Having a good swing can be a life saver for parents with a fussy newborn. But not all babies like the swing, so purchasing one can be a bit risky. That said, if I decided to make the plunge today, Graco's DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker is the swing I'd choose. It offers a great variety of motions and settings that in some combination will likely soothe your baby.
Over a two month period, I rigorously researched and tested eight popular swings found in the marketplace and the Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker came out on top. While many people believe that a swing that simply rocks back and forth is the most important thing to look for in a swing, our testing revealed that the more motion options a swing has the more likely your baby will comforted by the swing, depending on their motion preference. Some babies, for example, prefer a cradle motion, others like subtle vibrations while they swing. The Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker has it all.
We tested swings from five different major manufacturers, putting through real-world tests such as measuring on-the-floor footprints, testing swing motion and sounds, and researched dozens of parent reviews on Amazon and other forums such as BabyCenter, as well as magazine blogs and reviews such as Consumer Reports and The Bump. I also spoke to pediatricians who gave their opinions on swinging guidelines in regard to a baby's development. After all that, the Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker was our top choice.
Most parents of a newborn to 6-month-old can benefit from a infant swing, which in essence, serves as a modern-day cradle with consistent and (hopefully) soothing movements that babies crave. That said, not all babies take to the swing, but when faced with an inconsolable and perhaps colicky baby at 2 a.m., a swing could be real lifesaver for exhausted parents. It can also serve as a safe place (when properly used) to set baby when you need to do laundry or make dinner.
Is a swing a must-have baby item? No, but it sure is nice—if your baby takes to it. Parents who have enough space for one should consider adding a full-size swing to their registry or investing in one. (We're still working on our guide for compact "travel" swings, which will be of interest to folks living in tighter quarters.)
We must mention that a swing shouldn't be used as a permanent substitute for a crib, even if that's where baby sleeps best. We interviewed Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson, M.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Loyola University.
Dr. Chow-Johnson goes so far as to say that infants younger than 3 months shouldn't use a swing at all. She worries about babies being in one position too long, which may cause a flat spot in the head.
On the flip side, Dr. Charles Shubin, M.D., a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center, told us his own children and grandchildren used swings, sometimes sleeping in them, and didn't experience any "untoward effects." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends moving your baby to a flat surface once he falls asleep in the swing.
Bottom line: Use the swing as one tool in your belt for helping baby fall asleep, move the baby from the swing after its fallen asleep, and don't just default to it as your only solution to comfort a cranky baby.
Like with almost any piece of baby gear, safety is paramount: you must know without a doubt that your baby is safe in a secure swing since, odds are, you'll be doing something nearby and not hawk-eyeing junior. The safety standard to look for, according to Consumer Reports, is a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which means the manufacturer has met the latest requirements for safety. Some brands generally certified by JPMA include Chicco, Dorel/Safety 1st, Fisher-Price, Graco, and Summer Infant. But since safety standards change, always check for the seal, even with trusted brands. Other safety features to look for include:
- Having a seat with comfortable but not overly soft padding and good ergonomic design.
- At least a three point harness with a crotch post (to keep baby from sliding out); or, even safer, a five-point harness that includes straps over the shoulders.
We also found think any good full-size swing should:
- Be versatile and easy to use. You'll want the option of running the swing with batteries or plugging it into the wall. (Really, nothing is worse than the swing batteries dying when she's this close to falling asleep.) Some cheaper swings only take batteries, which means you'll eventually spend money to replace them. Options such as speed and range of motion should be intuitive or easy to use. Parents shouldn't have to resort to a tantrum of their own when trying to adjust the swing.
- Take up as little space as possible. Keep in mind that full-size swings, as a rule, aren't very portable, even those marketed as such. So if you have visions of moving it from room to room, it's not likely you'll end up doing that. Even so, a small footprint is definitely a plus.
- Be durable. If you plan on having more kids, this is one piece of gear you'll definitely hold onto to reuse. If you're "one and done," it'd be nice to recoup some of your first-year baby expenses by selling this sucker on Craigslist. The swing's fabrics should be easy to remove for washing and the seat easy to clean.
- Be reasonably priced. A swing is one of the pricier items parents may buy—especially for an item your baby may not love. You'll be hard-pressed meeting all of our above recommendations for less than $150. Spend less than that and you'll be sacrificing range of motion, durability and comfort (some swings simply have a cloth cover over a plastic seat).
