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Advice on baby swings

Consumer Reports News: July 09, 2007 04:56 PM

Question: "I need to purchase a baby swing. Any advice?"

You've come to the right place. When shopping for a swing, here are some things to consider:

  • Traditional swing vs. travel swing. If you want the option of moving your swing from room to room often, taking it on road trips, or if you’re short on living space, a travel swing may be right for you. Travel swings take up about as much space as a b ouncy seat, and many have a sturdy carrying handle. The downside? Because you have to crouch down to put your baby in the swing and take her out again, using the swing can be uncomfortable and virtually impossible if you have a bad back or are recovering from a C-section. It can also be tricky to maneuver your baby into the swing from a sitting position if your baby is squirmy.
  • Side-to-side movement or front to back motion. Some swings, like Nature’s Touch Baby Papasan Cradle Swing by Fisher-Price (note: we did not test this model), move in both directions. Cradle-style swings recline so your baby can lie down for the ride, which newborns tend to prefer--but you won't use them as long. 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 it.
  • Look for a five-point harness. Traditional swings today are required to have a fixed restraint system, which may include a waist and crotch belt (three-point harness) that must be used together so that your 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. Some models feature an over-the-shoulder, five-point harness. This type of harness is best because it can keep your baby from climbing out of his seat and plunging to the ground, which can happen long before you think possible. Travel swings don’t have a tray with a middle post, just a safety harness.
  • Comfort. Seating options in baby swings ranges from deep, padded, womb-like cradling to a wider chair with an adjustable infant 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 is a bonus; it will help keep your baby’s head positioned properly. If you’d like to increase your chances that your baby will use the swing after 3 months of age (up to 25 or 30 pounds), look for a seat with infant head support that’s removable and that offers several seatback positions. Older babies will want to sit upright and reach for the toys on the toy bar, if the swing offers that feature. If the swing you’re after 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.
  • Check the store’s return policy. Try the swing within the limits of the store’s return policy (typically within 30 days of purchase), so you have the option of taking it back. Keep the receipt and the packaging the swing came in. Common deal breakers are a noisy motor and the fact that some babies just don't take to swinging like you think they will.

One more thing: Swings are major battery hogs, so be prepared to go through batteries fast. There's one model on the market that we know of, though, that runs on batteries or electricity. It's the $85 Fisher-Price Power Plus Swing (note: we did not test this model).

Also, see our reports on high chairs and play yards for more information.

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