A baby swing is a piece of gear that may fly under your radar until you have an irritable baby on your hands and have run out of soothing ideas. The right swing will provide a safe and comfortable place to lull your baby from fussy to relaxed in minutes flat, which can give you a chance to get a few things done. There are a wide variety of baby swings, all with different styles, movements, and mechanics. After taking a look at the various options available, the question becomes which one will soothe your baby the best. Important features to look for include ease of use, soothing ability, quality, and safety. We detail our favorite swings below.
The Search for the Best Baby Swing
Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing is the best at soothing babies. It has a cozy, deep seat with easy to remove plush fabric that continues to look great even after multiple washes. It is versatile and accommodates a baby from newborn up to around 6-8 months, with a maximum weight limit of 25 lbs or until the baby starts to crawl. We particularly appreciate the 5-point harness and adjustable recline, the latter of which isn't always available on the competition. The mobile can rotate and has a mirrored surface on the bottom, creating a more interactive engagement for baby.
Although it comes with all the bells and whistles, the Cradle 'n Swing does have a few drawbacks; the main one is its very large footprint. In fact, it is the largest swing in this review, covering a floor area 44"L x 35"W, and while the legs can fold together, this does not reduce the size enough for convenient storage or transportation. It is also one of the more difficult swings to assemble out of the box, requiring the use of an included tool and a few extra minutes. All faults aside, we believe this swing is worth the sacrificed space (if you can afford it) because it is one of the best soothing options on the market.
Read the Review: Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing
The Graco Glider Lite LX is unique in this review because it is the only one with a gliding motion. This motion can be good or bad depending on the baby. It is closer to the gliding movement a baby may feel when mom is sitting in a rocker or glider and may soothe some children that are more accustomed to this motion. It has six speeds and a variety of songs and nature sounds, and the plush fabric and deep seat will keep baby comfortable. The mobile is simple, but it is attached to the seat of the swing and moves around when it is turned on. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to love this swing is how compact it is. It has the smallest footprint in the review, taking up only 709 square inches of floor space.
As mentioned, the Graco Glider only moves in a gliding motion. During past testing, most babies preferred a more traditional centrifugal swinging motion. This preference is 100% dependent on the baby, and you may have to try it to know for sure what works best with your little one. This glider has a timer you can set to 10, 20, or 30 minutes, but it is not very intuitive at first, and we had to consult the manual to figure it out. Overall, this swing has many great features, and if you think you're baby will like gliding better than swinging, then this is the swing for you.
Read the Review: Graco Glider Lite LX
The Graco DuetSoothe is a swing and a rocker in one. This unique feature gives you the ability to detach the rocker from the frame to keep baby close by as you move throughout the house. The swing features six-speed settings and a variety of song and nature sounds. The rocker has a vibration setting with two different strengths. When used in swing mode, the DuetSoothe has a 30 lb weight limit, which is higher than most traditional swings in this review, and could potentially extend its use.
Although 2-in-1 products are often very appealing, they typically don't do either job as well as a dedicated product, and this holds for the DuetSoothe, which seems more functional when used as a rocker than a swing. Also, the seat of the swing is more shallow than some others, so it lacks the close, snuggled feel that many infants need for soothing. The stationary mobile is not very eye-catching and doesn't hold a baby's attention for very long. Despite these flaws, the Graco DuetSoothe may be the perfect fit for your baby, and if the idea of having multiple soothing methods is appealing, then this could be the right fit.
Read the Review: Graco DuetSoothe
If the style is high on your priority list, then the Nuna Leaf Curv will meet your expectations. It is a straightforward, modern swing that blends seamlessly with the aesthetic of most homes, sporting neutral colors and taking up little real estate. It has no motor, so it is virtually silent when in motion, no creaks, clicks, or whirring. All components are of high quality, and the Oeko-Tex certified fabric is free of many harmful chemicals. With a weight limit of 130 lbs, this seat is built to last through the long haul and can stay in the nursery for use as a toddler lounger.
