Oh, baby swings, bouncers, and baby rockers: What is the secret to your kid-soothing ways? Is it that you replicate the feeling of floating in the womb? Distract from whatever caused the crying and screaming in the first place? Or is it something else entirely? The answer, in the form of another question: Who cares? No matter why they work baby swings, baby rockers, and bouncers are parental godsends that offer soothing, safe spaces for the kid to rest while you sit on your favorite, non-bouncy seat. But which one to buy?
First, some basics. Swings are not suitable, or safe, places for infants to sleep. Given that we live in the real world, where babies almost always fall asleep when they’re in swings, they need to be constantly supervised by their parents or caregivers. A swing is not a substitute for a crib, nor should a baby left alone in one, unsupervised, to snooze for hours, even if they’re strapped in.
“You need a flat surface, nothing inclined, a firm mattress, with a tight-fitting sheet. There should be nothing in the sleep space but the baby and what they’re wearing. They’re in their own space, so they’re not bed-sharing,” says Dr. Ben Hoffman, FAAP, Chair of American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. “If you have a baby in a swing and they enjoy it, they’re going to fall asleep in there from time to time. You need to be there and constantly vigilant.”
Hoffman was one of the leading advocates of the recent recall of Fisher-Price’s popular Rock n’ Play model. “I don’t think there’s a safe way that product should be used in real people’s homes. We know what safe sleep looks like. A product that starts with an environment that’s not safe for infants, I don’t know that it ever would have not have put babies in danger. Because they’re sold, there’s this implicit assumption that they’re safe,” he says.
Bottom line, from Hoffman: “Don’t let your infant sleep at an angle.”
Wise words from a wise man. But there’s a place for swings and bouncers, so our advice is, pick a model that has features that are important to you (e.g. lightweight, battery-powered, easy to clean) and has a track record, demonstrated through positive reviews written by real parents, of getting babies to calm down. We picked some baby swings, baby rockers, and baby bouncers that have an array of features we like and consistently positive reviews from parents who’ve used them.
The DuetSoothe does double duty as a hanging swing and a rocker that rests on the ground. Hang the swing seat on the sturdy frame to take advantage of the six different rocking speeds and two vibrating strengths, powered by your choice of rechargeable batteries or a power outlet.
Pros: The DuetSoothe is safe for kids up to 30 pounds (most others cut off at 25), so you can use it well into infancy. You can also use it as an analog rocker simply by grabbing the handle and puting the Duetsoothe on the ground.
Cons: If you can’t plug it in, you have to use five D batteries that only last three hours, which means this thing gets pricey to operate quickly.
The bizarrely named Snugapuppy is the rare rocker that can both soothe and entertain thanks to its particular feature set. There's the dual motion swing that rocks your baby back-and-forth or side-to-side at one of six speeds, a padded seat with two different recline positions, and a speaker that plays nature sounds.
Pros: That speaker can also play 18 different songs to entertain your baby as she plays with the motorized mobile complete with stuffed animals.
Cons: The seat fabric is 100 percent polyester, which isn’t the softest material for your baby’s sensitive skin.
It's a modern, dare we say elegant, baby rocker, that's right at home in your living room without being hard on the eyes. Plus, it's one of the most eco-friendly models available.
Pros: The Bloom Coco lounger is an elegant baby nest. You get seat pads with a five-point harness. This rocker is free of lead, BPA, phthalates, PVC, formaldehyde and flame retardant materials, and has a smooth, self-rocking motion. The rocker is suitable for newborns and babies up to 25 pounds.
Cons: It’s expensive, the seat pads are sold separately, and you have to rock it yourself.
This BabyBjörn rocker has four different positions: play, rest, sleep, and transport (in order from most to least vertical). It's easy to fold down and weighs just a pound, so taking this rocker on the go is a breeze.
Pros: The seat is easy to remove and machine washable, and you can use it as a comfy chair once your kid is able to sit upright, so you’ll be able to use this thing for years.
Cons: There’s no motor for vibrations or swinging; it’s up to you or your kid, when he’s able, your kid to move the cushioned seat that’s designed to provide proper head and back support.
Stokke is a company that's mastered the baby expansion kit (see their bassinet and crib) with modern design. Their baby bouncer is no different. It fits into the Stokke Steps high chair seating system, so taking your kid from eating to a post-lunch play session is a breeze.
Pros: There’s also a newborn insert that keeps tiny babies safe and is easy to remove when your kid gets too big for it. The bouncer also folds flat for easy transport and has an arm that lets you dangle a toy above your kid in case they need a distraction.
Cons: Some users have said this bouncer can be squeaky, and that the unpadded parts of the harness near the latch can be uncomfortable for babies.
As you can tell by the options on this list, it's easy to spend hundreds on a bouncer. But if your budget isn't quite that expansive, fear not: Bright Starts makes a beloved bouncer that you can get for less than the cost of a few packs of diapers.
Pros: This bouncer comes with a full array of features, including a toy bar to keep your kid entertained and a battery-powered motor that can help vibrate your baby into peaceful slumber.
Cons: This bouncer doesn’t fold down, so it’s not a great option if you want to bring your bouncer on family vacations unless you have room to throw it in the back of your car.
The seat in this bouncer swivels 360 degrees, so your kid can play with the plethora of toys stationed around this circumference. But don't worry: if you want your kid to play more quietly you can remove the bells and whistles for a simpler seat.
Pros: There are four different height positions so you can put your baby at a height that’s comfortable for them and your back. There are cards with numbers and colors in English, French, and Spanish hanging from the outside.
Cons: Compared to the more muted designs of many of these products, this thing is pretty garish. That’s thanks to the tons of different included toys that might be a bit overstimulating for younger babies.
Instead of rocking, swinging, and/or vibrating, this baby swing moves in five different patterns that 4moms claims are more like how mothers comfort their kids. There's a built-in speaker and Bluetooth connectivity so you can adjust the music and motion pattern from your phone, though there is also a pretty comprehensive control panel at the base of the unit.
Pros: The mamaRoo 4 comes with interactive and reversible toy balls: one with a rattle, one with mirrors, and one that crinkles to help build motor skills and keep your baby entertained for hours.
Cons: A weirdly high number of reviewers said that their baby just didn’t like this swing, so if you can try it out at some point before ordering we’d recommend it.
What, you're probably wondering, is cry detection technology? It's actually pretty simple. A built-in microphone detects crying and cycles through eight soothing motions, three speeds, two vibration settings, and 15 different songs until it hits upon a combination that makes the crying stop. You can, of course, adjust those settings manually, but you'll probably go through some trial and error to get your kid to calm down, so why not let the swing do it automatically? And once you've found a combination of settings that works well you can save and recall it with the touch of a button.
Pros: The swing lifts off the base and also works as a portable rocker so you don’t have to take your baby out of the seat to bring her with you around the house.
Cons: All of those features come at a price of over $240, and you can get a simpler quality bouncer for way less.
This swing converts into a sleeper, so your baby can sleep in the recommended flat position.
Pros: The swing easily converts from its swinging position to a sleeping position, meaning your child lies flat on her back instead of being propped up. It has six gliding speeds, plays 10 melodies and five nature sounds, and has a built-in mobile. You can plug it in, or use batteries.
Cons: Parents say that for some reason, it inexplicably sometimes stops swinging.
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