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What Everybody Ought to Know About Baby Swings

Little Boy happily swinging in B&W landscape

Why isn't he sleeping yet?

Baby swings. Some are great. Some are ineffective. And some break easily. Sure you could drop $160 on a baby swing that doesn’t help your baby sleep and breaks 3 weeks after you bought it.

But let’s face it – you just had a baby. You’re going to need that money for Starbucks and takeout.

What You Care About

A safe, reliable swing with enough motion to help your baby sleep.

What You Don’t Care About

Toys and music. We’re using the swing as a sleep-aid which means we’re NOT going to use it as a baby amusement park. Also we know that white noise helps babies sleep better so we don’t care which swing plays better music. And finally most baby swings produce music/white noise on a timer which means your baby swing will likely NOT be your source for white noise (unless your baby takes 7 minute naps in which case you’ve got bigger problems than picking out the best baby swing).

Travel Baby Swings

Pros

  • They’re small. If you’re living in a 500 sq ft apartment in lower Manhattan then a full-sized swing may simply not be an option for you.
  • They’re cheap (about 50% less than a full-sized swing).

Cons

  • They don’t tend to help babies sleep as well as full-sized swings. Bigger swings result in more swinging motion which tends to be more effective for helping babies sleep.
  • Swing timer = FAIL. Travel swings often only swing for a set amount of time which means both you and your baby will be waking up every 45 minutes all night long when the timer shuts off.
  • They’re very low to the ground. While the weight limit is 25 lbs (roughly the same as that of a full-sized swing) if you have a tall baby you may find their heels dragging on the ground within a month or two.

Bottom Line: In general I don’t recommend travel swings for baby sleep. If money is really tight you would probably be better off finding a lightly used recent-model full-sized swing on Craigslist.

Full-Sized Swings

Pros

  • They have good full-range swinging motion which is most effective to help babies sleep.
  • No timer on swinging. Yay!
  • Some models are available with electrical plugs which spares you and the environment the pile of batteries you’ll be producing otherwise.
  • They can safely and comfortably hold a baby from birth to 8+ months of age.

Cons

  • They’re pricey. Expect to pay anywhere from $99 – $160 online and $140+ in local stores.
  • They’re big. While technically they fold up a) folding them only makes them about 20% smaller and b) you’ll be using it so often it won’t get folded up until baby is sleeping in her crib and you store it away in the basement.
  • They’re loud(ish). Having a baby swing swinging full-bore inches from your bed will take some getting used to. Using loud-white noise will help.
  • They eat batteries (if using batteries). If you’re the swing full-time, expect to replace 4 D-cells every 7-10 days. Rechargeable batteries won’t work.
  • They’re heavy-ish. If you just had a C-section you won’t appreciate having to move this around.

Which Brand is Right for You?

Graco

Graco baby swings have the advantage of a 5 point harness and the highest weight limit (30 lbs) of any swing on the market. However they also have notoriously underpowered motors which are prone to burn out. I have found that Graco customer service will send you a replacement motor (they’re surprisingly easy to swap out) for free. However if your little one needs a swing to sleep, waiting for your replacement motor to show up in the mail can make for a rough couple of days.

Fisher Price

Update 10/13/2014
Fisher Price is adding something called “smart swing technology” so all their swings moving forward. While “smart swing technology” sounds like something you would want, in actuality it’s just a fancy term for “swings on a timer.” So all swings will automatically shut off every ~45 minutes. For younger babies this will probably not be an issue and many babies are done sleeping in swings by ~3 months. However if your baby really needs that motion you may find that the timer is the bane of your existence with baby waking up every 45 minutes all night long. While you can still buy non-smart swing technology swings in stores, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to find Fisher Price swings that don’t turn off on a timer. So sadly, because of this, Fisher  Price is no longer my all-time favorite baby swing. Boooo!

Fisher Price Baby Swings

I love the Fisher Price Papasan swing. They are cute, effective, and reliable. It can be adjusted to swing in two directions (although front to back is generally best). The only downside is that the 3 pt harness is slightly less desirable than the 5 pt harness. Although I have never personally worked with a baby that has managed to get out of the swing (and if you snap the tray in place it would be VERY difficult to do so). Some of the models have a mesh decoration that hangs around the swing. Although I’ve never had an issue with this, for sleep safety, I don’t recommend having loose fabric anywhere near babies. You can avoid this by choosing a model without this decoration or cutting it off the one you have.

