Why Purchase a Baby Swing?
When planning for a new baby, a baby swing may be low on your list of priorities. After all, it is a piece of baby gear that takes up a significant bit of space in one's home. And, for families hoping to have living spaces that somewhat resemble their pre-child days, a baby swing may seem too big, literally, of an investment.
Although not a necessity like diapers, our opinion is that having a baby swing is one of the most helpful pieces of gear in baby's first 6 months of life. Beyond mere convenience, babies need soothing and a parent's arms are the best place for it. All arms do need a break from time to time, however, and a baby swing is a great option.
Though having one is certainly no replacement for a pair of loving arms, they provide some advantages. First, they position babies at a seated recline which can provide those struggling with reflux, gas, or constipation a comfortable place to lounge while working things out. Second, they provide infants in their first 3 months of life a small, cozy place akin to the womb full of rhythmic movement and white noise. Lastly, swings can provide an "extra set of hands" in the home which can be quite a welcome relief, particularly when juggling older children or multiples.
Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny masters the art of soothing and is both whimsical and inviting. Its primary features are six speeds, two directions, a moving mobile and a combination of classical and nature songs. The seat is plush with an adjustable insert and head rest.
Swing mechanism and speed is the single biggest factor of its capacity to sooth. In general, both our testing and research lead us to recommend a traditional swing with simple centrifugal-based rocking motion, whether side-to-side or front-to-back, simply because they seem to be most effective at soothing. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny, Graco Comfy Cove DLX and the Graco Duet Soothe each has their own unique features which set them apart, but each has basic, vigorous swinging movement. The most vigorous swing of the bunch in our review is the Graco Comfy Cove DLX which won our Best Value award; it has low speed settings appropriate for a lightweight newborn and stronger settings for heavier infants.
Types of Soothing Devices
Our Best Baby Swing Review focuses on 5 full-size baby swings, 1 manual and 4 electromechanical. However, other soothing devices such as baby carriers, bouncers, rockers, and travel swings flood the marketplace. We advise having a soft structured baby carrier and a baby swing for attachment and soothing needs in addition to a few swaddle blankets, pacifier, and some sort of white noise whether it is on a cd, ipod, or marketed soothing device with white noise and night light like the Cloud B Tranquil Turtle.
Baby carriers can be divided into soft structured carriers, wraps, and baby backpacks. In early infancy, soft structured carriers and wraps are appropriate and baby backpacks come into play later when an infant is bigger, usually between 6-9 months of age. These provide excellent modes for parents and caregivers to be close to and bond with baby while being hands free. For further information, we invite you to take a look at our Quest for the Best Baby Carrier and Best Baby Backpack reviews.
Bouncers and Rockers
Bouncers and rockers can provide a compact solution for little ones though they don't tend to be as soothing as a baby swing. Typically bouncers (lower left) and rockers (lower right) are very simple reclining seats with 3-point harnesses that either rock, bounce, or both. Some are battery-operated with the added capability for vibration or with an electronic play arch. These devices are certainly handy as they are small, lightweight, portable, and usually easy to clean with machine washable fabrics. The downsides of bouncers and rockers are that they typically lack customization like speed, reclining seat, mobile, sound that many baby swings offer. Popular bouncer brands like BabyBjorn and Fisher-Price may be good options for parents wanting to start small, but we have found that most babies require a bit more action for soothing.
The baby swings we reviewed fell into two aesthetic categories:
- Traditional — Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny, Graco Comfy Cove DLX, Graco Duet Soothe.
Traditional swings tend to have a significant overall footprint with a surface area ranging from 900 to 1400 square inches and weigh around 20 pounds. Some fold down to smaller sizes for moving around or storage but even so, still take up a lot of space. Full-size traditional swings really are designed more for single floor, indoor use.
Modern swings market themselves towards parents that aren't keen on compromising in design and style. As promising as it may seem to have a piece of baby gear that fits into your adult décor, we found ourselves not recommending these based on their lackluster soothing performance. This is one of many moments that setting aside your preferences for your child's preferences may occur.
The traditional baby swings are larger, with the accruement that often makes new parents cringe. Gaudy mobiles and offensive patterns aside, these baby swings are often more comfortable for your little one. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny is neutral in its looks, which makes it an ideal bridge between the traditional looking and modern looking swings.
Most baby swings on the market are mechanical, operated by a motor like the Fisher-Price Snugabunny (lower left). We recommend a baby swing powered by an AC adapter. Though it may also come with ability to run on batteries, an AC adapter will run just the same for much less. If your little one likes the baby swing, you may find yourself using it often, which could mean constantly having to replace batteries. Most of the battery compartments require a screw driver for access and some gentle prying, gently the last thing you will probably want to be doing.
