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Baby swings

Baby swing buying guide

Last updated: April 2013
Getting started

Getting started

At one point or another, you'll probably find yourself pacing the floor with your baby, rocking her in your arms to calm her or get her to sleep. A swing can get that job done while giving you a break. Accustomed to months in the womb, your newborn or young infant may like the gentle, rhythmic motion of a swing. The bonus for you is that it can be a safe place to put her down. It may also help calm a colicky newborn. Swings usually have a partially reclined setting for snoozing and sometimes another one for sitting up.

Full-sized baby swings are designed for indoor use, for babies from birth to 25 or 30 pounds, although a few models can be used for babies over 30 pounds. Many offer a variety of speeds, music, and toy bars.

Most swings on the market today are battery-operated, providing up to 200 hours of swinging time. They emit a low churning noise that can be soothing for some babies, but irritate others. Most swings move from front to back, though several also swing from side to side, cradle style. Using a harness is a must no matter which type of swing baby uses.

Some swings feature a plug-in option, eliminating the constant need for batteries. Electric and battery-powered standard-sized swings are lightweight, yet they're cumbersome to move, which is why they're typically a fixture in a living room or kitchen for a while. They take up a fair amount of floor space, so they may not be ideal if room is scarce. You're most likely to use the swing in your baby's first few months of life. After that, you might even abandon it altogether. Keep in mind that while most babies enjoy swings, some don't like the rocking, no matter which type you buy--though they may change their mind after a few tries.

Whether you use a swing frequently or only once in awhile, never leave your baby in it unattended.

Lisa Gulley, a Virginia mom of four boys from 6 years to 3 months, has had two swings. The first, a bare-bones model, was a nice place to put the babies in but they almost never fell asleep in it. For her youngest child, she got a fancier swing with a mobile and a more comfortable seat, and says he frequently falls asleep in it.

Gulley keeps her swing in the kitchen so when she's feeding her older boys the baby can watch the action (or his mobile) and stay safe. "It is just incredibly handy to have him there as a place to put him and know he is safe and he will not get trampled," she says. "And if he falls asleep in it, he can stay there."

A swing can also be handy if your baby needs to take short naps in a semi-upright position because she has a stuffy nose or other breathing issues.

But you don't want to park your baby in a swing for long periods or let him sleep in it overnight. We recommend no more than 30-minute intervals, even if he seems content. More time could make him dizzy. If you're drowsy while your baby's swinging, put him in his crib before you fall asleep. You don't want to wake up and find that he has been swinging unattended for hours. (Learn more about why you should avoid parking your baby in a swing, bouncer, car seat, umbrella stroller, or other baby chair.)

Also, don't forget that babies need plenty of time being held and cuddled. And they also need time on their bellies. "There is nothing you can do that's better than getting down on the floor and interacting with them and playing with them," says Ben Hoffman, a pediatrician at Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University, who's on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. "I have to remind people on a regular basis about the importance of ‘tummy time.'"

The best place for your baby to sleep is in a crib, but if she has a cold or breathing issues and you want to use your swing to help her sleep, talk with your pediatrician first.

Recommendations

Look for a swing that has a sturdy, stable frame with strong posts and legs and a wide stance to prevent tipping. Examine the seat; it should be well padded, washable, and have a crotch post (if it's not a travel version) as well as a secure harness (preferably with five points) to prevent your baby from slipping from the seat.

If you buy a cradle-style model, make sure the cradle part is firmly mounted to the frame. Your best chance of finding a safe swing is to select one that has a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which means the manufacturer has met the latest requirements for safety. The brands that are certified by JPMA are Chicco, Dorel/Safety 1st, Fisher-Price, Graco, and Summer Infant.

Give yourself at least half an hour to assemble the swing. Make sure it's stable by swinging it without your baby in it, pushing down on the seat a little to make sure it's secure.

Buy new, not used. Older swings may not have an adequate restraint system or may have broken or loose parts, which can put your baby at risk of falling. They also may not meet the latest safety standards. (New federal safety standards for infant swings are due to go into effect in May 2013.)

Consumer Reports has not tested or rated any of the baby swings discussed here.

Types

Swings are pretty simple. Base your buying decision on where you plan to use it and whether or not you want to move it from place to place. Here are the three types of baby swings to consider.

Full-sized baby swings


As mentioned, full-sized swings are designed for indoor use from birth to 25 or 30 pounds, depending on the model. Many offer a variety of speeds, music, and toy bars. (See more swing Features.)

