing that she herself used as a baby in another video highlighting the process of building it. (3)  

Allen is from Inuvik, a town in Canada that lies north of the Arctic Circle, and is an Inuk, an Indigenous person from the Arctic. Allen explained to Newsweek that although she is unsure of exactly how long ago these traditional swings were created, they “might have been adopted from the First Nations (a group of Indigenous people in Canada) long ago.” (4)

In the video, Allen films herself tying the infant-sized hammock to the rails of her baby’s crib, folding up the knit swing, and placing her baby in the hammock for a gentle swing in the hammock. Her baby peacefully sleeps in his crib hammock — but other TikTokers took to the comments of this video to criticize the mother’s sleep strategy. 

One user commented, “Why does it look super unsafe to me?” Other comments defended the TikTok creator, saying that this practice has been used by Indigenous people for generations. (2

There’s nothing wrong with an afternoon snooze in a hammock, but for infants, hammocks bring up safety concerns. Sleepopolis asked Dr. Diamond for her expert opinion on the video and whether or not this sleep method is safe for infants. 

Baby Sleep Safety 

“Safe, realistic infant sleep is a stressful, controversial topic for sleep deprived parents,” said Dr. Diamond. 

Dr. Diamond warns against this sleep strategy, stating that it could impose a risk of serious injury or SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). “The hammock used in this video is definitely unsafe for many reasons, and using it would carry a significant risk of injury and even SIDS,” says Dr. Diamond. 

Tragically, SIDS is responsible for around 2,300 infant deaths each year. The cause of it is unknown, though it often occurs during sleep. Following safe sleep practices can help to reduce the risk of SIDS, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. (5

Dr. Diamond suggests that parents go to experts for infant sleep advice, and urges pediatricians to address sleep safety with patients: “It’s crucial to make sure information is coming from trusted sources, and it’s key for pediatricians to engage in more realistic discussion of safe sleep options.” 

If you’re a parent that’s struggling to find a sleep solution that works for your baby, you’re not alone. Here are a couple of sleep safety tips for infants, as recommended by Safe to Sleep®:  

  • Keep your baby’s sleep environment firm, flat, and level. (6)
  • Avoid putting anything other than a fitted sheet in your baby’s crib. This means keeping blankets, stuffed animals, tucked in sheets/blankets, pillows, etc. out of the crib. (6)

What Parents Should Know About TikTok

It’s a good idea to seek the advice of a pediatrician instead of resorting to TikTok for ideas. And, keep in mind that what you see works for one parent on social media may not work for another. 

Dr. Diamond emphasizes the importance of safe sleep practices, stating, “If a parent were to show me this video, I would use it as an opportunity to discuss their current safe sleep set-ups, explore the full scope of options if sleep on their back in a crib by themselves is not allowing parents to get needed sleep, and continue to provide support and troubleshooting to prevent the use of very unsafe options like this video.” 

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Sources

Sources

  1. Diamond, Rebekah. Personal Interview. April 2, 2024.
  2. Allen, Willow. TikTok. March 27, 2024. https://www.tiktok.com/@willow.allen/video/7350805898727623942
  3. Allen, Willow. TikTok. January 11, 2024. https://www.tiktok.com/@willow.allen/video/7322972026786942213?lang=en
  4. Kim, Soo. “New Mom Living in Arctic Shares Traditional Inuit Baby Sleep Method.” News Week. March 19, 2024. https://www.newsweek.com/baby-sleeping-traditional-inuit-swing-willow-allen-1880840
  5. Boston Children’s Hospital. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids
  6. “Safe Sleep Environment for Baby.” Safe to Sleep® Public Education Campaign led by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Brianna Auray

Brianna is a Data Analyst at Sleepopolis. Her goal is to collect, analyze, and interpret data on sleep health and share new insights with our audience. When she's not researching sleep topics, Brianna enjoys working out, traveling, and hiking.

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