Those are just the basics! Beyond that, a swing becomes great, if it:
- Offers a variety of motions. Basic swings only move back and forth. But better swings offer a back-and-forth swing motion and a side-to-side rocking cradle motion. (Pricier models offer even more!) Also handy is an adjustable speed setting. What worked yesterday for baby may not work tomorrow. So it's pretty sweet to have some options in your parental toolbox.
- Offers soothing sounds and features, for both baby and parents. Some newer swings come with an iPod dock so you can choose your own tunes. That's certainly a plus, but when you can't find your iPod at 3 a.m. make sure you choose a swing with canned music and sounds that you think both you and your baby will enjoy. When testing a swing at the store, test the noise the swing itself makes as it rocks—does it squeak or rattle?
It's worth the time to know what separates a good swing from a bad swing but on the other hand, don't get sidelined by color scheme and various add-ons such as trays and attachable toys. These may not be used or interesting to you or your baby once you get him/her home. Also, I've never heard parents talk about how much they loved the tray feature or how amazing the mobile was. These things may detract from what you really want: a consistent motion that soothes your baby.
Over the course of two months, I meticulously examined eight popular swings on the market dismissing those didn't meet all of our must-have criteria and advancing those that had all of them and more. After extensive research scouring parent, blogger and magazine reviews as well as talking to real parents, I visited to several baby stores to check out the top candidates in person. I measured their footprints, noted their range/type of motion, and looked for the JPMA seal of approval. I fiddled with knobs and buttons to see how easy they were to use, and witnessed first-hand their swinging action. I pestered many a salesroom employee to bring the models off their stands and onto the floor to check for stability. I examined the materials of the seats, plucking off the covers to see if they were easy to remove for (and replace after) cleaning, played with the mobiles, trays and music features.
After all of that, I'm confident that the Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker at $145 is the best choice for most parents. It offers all the features a parent really wants in a swing: easy to use, comes with both a rocking and cradle setting, comfortable seat with adjustable two-position recline, can be plugged into the wall or battery operated, has decent canned music, and a JPMA safety seal.
It came down to some key details to make the final call. During testing, the Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker had easy controls for switching from rocking to swinging, a nice variety of canned music options including a various white noises and traditional lullabies. The rocking motion comes in six speeds, which is essential for dialing in the perfect amount of movement and can be adjusted accordingly as the baby gets heavier. I also liked having three position settings for the chair to make baby comfortable. Other criteria that makes this a good swing are: roomy seat with soft fabrics and plush head support and a cute, rotating mobile with plush toys and a timer when it's on battery mode to help preserve expensive battery replacements sooner.
But what makes it truly great and at the top of my list, is that for nearly the identical cost to other swings, it comes with some nifty features that could come in handy that other swings don't have.
- The seat comes off the stand and can be used as a portable rocker. (One caveat: some reviews on Amazon said the rocker was heavy and wasn't used very often, yet others sung its praises and considered it to be the feature that truly "made" the swing fantastic.)
- A vibrating seat motion that comes in two speeds. It's yet another tool in the box when it comes to calming a fussy baby. I know my own baby liked the gentle shaking motion that happened to come with her bouncer, so I'm sold on the vibration feature.
- The Graco DuetSoothe also bills itself safe for children up to 30 pounds versus 25 for the majority of other swings I looked at, which theoretically, means you may be able to use it longer if you end up with a swing-loving baby.
- The footprint was slightly smaller—every inch counts when it comes to nursery space—than other swings in its class at 34 x 33 inches across.
The swing can be plugged into an outlet or battery operated. To use the vibration setting while rocking, the swing requires a D battery. Four more D batteries are required to make the swing work when it isn't plugged into an outlet. If you use battery only, swinging two hours a day, you can expect to pay $130 on replacing batteries every year, according to Graco.
While I ultimately landed on the Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker for its great range of settings and the bonus of a removable cradle for $145, I'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the ubiquitous Fisher-Price Cradle 'n Swing at $155. After scouring many reviews and seeing the swing in person and knowing parents who have one, I don't think you'd be unhappy owning one, but ultimately, when it comes to fussy babies, and the "if" factor of whether your baby will care for the swing at all, the Graco had just a few more bonuses that persuaded me choose it.
My pick seems to be a dark horse in terms of top picks from other media sources. It seemed to me that Fisher-Price has cornered this market. But that's exactly why I wanted to look for flaws and not be swayed by its pervasive presence in the market.
For reasons stated above, I'm confident that the Graco DuetSoothe Swing is a great pick. I really relied on everyday moms and dads with their reviews on Amazon and forums on baby sites such as The Bump.