The Polly Swing Vega by Chicco, shown here, is a full-sized swing (although the manufacturer says it will easily fold). It has a five-point safety harness, a crotch post attached to a tray that can be swung out of the way, four swing speeds, and is certified by JPMA. It features an "ergonomic" infant insert and a low-recline setting. As your baby grows, it can be adjusted to be more upright, and the infant insert can be removed. It sells for about $150 and has a maximum occupant weight capacity of 30 pounds. Like many other swings, it runs on four C batteries.

Portable travel swings


Portable baby swings are popular with on-the-go parents. They sit low to the ground and are designed to be moved from room to room, or stowed in a car. They're handy if you're visiting relatives or spending the night out of town--or if you just want a smaller swing that's easy to carry from room to room.

The Bright Starts Comfort & Harmony Portable Swing (about $50), shown here, has six swing speeds, a removable headrest, and a weight limit of 25 pounds. It needs four C batteries to run and is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.

Hybrids


The mamaRoo made by 4Moms, pictured here (about $240), is a modern bouncer seat that can be used as a swing since it offers five motions, including "Ocean Wave" (which moves the seat around in a circle) and "Car Ride" (which moves the seat in a sideways figure-eight motion). It plugs into a wall but doesn't take batteries. Like other swings mentioned, it plays a range of sounds--including "white noise"--and music, and lets you plug in your MP3 player. It has a weight limit of 25 pounds. The mamaRoo is not JPMA certified.

Features


When shopping for a baby swing, look for features that will keep your child comfortable and safe. Here are some to consider.

Frame


If you want a full-sized swing, look for one with strong posts and a stance that's wide enough so that it won't tip, even if your baby leans one way or another. It should also fold easily for storage.

The Graco Duo 2 in 1 Swing with Plug (about $140) has a wide stance and three recline levels. You can also take the seat off the frame and use it as a bouncer.

Five-point harness

Full-sized swings are required to have a fixed restraint system. Some models feature an over-the-shoulder five-point harness. This type of harness is best because it keeps a baby from climbing out of the seat and plunging to the ground, which can happen much quicker than you'd think. Travel swings don't have a tray with a middle post, just a safety harness. Some have a three-point harness, but a five-point is better. A three-point harness can be either a waist and crotch belt that must be used together so a baby can't slip out, or a passive crotch restraint and a waist belt, such as a tray with a crotch post and a waist belt.

Easy access


Portable and full-sized swings are available without a top crossbar, typically called an "open-top design." They dominate the marketplace, and it's a good thing. This design can be easier to use because there's no top crossbar to interfere with getting baby in or out. (You have access to your baby from the top instead of having to crouch down to wriggle your baby in.) Graco makes several, including the Comfy Cove LX Infant Swing (pictured, about $100), which has six swing speeds and a maximum weight recommendation of 30 pounds. It uses three D batteries.

Seat cover


Look for plush padding that's machine washable, and a head support for infants that can be removed when your baby outgrows it. By plush we mean padding that is covered with a nice soft material--not padding that is so soft a baby could sink into it. Overly squishy padding is a suffocation hazard. Of course, choosing a fabric or pattern is a matter of personal preference and sometimes budget. The Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing, shown here (about $127), has plush materials and a removable infant head support.

Cradle motion


Like the My Little Snugabunny model, the Fisher-Price Zen Collection Cradle Swing, shown here (about $130), is an example of a swing that rocks side-to-side as well as front-to-back. The Zen swing seat rotates 90 degrees to provide side-to-side cradle motion. Like most, it has a range of speeds. Keep in mind that while most babies enjoy swings, some babies don't like motion, no matter which type you buy--though they might change their mind after a few tries. We recommend no more than 30-minute intervals, even if your baby seems content. More time can make some babies dizzy. If you're drowsy while your baby is swinging, put him in his crib before you fall asleep.

Be aware that side-to-side motion has been a problem with some cradles (not swings) where a child rolled to one side and was suffocated. This should not be a problem with a swing as long as you are sure to use the swing's harness. See Shopping tips.

Seat settings


A swing with at least three reclining positions can help you find the most soothing position for your baby, which is important if she likes to nap there. The Polly Swing Vega by Chicco features an infant insert and a low recline position for newborns. As your baby grows, the angle can be adjusted more upright and the insert can be removed to give her more space. Some swings also feature two seat-height settings--a raised position for newborns and a lower position for older, heavier, more active infants.

The Disney Baby All-in-One Swing Featuring Pooh Characters by Dorel, shown here (about $150), has a three-position recline and a two-position height adjustment.

