A baby swing can soothe, calm and cuddle a fussy baby
When it's 2 a.m. and your newborn won't stop crying, a baby swing can be a lifesaver. What used to be viewed as a luxury has become a baby-registry staple for many new parents, and for good reason. While the swings of yesteryear were often loud contraptions parents had to wind up, today's swings are quiet, plush rides that can be operated with the push of a button.
Many infants like swings, but some don't. The only way to find out is to put your child in a swing and see whether they take to it. Parents find that the multiple music options, bright and shiny toys, and range of speeds can sometimes prove to be over stimulating, as opposed to calming. Plus, all those extras seem to cause motors to burn out faster.
Full-size swings offer the best value. The right baby swing can safely soothe your child when nothing else seems to work. Many models feature interactive toys and music to engage baby in play during waking moments. Designed for indoor use, most standard full-size models are suitable for use from birth until baby reaches 25 pounds, and have on average three seat positions. These larger swings offer a more powerful swinging motion -- cradle swings move both front to back and side to side -- which effectively helps lull baby to sleep. Most useful during baby's first few months, full-size models typically run on either battery or AC power. Expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $250 on a full-size model.
Portable or travel swings comfort baby here, there and everywhere. Portable swings, or travel swings, may not be as flashy as full-size models, but they're a popular choice for parents looking for a swing that doesn't take up a lot of space in their home or that can easily be moved from room to room. They may not come with as many extras, but they're ideal for those who are on the go. You'll dole out far less money for this swing type, which average from $80 to $100.
Baby bouncers are kicking. The baby bouncer, although not technically a swing, fits into this category because its main goal is to keep baby amused, secure and comfortable when not in your arms. There are two types of bouncer seats: battery-operated and baby-powered. Most have some form of entertainment -- whether music or toys -- and vibration. The semi-upright position of a bouncer lets baby see what's happening in the world around him or her, plus parents say that the seat works wonders for babies with respiratory issues and reflux.
Safety is a key consideration. Baby swings are one of the top-10 recalled baby products due to tipping or tripping hazards, lacerations from trays, poor harness or buckle designs, and other safety issues. Because of this, you should never buy a used baby swing, particularly one of the older, wind-up models. If you do, though, always check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to check for recalls. The best baby swings have an adjustable, five-point harness, a stable base, fully covered motor components, and any dangling toys that are appropriate for your child's age range.
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated dozens of expert and owner reviews for every type of baby swing currently available for purchase. From there, we narrowed it down to the models with the top reviews for features, performance and ease of use. Price was a consideration as well. These considerations result in our picks for the top full-sized baby swings, portable baby swings and baby bouncers at every budget level.
Best Baby Swings
Less isn't more; more (features) is more
Full-size baby swings are typically fitted with dozens of features, including variable swing speeds and directions, music, lights, sounds and vibration. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing (Est. $165) , one of the top-reviewed models in the full-size baby swing market, is a prime example. Reviewers say their baby likes the option of swinging either from front to back or side to side in the plush seat, and the ability to face mom in one of three different directions makes everybody happy. The Snugabunny doesn't convert to a floor model, unlike the Graco SweetPeace Infant Soothing Swing (Est. $180) , which also vibrates when used separately from the swing base.
Although more expensive, parents say the versatility of the Graco SweetPeace makes it worth the extra money. Dubbed a "soothing center" by Graco, the SweetPeace swings in multiple directions, plus parents can use their Graco car seats in the frame, making it possible to extend a nap that started in the car. However, some reviewers say the seat is too upright, even in its most reclined position, so it may not be as good a choice for newborns or small babies.
The Fisher-Price Starlight Papasan Cradle Swing (Est. $175) gets glowing reviews from parents of newborns for its fascinating light show, but with only a three-point harness, it is not as safe a choice once baby is a little older. The Starlight Papasan is a traditional cradle swing that can move in multiple directions, and in addition to its popular light show features music, sound effects and a mobile with hanging plush toys.
All three of these swings, like most full-size baby swings, can run on battery or electricity. They also garner many negative reviews for an unreliable motor that stops after limited use -- a common issue among full-size swings. Taking all of those issues into account, the Snugabunny, with its five-point harness and deep recline, is the optimal choice for baby.
A budget swing may be all you need for a happy baby
Baby swings are hit or miss, depending on the baby who's judging them, and none of them shine as far as durability is concerned, so trying to find a bargain on a swing that may only be used for a few months is a smart idea.
The Graco Comfy Cove LX swing (Est. $80) , one of the least expensive full-size swings on the market, is a sturdy choice for parents on a budget. Despite being battery operated and only swinging in one direction -- front to back -- the Comfy Cove LX earns praise by reviewers who like the deep, easy-to-adjust seat and gender-neutral fabric choices. An attached mobile has three hanging toys, plus 15 sound and song options. Several reviewers have reported problems with the swing either not working out of the box or quitting after limited use, and the straps may slip off a smaller baby's shoulders.
Elsewhere in this report
Portable Baby Swings
Which portable baby swing is best? Editors say Fisher-Price has two stand-out models, but Bright Starts is a close runner up.
Best Baby Bouncers
Which baby bouncer is best? Editors discuss the pros and cons of the BabyBjorn Bouncer Balance Soft, and the Fisher-Price Rainforest Bouncer.
What should you look for in a baby swing? These are the features editors say you should look for when you go shopping for a top baby swing.
Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top baby swings, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.