But let me be clear – this is my favorite baby swing, bar none.

Bright Starts

To be honest I have no personal experience with this brand of swing. They make a variety of travel swings available for ~$60 and full-size swings for ~$120. Do you have one? How’s it working out?

The Car Nap Extender Swing

Special Circumstances

Problem: Your little one habitually falls asleep seconds before you pull into the driveway. If you pick him up to bring him inside he won’t quietly fall back asleep in his bed/swing but will tell you in no uncertain terms that he is DONE napping now thankyouverymuch. If you sit in the car he’ll happily take a solid nap in there but for various reasons (it’s bad for the environment, it’s boring, YOU can’t nap in the car, you have to go to the bathroom, etc.) this is not a desirable option.

Solution: Graco doesn’t make a traditional travel swing but they do have this nifty invention which holds a SnugRide car seat enabling you to make a swing out of your infant car seat. Most people don’t really need one of these as your baby will primarily be sleeping in their swing. However if your baby falls asleep in the car and you can’t avoid driving near nap time (when baby is prone to fall asleep in the car) the SnugGlider MAY be the answer for you.

When your baby falls asleep in the car simply remove baby and carseat from the car and snap into your SnugGlider (best located somewhere near-ish to the car). Turn on the white noise, vibration, and swing and let the car nap continue inside. At $50-$60 a pop, the SnugGlider is not a “must-have” item for people who aren’t frequently driving their newborn baby around. But if you find yourself camped out in your car while baby sleeps, it maybe a worthy investment.

This article represents my honest opinion based on my experience with various baby swings over many years, babies, and swings. I am not sponsored by nor do I have any vested interest in any baby swing manufacturer.

{photo credits: Rhea Ball and Lisa Stout}

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127 Comments


  1. Hi Alexis! (I meant to post this comment on this blog post)

    We bought the Fisher Price Snug-A-Puppy Swing 3 weeks ago and they must have made some changes to it because the lower speeds are definitely WAY slower than the faster ones (and level one is barely swinging at all). So that’s good. What’s NOT good is that the swing itself must be on a timer because it shuts off after around 5-6 hrs. I haven’t timed it exactly yet but if I don’t restart before I go to bed I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to a non-moving swing (and sometimes an awake baby). I can’t find anything on their website about this. Have you heard of this possibly new “feature”? I have e-mailed Fisher Price to ask them about it.

    • Yes! I mean NOOOOO!

      They’ve implemented “smart swing” technology which sounds really exciting right? But what it MEANS is that any new swing with “smart swing technology” on the label will TURN OFF after like 45 minutes. And going forward ALL Fisher Price swings will feature this technology. I posted about this on Facebook and asked FB about it on twitter but got no response. So you can either buy a non “smart swing” swing as they still exist in stores (but they’ll be increasingly hard to get) or buy a Graco swing.

      Booooo.
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

  2. I have a Bright Stars Comfort and Harmony travel swing and I really like it. My son loves it for sleeping or awake time. It’s very light and easy to move around our townhouse. My son is in the 97 percentile for length and I don’t find that it’s not long enough for him (he’s 6 weeks old now). It does have a timer but when it runs out he’s asleep anyway so I haven’t had an issue with that feature. I don’t use the music often but it’s not annoying like some ;)

    • Hi Kelly,

      I’m so glad you’re having good sleep with your little peanut :) I will say that as he gets older IF he’s still in the swing (most kids are out by ~3 months but some kiddos aren’t) the timer thing will likely be an issue. Plenty of babies wake up when the timer turns off all night long. Which is why I’m pretty “anti” timers – I like parents to be in charge, not the timer :P

      Good luck!
      Alexis
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

      • I’m really enjoying your website, lots of good info. I’m spreading the word to my Mommy friends. Trying to get my 6 week old son on a sleep schedule and your advice it really helping – Thanks!

      • I know that you are completely bombarded with questions daily from a million desperate parents, each with their own unique situation, but I’m going for it anyway…I’m that desperate.

