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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.

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