The most obvious downside to the swing is that it requires the near-constant presence of a caregiver to keep it swinging. Nuna claims that with one push the seat will sway continuously on its own for longer than two minutes, but after the time's up, mom or dad must be there to restart the motion. Another irksome trait of this swing is the harness. It has thick Velcro straps to keep baby secure, but they are very loud when being undone, and tend to wake the baby at the most inconvenient times. The Leaf Curv is also the most expensive product in this review, but if you are willing to pay the extra buck, you'll get extra longevity out of it. We think this swing is perfect for parents who desire a modern, stylish swing and don't mind manually keeping baby in motion. It is a high-quality swing that you can use for several years after the competition outlives its usefulness.
Read the Review: Nuna Leaf Curv
4moms has brought modern technology and baby soothing together in the 4moms mamaRoo 4, a swing that tries to mimic the movements a mother would make rocking a baby in her arms. Some users say that the mamaRoo 4 soothes babies that weren't happy in more traditional swings. The seat has five different motion settings (car ride, kangaroo, tree swing, rock a bye, and wave), a variety of built-in sounds, as well as an MP3 plug so you can play music from your phone. All the settings and motions can be controlled from an app on your phone via Bluetooth and the fabric easily zips off the seat and is machine washable. The seat has an infinite recline adjustment that allows the baby to be horizontal in early infancy.
This swing tries to mimic natural swaying and rocking motions, but that is very hard to replicate. Many users note that the movements can feel mechanical and even jerky at times, which is not a big hit with fussy babies. There have also been reports of the high-tech features performing poorly. The sound quality is disappointing, the mobile doesn't move, and the built-in sounds are hard to distinguish from common white noise. The seat is very shallow and becomes even more so with the infant insert inside. The last disappointment straw is the Bluetooth. While you can control the product's movements with your phone, you cannot play your music through the speakers via Bluetooth; you must plug it into the short MP3 connection. This design means you need a dedicated music device or leave your phone near baby while you go about your day. This swing may be a good choice for parents who have exhausted all other soothing options, but in general, we think there are better swings to consider.
Little Tikes Snug 'n Secure is a great way to enjoy the outdoors with baby. It features a solid t-bar that goes up over the legs with connecting shoulder straps that keep kids more secure than a normal park swing. The harness buckles are secure and not operable by most toddlers. The seat is easy to hose down if it ever gets dirty, and though you may expect the hard plastic to get too hot after being in the sun, this doesn't appear to be the case. When your child has outgrown the harness, it can swivel around the bottom and store out of the way for use as a toddler swing for children up to 50 lbs.
One of the drawbacks to this swing is that the included ropes are a bit short and are not adjustable. This design limits the swingable space and while some parents have added longer ropes, altering the design can impact the potential safety, and we caution parents about doing this. Also, although it is very sturdy and should hold up for many years, the swing quickly fades when left in the sun and may start to look shabby in short order. This swing is not meant to soothe fussy infants, but it is a fun and safe way to bring older babies outdoors. With a list price of less than $30, we think this would be a great addition to your baby gear collection, no matter what type of swing you choose to use through infancy.
There is no doubt that babies prefer being held and need lots of soothing. If you are familiar with Dr. Harvey Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block, you are at least somewhat aware of the 5 Ss of Soothing a Fussy Baby: Swaddling, Side/Tummy, Shushing, Swinging, and Sucking. Let us walk you through the benefits of finding the perfect baby swing to help you keep your baby happy.
Why Purchase a Baby Swing?
In all honesty, a baby swing is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when trying to prepare for baby's arrival. Parents may shy away from this garish looking device, and instead, try to keep their home at least somewhat close to what it was pre-baby days. With this in mind, a baby swing may seem like the first thing to leave off the list, as it can easily be one of the most substantial and noticeable baby items in the home.
However, in our opinion, a baby swing is one of the most underrated and helpful pieces of gear you can have during a baby's first six months. All babies need soothing at some point, no matter how happy they are, and a parent's arms are going to be a baby's first choice every time. However, mama needs a break sometimes, and a baby swing is the closest replacement you will find for a pair of loving arms.