I particularly liked this real mom advice from The Bump's reader forum: "A friend with twins has one of each and likes her Graco way better. She said the rocking motion is more gentle and she likes that you can use the seat of the Graco separately (you can detach it from the swing if LO falls asleep in it and carry it to another room). That was enough for me to put it on my registry instead of a [Fisher Price Cradle 'n' Swing] Snugabunny."
Multiple parent reviews from Amazon that struck a chord were like this one: "The seat detaching from the swing is the best feature. It's rocker design is nothing like any other swing I came across. My wife and I have been through many swings. This is by far the best one we've had. The rocker has saved us so many times." And, from another reviewer: "I knew I needed a bouncy that I could easily move from place to place, but I also wanted a swing that would help soothe a fussy baby. I didn't want to buy two separate items that would just take up more space in our already crowded living room. This is the perfect combination of a swing and bouncy!"
We considered these alternatives from manufacturers, but can't recommend them.
- 4Moms —MamaRoo and RockaRoo—If you're not familiar with the MamaRoo by 4Moms, it's a much publicized alternative to more conventional swings. The seat sits on a stem that glides up and down and side to side (and various motions in between) from the base. While it has a very small footprint (22 x 27 inches), an MP3 jack for custom sounds, and very chic looking design, there were a couple of things that made me take it out of contention. There weren't lots of options for speed. Plus, it was the most expensive option ranging from $220-$250 at retailers. And that didn't include a newborn insert, which was sold seperately for $30. The RockaRoo is slightly less expensive at $180, but only sways up and down in a "rocking horse" motion. Most of the favorable reviews I read liked the 4Moms swings for very, very young babies and not much was discussed about how older infants liked them.
- Ingenuity swings: InLighten Cradling Swing and Cradle & Sway Swing — These swings sure looked nice and had comparable swinging action to Graco and Fisher-Price models, but I pretty much cut them out of contention right away since they are not JPMA certified. Also, there were very few parent reviews in comparison to other swings I looked at.
- Summer Infant: Summer Sweet Sleep Musical Swing —Not as many setting controls or options as other swings in the same category.I am in the camp that if you can't afford a good swing, you may want to save your pennies for something else. I have a personal experience with going with a cheap swing only to have my baby dislike and and it collected dust. I later learned that good swings have multiple settings that may be a better fit for your baby. These swings had only one swing motion of up-and-down. And at $110, they were practically as expensive as my pick.
- Graco: Glider LX Gliding Swing —This Graco model had only one motion of back and forth in a glider configuration. Seemed like a risk if that wasn't a motion that would be soothing to your baby at $140. There were many positive reviews, but the most consistent complaint was that the glider motion wouldn't work properly because support bars didn't fit correctly to the motor when assembled.
Here's a few best practices for keeping the Graco DuetSoothe clean and in good working order: The frame of the swing can be easily wiped down with antibacterial spray. The cover is easy to remove and should be washed as needed. Carefully read all instructions and directions to keep your swing running smoothly. To be fair, almost every review I read on various models, there were people who complained about the motor conking out. This seems to be something that is a small possibility no matter what swing you choose. Don't hesitate to return a swing or make use of the warranty.
The plus side of buying from a large baby product manufacturer such as Graco, is that they're available to troubleshoot by phone or through email Mon.-Fri. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. All their swings come with a limited warranty, which states the swing will be replaced up to one year after purchase due to workmanship defects. Replacement parts may be available.
The swing can be a parent of an infant's best friend. If you choose to buy swing, don't skimp. The Graco DuetSoothe Swing & Rocker gives you all the bells and whistles that may buy you a few moments rest of your own.
- Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson, M.D. Interview. July, 2014.
- Dr. Charles Shubin, M.D. Interview. July, 2014.
- Dr. Harvey Karp, "Baby Swings and Safe Sleep", TroublesomeTots.com. March 2013.
- Hallie Scheflin, "How to choose a baby swing", Parents.com, updated 2013.
- "Baby Swing Buying Guide", Consumer Reports , updated April 2013.
- Lexi Belliston "Baby Swings for Large and Small Spaces," HubPages.com, updated December, 2013.
- "15 Best Rated Modern Baby Swings" by ChildValley.com, updated September, 2014.
- "How to buy a Swing", by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, BabyCenter.com
- Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
- "Safe and Sound: tips for using infant swings", American Academy of Pediatrics, January 1st, 2013
Shelley is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Florida. Her work has appeared in Parenting magazine, Fit Pregnancy, CNN and MSNBC.
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