        My son turns 10 months old today and I’m having issues getting him out of the swing. When he was newborn he was officially diagnosed with reflux (I know it seems like the diagnosis du jour but he was puking all over the place and moaning and coughing like crazy all night long…), so he’s still on Zantac twice a day. He falls asleep on his own with no issues at all in the crib with a lovey and paci and loud white noise. His bedtime is between 5:30 and 6:00 (which is early, I know, but he only takes one nap a day at daycare and that’s probably not going to get better). The problem is that he wakes up anywhere between 8 and 10 every night, has a bottle and refuses to go back to sleep in the crib (or if goes back to sleep in there, he’ll be up every 1.5 – 2 hours needing some butt patting)…I’m confused as hell bc I don’t know if it’s a reflux issue or he just wants to go in the swing. Once in the (non-moving) swing, he sleeps great, but he does wake up for a second feeding anytime between 2 and 4 a.m., although he has had long runs of sleeping all the way through to morning (5 – 6 a.m.)–it’s been a while since he’s done that (I miss those nights). I’d love to drop that second feeding bc I’m tired…so tired…but I don’t know what my priorities should be. So, the questions I just don’t have the answers to:
        1. Is he refusing to go back to sleep in the crib bc reflux is still an issue?
        2. Is the pacifier potentially causing him to wake? (although he often goes to sleep after his first night time bottle without the paci and still wakes for the 2nd bottle)
        3. Should I even be giving him a bottle when he wakes between 8-10? (12 hours seems like a long stretch to go without any food)
        4. Should I get rid of the paci before getting him out of the swing completely?
        5. Is the swing going to explode? (my son is a very big boy–off the charts for height and weight and is already past the 25 lbs. weight limit)

        We tried a crib wedge and all that did was have him sliding to the bottom of it, so it was pointless (as I think you’ve said somewhere on here). Anyway, if you are able to offer any advice thank you–if you’re not, thank you anyway. You’re site has been a great resource and I don’t think I would’ve stayed sane for the first 5 months without it.

        • AAAAG WordPress ate my comment (shakes fist at administrator – hey wait THAT’S ME!)

          OK quick summation of long previous and now eaten comment – my own giant refluxing kids were in swings until 10 and 13 months. Course we had Graco swings which go to 30 lbs. But you and I are outliers – most kids are out of swings prior to this. If it were me I would:
          1) Stop using the paci at bedtime and during the night. Full on.
          2) Gently wean those 2 feedings. Food and sleep are not a good combination for refluxing kids – empty tummies help refluxers to sleep flat on their back. This should take no more than 7-14 days?
          3) Move to crib. Don’t give up after 1 rough night. A bit of back patting is OK to help with the transition but be mindful that you aren’t doing it so much it’s habit forming. And if you DO pat, make sure you’re patting less each subsequent night. Commit to a 5 night crib trial.

          If after all that the crib sleep is STILL utter crap I might revisit the meds – maybe it’s time to increase the dose? But I’m fairly optimistic that if you approach things in that order, you’ll get there OK :)

          Come back and let me know how it goes – OK?
          Alexis recently posted..Bedtime: Everything Starts HereMy Profile

          • Thank you so much for your reply! We’re already working on getting rid of the latest feeding. One quick question on night weaning. When diluting the bottles should I use 2 ounces less each night or give each drop in formula per ounce of water a couple of nights? Thank you so much!!

  3. I am enjoying your site very much! I have a baby that “needs motion” to sleep and he has been sleeping in the Rock n’ Play since birth, but I’m worried about your dire warnings about not letting baby fall asleep on his own. As it is now, I am there rocking the Rock n’ Play until he drifts off. What are your thoughts on the Rock n’ Play? Should I switch to a swing? BTW, we only have a second-hand travel swing and that thing SUCKS, haha! If you recommend the swing, I will get a full size one! :)

  4. Hi Alexis! I’m confused about your update on the fisher price swing- does it turn off every 4 hours or every 45 minutes? I think I’m probably reading your post wrong, but it seems like you said 45 min in one place and 4 hours further down. I’m trying to decide between the Graco duet connect and a fisher price swing. Thanks!

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