Variable speeds


Some battery-operated and electric swings have up to eight speeds, but more than four is overkill. The faster speeds might annoy rather than relax your baby. In general, start at the slowest setting and see what he prefers. The heavier the baby, the more slowly a battery-powered model will swing, so you may use a faster setting as he grows. Some swings also come with a remote control. The Graco Lovin' Hug Easy Entry Open Top Curved Frame Swing, shown here (about $100), has six swing speeds and a choice of 15 songs and sounds.

Entertainment


Many swings come with mobiles, toy bars, or trays, options your baby might enjoy. She might not be able to (or even want to) reach the toy bar until around 3 months of age. Check that all toys, and the toy bar itself, are securely and safely attached and have no small parts that could cause choking. Nice but not necessary extras are a light display and sound (such as classical music, lullabies, and nature sounds) with volume control. Carter's Cozy Comfort Musical Swing (pictured, about $95) has a pivoting toy bar with three removable soft toys as well as five swing speeds, and a timer for 15, 30, and 60 minutes.

Convertibility


Some swings convert to a stand-alone bouncer seat. Some might have a removable seat for toting your baby around the house, while some convert to a toddler rocker. The Zen Collection Cradle Swing, shown here (about $130) for example, lets you take the seat off the frame. Since you won't use a swing for long (six to nine months, tops), getting more mileage out of it makes sense, especially if you don't have room for lots of baby gear. Convertibility drives up the price, though, so if you're on a budget, consider getting either a bouncy seat/rocker or a swing. Both products serve the same function--to soothe and entertain your baby in the first few months.

Brands


4moms

This small, Pennsylvania-based company is named after four real moms (actually five moms, but they say “4Moms” makes a better name). They were the original focus group, and ever since that first meeting, they’ve been contributing their insights and expertise to the company’s products. Besides swings, they also make infant bathtubs and the mamaRoo baby seat. Available in specialty juvenile products shops and on the company’s website.
www.4moms.com

Bright Starts

In 1969, a grandmother came up with an idea to keep infants from slipping in the bathtub. Since then, Bright Starts' parent company Kids II has produced a range of products that include activity centers, infant and toddler toys, entertainers, high chairs, play yards, and more.
www.brightstarts.com
 

Carter's

Carter's Inc. is a maker of apparel and related products exclusively for babies and young children. The company owns the Carter's and OshKosh B'gosh brands, which are available in department stores, national chains, and specialty retailers domestically and internationally and through more than 400 company-operated stores. The Company's Child of Mine brand is available at Walmart, and its Genuine Kids, Just One You, and Precious Firsts brands are available at Target. Carter's headquarters are in Atlanta.
www.carters.com

Chicco

Pronounced Kee-co, this Italian brand was established in 1958. It is a multinational company that specializes in making clothing and equipment for babies and toddlers, including strollers, high chairs, car seats, and toys. Available online and at most retailers.
www.chiccousa.com

Disney

Dorel Juvenile Group manufactures the Safety 1st, Cosco, Quinny, Maxi-Cosi, and InStep brands and licensed brands including Disney and Eddie Bauer. Available at most retailers and online. Go to individual websites for more information on purchasing options.
 

Fisher-Price

Founded in 1930 by Herman Fisher, Irving Price, and Helen Schelle, the company brought 16 wooden toys to the International Toy Fair in New York City. The whimsical nature of those first toys quickly caught on and became the hallmarks of Fisher-Price. The company’s products include activity centers, toys, games, and much more. Fisher-Price is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc., and its headquarters are outside Buffalo, N.Y.
www.fisher-price.com

Graco

From a metal products company started in the 1950s grew a baby products company with the creation of a popular baby swing, the Swyngomatic. Graco now manufactures a full line of juvenile products, from nursery products and activity centers, to strollers and car seats. Available everywhere and online.
www.gracobaby.com

Shopping tips

These suggestions can help you decide whether you want a swing, and which type or features to consider.

Try it to see if your baby likes it

If you don't have a friend or relative who has a swing your baby can try, take your little one to the store with you for a trial run. (You might need to bring your own batteries to use with floor models. And make sure to put the models on the floor of the store before trying.) Your baby's reaction may help you to decide on a particular model or whether he's even a candidate for a swing. Just remember, some babies might need time to adjust to swinging; others might not like it at all but might enjoy other features, such as a vibration mode, which often available in stationary bouncer seats.

Decide between full-sized or portable models

If you want the option of moving your swing from room to room on a regular basis and taking it on road trips, or if you're short on space, a travel swing may be right for you. Travel swings take up about as much space as a bouncy seat, and many have a sturdy carrying handle and plenty of features. The downside? Because you have to crouch down to put your baby into the swing and take her out, using it may be uncomfortable if it's hard for you to bend over.

