Gliders & rocking chairs

Glider & Rocking Chair Buying Guide
Glider & Rocking Chair Buying Guide

Consumer Reports no longer updates this product category and maintains it for archival purposes only. 


Getting Started

The gliding motion of a glider or rocking chair will add to the soothing effect your baby feels when being held, and there's nothing better than a cozy glider for you for quick catnaps, those 3 a.m. feedings, and snuggling in to read to your little one.

Basic hardwood rocking chairs have been around for ages. A glider is an updated version that's designed to slide forward and backward rather than rock in an arc. Some also swivel. Most gliders come with cushions. An ottoman you can prop your feet on is also available as a stand-alone item and is purely optional, so don't feel like you're missing out if you skip it. Some ottomans are stationary while others glide back and forth with their matching gliders.

Allow plenty of time for the chair to arrive before your baby is born. Although many baby Websites and stores have gliders in stock, gliders with custom-fabric cushions have to be ordered. Allow up to 10 weeks for delivery. Minimal assembly may be required.

To narrow the selection, make a list of must-have features, coming as close to matching the list as you can within your budget. In general, look for solid wood construction, dense, darkly colored cushions that won't lump and that are covered in woven fabrics that won't fray, high-padded, supportive back cushions, padded arms, and dense-foam seat cushions. You'll also want to seek out chairs with springs underneath the seat for support, a smooth gliding mechanism, mechanism bearings with a warranty, a locking mechanism, and the ability to recline.

Secondhand is an option, but look for the same features you'd want in a new chair, such as the list we just mentioned, and make sure that the locking, gliding, and recline features still work. Gliders that don't come assembled can take up to a half hour to put together. Allow yourself plenty of time. Save your receipt, gift receipt, or packing slip in case the glider you buy is missing parts or is defective. Some retailers won't let your return an item, make an exchange, or repair or provide parts at no cost without one.



Some parents consider a glider an improvement over the traditional rocking chair. Here are the types of gliders and rocking chairs to consider.

Rocking Chairs
Basic hardwood rocking chairs have been around for ages. If you plan to spend a lot of time in it, you may want to add some padding and cushions.

These are updated versions of rocking chairs that are designed to slide forward and backward rather than rock in an arc. If in doubt, choose a glider over a rocker. Gliders are more comfortable, and you'll use one more than you think, especially in your baby's first year. They also dominate the market, so you'll have more to choose from.

At the highest end, you'll find gliders in custom fabrics and classic, custom-made spindle rocking chairs, which are available at high-end retailers such as Posh Tots. In general, a loftier price tag reflects solid wood construction. In gliders, you'll probably get more durable, cushier cushions, a higher-quality gliding system, a spring-supported seat, and a positional lock that you can use to keep it from gliding. Some gliders swivel, or recline, which can come in handy for re-energizing catnaps. Although you get what you pay for, you don't have to go whole hog. There's quality and solid construction in the midrange, too.



In the early months when your baby is waking often to eat, you may be spending a lot of time in your rocker or glider. Here are the glider and rocking chair features to consider.

Generously Wide Seat and Arms
Both these features are especially important if you plan to use a nursing pillow. And with a baby aboard, you'll need the room. Practice gliding in the store with a display-model nursing pillow or your baby to make sure that you're both a good fit in the chair. Well-padded armrests on a glider may be all you need to support and comfortably feed your baby, negating the need for a nursing pillow.

Lock or Protective Cover for Gliding Mechanism
Choose a glider that locks in place or that has a base that's constructed to hide the gliding mechanism if you have a toddler or if you have only a newborn now but plan to have more than one child. You don't want to be gliding when you're feeding your newborn if there's a curious toddler underfoot; little fingers can get caught in the gliding mechanism. You'll also want to lock it to keep your toddler safe when you're not around.

Seat-Cushion Springs
For wooden gliders, "you want to make sure the fabric underneath the seat cushion has springs attached to it," said Seth Berger, owner of Kids Home Furnishings, a baby-to-teen furniture store, in Stamford, Conn. You may find four small springs that secure a bottom piece of fabric to the chair frame. That's good. The underbelly of the seat shouldn't be just fabric glued to a frame. You won't have much support or shock absorption. For upholstered gliders, check to make sure you can't tip the chair over, especially for those gliders without a round base. They can be top-heavy. And make sure that the upholstered fabric fits tightly on the chair, for slip covered and sewn types.

Darker-Colored Cushion
Stay away from natural beige or pastel fabrics. Furniture fabric can appear soiled from just normal wear and tear. And, of course, washable fabrics are a plus.


Shopping Tips

Test It In the Store
This is an item that you don't want to research solely on the Internet (although you can certainly buy online if you know what you're getting). Sit in the chair and rock or glide away. That's the best way to tell whether a chair's seat fits your body and whether it's comfortable. Have your spouse do the same if both of you will be using it to make sure that it's a good fit for both of you.

Buying Decisions
Determine the model, then finish, fabric, and whether or not you want an ottoman. Making your buying decisions in that order may make shopping easier. If you're looking for a glider, here are some basic questions that can help you find the right model for your needs: Do you want it to recline? Swivel? Do you want a traditional look, or sleigh style? Then focus on finish (white, natural, maple, and cherry are common finishes), then fabric, and so on.

A glider can feel like a splurge, but if you're having a baby shower, why not put it on your wish list? It's an expensive item, but friends and family may chip in as a group. "Our nursery was furnished by five people," a mom from Atlanta said. "One set of friends bought the crib. My family bought the rest of the pieces for the nursery, including the glider."

While you're at it, think about how the glider might look outside the nursery in several years. Although you may be rocking with your baby well into the toddler years, rocking chairs and gliders tend to have a limited use. Once your baby goes to sleep without rocking, you may find yourself sitting in the chair less and less, at least until the next baby comes along. Many manufacturers make gliders that are fully upholstered to look like a bedroom chair or one that might warm the corner of a den. That's something else to consider when choosing the fabric for your glider: How it might look in the family room or a bedroom later.

Ask About Warranties
If you choose a glider, you'll want to know if the bearings, which run the gliding mechanism, have a warranty. They take the brunt of a person's weight over time. Ten years is a good warranty length, although a lifetime warranty is better, although that's not the case for all baby products.