Aside from providing an "extra set of hands" and giving parents a break, baby swings have other advantages. The recline angle of most seats can help those struggling with reflux, gas, or constipation work things out more comfortably. Swings can also provide a familiar, cozy space full of rhythmic movement and white noise similar to that of the womb; something infants find comforting, especially during their first three months of life.
The primary purpose of any baby swing is to soothe a fussy baby. If a swing cannot do this effectively, then there is no point in having one at all. Because each baby is unique and may prefer different ways of soothing at different times, a good swing will offer complete customization, allowing you to find the perfect combination of directional movement, speed, sound, volume, and recline for your child's needs. Our Editors' Choice award winner, the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing excels by having different settings to choose from, increasing your chances of finding one that will work best for your baby. Features like plush fabric and entertaining mobiles can also make a big difference, but the most important factors will always be swinging direction and speed.
Through testing and research, we found that centrifugal-based rocking is the most effective for calming a fussy baby, and recommend getting a more traditional swing such as the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing, or the Graco DuetSoothe, both of which utilize this type of motion. Whether it is a side-to-side motion or front-to-back doesn't matter as much as the speed of the swing. Older, heavier infants tend to prefer more vigorous swinging, while newborns require a gentler pace.
Types of Soothing Devices
In this review, we chose to include a variety of swings, including two manual and five electromechanical, but baby swings are not the only option when it comes to soothing. Baby carriers, bouncers, and rockers are all viable options and may work better depending on your baby. In addition to a baby swing, we highly recommend purchasing a soft structured baby carrier to encourage attachment, as well as swaddle blankets, a pacifier, and some good old white noise to keep baby happy. We like to use the Cloud B Tranquil Turtle in baby's room as a nightlight and noise machine.
There are three main types of baby carriers, soft structured carriers (above left), wraps (above middle), and baby backpacks (above right). The first two can be used from early infancy, sometimes through the toddler years, while baby backpacks come in handy when your baby is a bit older, usually 6-9 months of age. Using a baby carrier is an excellent way to stay hands-free while keeping baby close.
Related: The Quest for the Best Baby Carrier
Bouncers and Rockers
While bouncers and rockers are somewhat like a compact version of a baby swing, they don't seem to be as soothing. Bouncers (above left) and rockers (above right) are fairly self-explanatory, typically having a retaining harness, and a reclining seat that can bounce, rock, or do some combination of the two. Parents often choose these over a traditional swing for the compactness and portability, but bouncers and rockers lack special features like speed, direction, and sound customization usually included with swings. BabyBjorn and Fisher-Price are two of the most popular brand choices for bouncers and would be a good place to start if you are looking for this type of product. However, we recommend skipping the bouncer/rocker and going straight to a full-size swing as most babies prefer them.
Most baby swings fall into two aesthetic categories: modern or traditional, both of which we include in this review. Modern styles generally have a minimalistic design that meshes better with most homes as well as a smaller footprint to be inconspicuous. Some, such as the 4moms mamaRoo 4, have innovative features that catch the eye. Traditional swings usually take up much more space and often have bright, babyish designs and accessories that stand out among adult decor. However, overall, we think traditional swings tend to perform better, especially when it comes to soothing, and would recommend them over a modern swing any day.
The gaudy mobiles and bold patterns are there for a reason as they can keep baby happier, better entertained, and more comfortable in general. Although it is the largest swing in this review, the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing has softer neutral colors and may be a better choice for those looking to find a compromise between style and functionality.
Most baby swings have a motor and run on battery power or an AC adapter, and sometimes both. We recommend choosing one that you can plug in plugged in as they are more economical, especially if you plan to use the swing daily. Additionally, replacing batteries in most products requires a screwdriver and some prying, not something you'll want to do often.
The only manually powered infant swing in this review is the Nuna Leaf Curv. It is designed to glide continuously back and forth for a few minutes after a single push from an adult. While this may be a good option during more active playtime, it is not as convenient when you need to be hands-free to get things done, and is not as adept at soothing.