Look for a five-point harness

Full-sized swings are required to have a fixed restraint system. Some models feature an over-the-shoulder five-point harness, which is best because it keeps babies from climbing or falling out of the seat and plunging to the ground--something that can happen much quicker than you'd think. Travel swings don't have a tray with a middle post, just a safety harness; some have a three-point harness but a five-point harness is safer.

Do you need side-to-side movement?

Because of their construction--a seat in a frame--standard full-sized and travel-type swings only move front to back. But cradle swings, with a cradle-seat suspended from a frame, can move side-to-side and front to back; you just turn the seat. Standard full-sized and cradle swings recline, but cradle swings are positioned so that your baby can lie down for the ride, which newborns tend to prefer. But the useful life of a cradle swing is shorter than that of a traditional swing because the seat can't be adjusted to a more upright position. As soon as your baby can push up on his hands and knees, he'll want to sit up and see out. That's when it's time to retire a cradle swing.

Consider comfort

Some swings have seats that are deep, padded, womblike cradles. We think these should be avoided due to the risk of positional asphyxia. Look for a wider chair with adjustable head support. For the infancy stage you'll want a seat that reclines or has an angled back because your baby won't be able to hold his head up. An infant headrest will help his head positioned properly. To increase the chances that your baby will feel comfortable in the swing after 3 months, look for a seat with an infant head support that's removable and has several seatback positions. Older babies will want to sit more upright and reach for the toys on the toy bar, if the swing has that feature. If the swing has a front tray, make sure it pivots from side to side, flips up, or is detachable. You'll have a much easier time sliding your older baby in and out of the seat with the tray out of the way. It's important to heed the age and weight limitations of the swing you plan to use based on the manufacturers instructions. Never exceed the weight limit specified.

Consider power options

If your baby likes her swing you might find yourself using it often, which could mean constantly having to replace the batteries. Not only is this costly, it can be time consuming if you have to use a screwdriver to open the battery compartment. Lisa Gulley, a mother of four young boys, says her first swing required too many batteries too quickly. "It ate them like there was no tomorrow," she said, adding "it was too hard for me to change them, and I had to ask my husband--and he hated doing it." Gulley bought a second swing for her fourth child that she can use without batteries. To save money and time, consider buying a swing that gives you the option of plugging it into the wall. If you don't mind changing batteries, consider investing in rechargeable batteries to save money.

Check the store's return policy

Try the swing within the time limits of the store's return policy (usually 30 to 45 days) so you have the option of taking it back. Keep the receipt and the packaging. A noisy motor may be a deal breaker for you.

Safety strategies

About 1,600 infants are injured each year in baby swings, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). To protect your baby from falls and other hazards when using a swing, adopt these practices.

  • Never leave your baby unattended in a swing.
  • Always use the safety harness provided. Don't rely on a play tray alone to restrain your child.
  • Assemble the swing according to the manufacturer's instructions and keep them for future reference. Give yourself at least half an hour to do the job properly.
  • Don't use a swing with missing or broken parts.
  • Never place a portable swing on an elevated or soft surface, such as a bed or sofa. If it tips over, it can cause a fall or suffocation.
  • Place your baby's swing away from heat sources, such as a stove or radiator, and from any cords, such as window-blind or drapery cords and phone cords, which are strangulation hazards.
  • Don't let older children push your baby in the swing. Also, if your child is old enough to push himself by jumping around in the seat, it's time to retire the swing.
  • With multispeed swings, start with the lowest setting. High settings may be too rough for your baby. Very young babies tend to prefer slower speeds; older babies may like a slightly quicker pace.
  • To prevent falls, always follow the manufacturer's age and weight specifications. Stop using a full-sized or portable swing when your baby reaches the maximum weight limit or becomes really active and appears to be able to climb out of the swing. Stop using a cradle swing when your baby can roll over or push up on her hands and knees.
  • Don't move your baby in a swing or use a portable swing as an infant carrier unless the swing offers a detachable-seat carrier option, as some do.
  • Play it safe around the swing. The safety standards for swings are designed to protect the occupant while the swing is in use. Keep in mind that swings can be hazardous to children playing nearby. And don't let your baby or an older sibling play with the swing when not in use.
  • Watch out for recalls. In the past some baby swings have been recalled because of problems with entrapment between the swing frame and the seat, or weak harnesses and loose screws. You can find information about recalls and sign up for alerts on the CPSC website, at cpsc.gov.
  • Send in the product-registration card or register your swing online at the manufacturer's website. By doing this, you will be notified in case of a recall.
   

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