The manual baby swing we reviewed, the Nuna Leaf (above right) operates by kinetic energy, also known as mom or dad. This is a good option for more active play time, but seemed inefficient as a soothing baby swing.
Additional Important Details to Consider
When investing in any baby gear, the most important feature is safety. Especially for something that will serve as a space for your little one to be in, it is imperative that you understand the safety features and recommendations. As baby swings typically cost $100 or more, quality and ease of use are also important factors.
- Never leave the baby unattended in the baby swing.
- Use in full recline until the baby is 4 months or they can hold their head up unassisted.
- Use until the baby is able to sit up unassisted.
- Always use the harness as instructed.
- Installation of the baby swing base should match manufacturers instructions.
- Swings are not recommended for overnight sleeping or extended napping.
Many baby swings have strong momentum when operated at their highest swing speed. We recommend following the instruction manual to a "tee." In addition, testing the swing out at its highest setting with weights or a stack of books to simulate baby's weight is a good idea. This is to make sure the swing is assembled correctly is stable with a base that maintains full contact with the floor throughout swinging.
In theory, a shallow seat (below left) seems like it might be preferable to a deep swing seat (below right). However, we didn't find this to be true in our testing. In our experience, the shallower the seat, the less soothing the baby swing seemed to be. Deeper seats allowed for baby's torso and bottom to be nicely cradled while maintaining hip flexion. And, even deep seats with nice, comfy cushioning were simplistic without extra fabric near baby's nose or mouth, important to maintain a clear airway.
As such, care should always be taken in any swing seat to ensure proper positioning (in full recline for babies up to 4 months) and harnessing of baby to prevent him/her from slumping over into a position that could potentially compromise their airway. Additionally, baby should be seated and swung without extraneous fabric.
Machine-washable fabrics are a standard on all baby swings, but the quality of the material is not equal. Look for inserts that are easy to remove and do not contain a too much padding. The more padding, the harder it is to shape back out of the wash. Though we found the Nuna Leaf Curv to be a high quality product with organic oeko-tex certified fabrics, its cover was consistently difficult to remove for laundering and even harder to get back on.
Ease of Use
How easy a swing is to use general breaks down into the following:
- Placing baby down
- Securing baby inside the harness
- Operating the swing
- Extra Features
The baby swings that had easy to use harnesses were by far the favorite in terms of ease of use. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny was the easiest baby swing to place baby into, which helped with it's top soothing score as well. While the 4moms mamaRoo and Nuna Leaf were attractive swings, they were lower to the ground, with in the 4moms mamaRoo baby swing example, controls that were essentially on the ground.
All of the baby swings had simple to operate controls, often relaying on visual icons to direct the users in the operation. The swings with lit controls were especially user friendly in case you have to be operating the baby swing in a dim or darkened room.
The weight and size, or rather the footprint is important when choosing a baby swing. If you want a baby swing that is portable, then weight definitely matters. If you intend to leave the baby swing in a single location in your home then this may not be as important. What will matter regardless is the size. All baby swings have bases. The least obtrusive bases were the ones that were under the range of the swing, meaning when not in motion it may appear large, but once the baby swing is moving, the range of the seat falls within the base perimeter. The Graco DuetSoothe and 4moms mamaRoo were good examples of this. They were also more compact then the other swings to begin with.
Baby swings can be unruly and heavy when moving them around, so finding a great soothing swing that both folds and is light weight is like finding the holy grail. If you find one that is a great soother, let us know! In our review, folding swings we tested tipped the scales at just over 20 pounds and folded proved to still be bulky, namely the Fisher-Price (lower left) and Graco DLX (lower right). The compact, lighter modern swings like the Nuna and the 4moms just didn't sooth as well.
The little extras on baby swings vary widely and do make a big difference in our experience. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny really out shined its market competitors by offering additional features that really made it stand out. Its main, unique attraction is the rotating and moving mobile with central mirror ball. For babies that are just developing their sense of sight, this feature makes it a huge stand out. The diurnal sound options offer nice variety for the different temperamental scenarios of your little one will likely present. And, the bunny rattle is a great active play feature. Another example, in nice-to-have accessories is in the 4moms mamaRoo which has an MP3 connector and provides a great way to create some variety in soundtrack for the sake of everyone in the household.
A baby swing is a piece of baby gear that may fly under your radar until you wish you had one. Getting to know your little one before making an investment in a baby swing may be the best option for your family. If you think you will enjoy having that "extra set of hands" then investing in one early may be best for your family. Either way, babies enjoy the rhythm of baby swing and you will enjoy seeing them comforted and safe. We hope the above considerations make choosing the right swing for your family an easier decision.