Other Important Details to Consider
The top consideration when investing in any baby gear should be safety, especially something where your little one will be spending a good amount of time. Getting to know the safety features and regulations for each product should be an important factor in your purchase decision. Quality and ease of use are also paramount as most baby swings hover around $100, and you want something you will be pleased with for the long run.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) continually updates their safety recommendations for baby swing use, establishing standards that all manufacturers are required to adhere to. All baby swings come with a manual that outlines safety features and operating instructions to ensure proper use. Some general guidelines include:
- Never leave a baby unattended in the baby swing
- Use in full recline until the baby is four months or they can hold their head up unassisted
- Discontinue use when the baby can 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
In addition to these tips, some common sense will also come in handy. When set to the highest swing speed, baby swings can generate strong momentum, especially with a larger baby inside. It is imperative to ensure that you assemble the swing correctly and that the base has continuous full contact with the floor while swinging. Follow the assembly instructions carefully and test the swing beforehand on its highest setting with weights or a stack of books to make sure it is stable.
Initially, a shallow seat may seem more bed like, and more accessible to get baby in and out of than a deep one, however, they are not as efficient at soothing. Most infants prefer the cozy cuddled feeling that a deep seat provides, keeping them in a position that cradles them firmly and maintains proper hip flexion. Still, even in deep seats, you want to be sure that there is no extra fabric near the baby's nose or mouth that could obstruct their airway.
Also crucial for keeping a clear airway is paying attention to the seat's recline position. Babies up to 4 months should be in the most reclined position, as well as correctly harnessed to prevent slumping over in a way that could potentially compromise their airway.
All of the swings in this review have removable, machine washable covers, but the quality of the material determines how well it will stand up to multiple washes. More durable seats have inserts that are easy to remove and contain less padding, making it easier to bring back to its original shape out of the wash. Some seat covers, such as the Nuna Leaf Curv or the Graco Glider Lite LX, are more difficult to get on or off, making laundering a pain.
Ease of Use
Determining how easy a swing is to use can be done by considering the following:
- Securing baby
- Operating swing controls
- Extra Features
The type of harness on a seat can make securing a squirming baby a breeze or a nightmare. Deeper seats help keep little ones more secure while buckling baby in, and seats that are higher off the ground can mean less uncomfortable crouching. We prefer 5-point harnesses with straps that are individually attached. Many swings in this review have this type of harness, including the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing and the Graco Glider Lite LX. Both the 4moms mamaRoo 4 and the Nuna Leaf Curv have seats that are very low to the ground, which can make the transition from arms to swing more disruptive or challenging depending on your physical prowess.
The controls found on most swings are fairly simple and intuitive to operate, usually relying on visual icons to differentiate functions. Some controls, such as those on the Graco Glider Lite LX are a rubbery material that is silent when pressed and glow in the dark, making them more user-friendly for night time use. The location of the controls can also impact the ease of use. Some swings, such as the 4moms mamaRoo 4 have controls and buttons on the base, essentially at floor level. Compared to the Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing, where the controls are almost at chest level, this seems like unnecessary work.
Depending on how you plan to use the swing, the weight and footprint are important factors to consider before making your purchase. If you are looking for something you can move around the house, or take on trips, then you'll want it to be small and lightweight. Some of the swings even fold somewhat. If you plan on having a dedicated space for the swing, weight doesn't matter as much, but you still have to consider the footprint. Bases on many swings can be huge to keep it stable, but most seats don't swing very far outside the perimeter of the base, so the footprint is a good guide as to how much space you'll need to reserve.
Additional features can vary widely from product to product and can make a substantial difference in sooth-ability. Extras like a moving mobile, more sound effects/song choices, and swing speed/direction options may seem superficial or gimmicky, but they can make all the difference when trying to keep an infant entertained. The Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing outshined the competition for extra features.
A baby swing can seem like a big investment for such a short usage time, but once you have one, it's hard to imagine how you ever lived without it. Before making a final decision, be sure to buy from a retailer with a relaxed return policy or get to know what kind of movements and distractions your little one enjoys so you can purchase the most useful option. No matter what, all babies enjoy the rhythm and movement of being rocked, and having a baby swing can give you a chance to see baby comforted and safe while you give your arms a much-needed break. Rock on, little one!
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Abriah Wofford