We conducted two focus groups with moms to collect opinions on some of the most popular baby bouncer seats on the market. Before we begin the baby bouncer ratings, let's review a few things that you should consider when picking one:
Comfort and Ergonomics: Given that you want a bouncer to give your baby a comfortable and relaxing place to unwind and maybe nap, you might find that your baby sits in the bouncer for an hour or two at a time. Maybe 15-30 minutes of play then a 45 minute nap, and the time adds up quickly. So it's important that your baby's posture is well positioned and supported in the right places, including the butt, back, and head. Many of the cheaper bouncers position your baby like a hammock without any posture support, and limit your baby's arm and leg movements. If your baby's legs are forced to extend straight, it's not a good position; ideally, your baby's legs should be slightly flexed as shown in the picture to the left. By the way, this point also applies to baby carriers and wraps. Regarding head support, in the same way that you like to use a pillow in bed or on the couch when reclining, your baby's head should also be slightly supported with a contoured upper seat or small integrated cushion. The pricier options are best when it comes to comfort and ergonomic support, especially the Baby Bjorn and 4Moms bouncers.
Adjustable Positioning & Portability: Ideally your bouncer would serve several purposes. It can be great for playing or napping, but also for spoon feeding or finishing a bottle. Some of the nicer bouncers have multiple seating positions, adjusting from high and upright (like for feeding), to moderately upright (like for play), to lying flat down (like for napping). Though the adjustable ones tend to be more expensive, they are much more versatile and you will find yourself using the bouncer for different activities; you'll get your money's worth.
Bouncers that can lie flat also tend to be more portable, making it easier to squeeze into your trunk, into a box when moving, or under the couch when cleaning up. When I first packed my car to travel with a 6-month old, we came to the realization that somehow our SUV wasn't big enough for all our baby stuff. A folding bouncer would have helped tremendously! More traditional models that have been on the market for decades, like the Fisher Price baby bouncer, are good cheap basic bouncers but they are really terrible for portability. The Baby Bjorn Balance Bouncer folds completely flat, as pictured to the left, which is a really great feature.
Soft & Washable Cover. Even the cutest and best behaved babies make messes. They spit-up, spill, crush little crumbs in every crevice, and occasionally blow out of even the best diapers. In any event, every once in a while you will need to launder the cover, so you'll want it to remove easily and be machine friendly. You also want it to be made with soft and high quality fabric and very well pre-shrunk so you'll be able to fit it back onto the bouncer after a good scrub and spin in the dryer. All of the baby bouncers we recommend below provide an easily removable cover that is soft and durable and is not only machine washable but will not shrink if you follow the instructions.
Here are the Reviews for 2016!
#1. Baby Bjorn Bouncer Balance Soft Baby Bouncer (cotton, mesh, or organic). About $140. This is the best, simplest, and most versatile baby bouncer on the market. It is available in basic cotton, which is truly soft and durable, a more breathable mesh (for you Florida folks!), and an organic cotton version. Two of the moms we interviewed had the Baby Bjorn, and absolutely raved about it. One had the mesh, and one the basic cotton version. They both loved how soft the fabric was, how it adjusted between sitting upright and lying completely flat, and how it didn't include all the music, vibrations, and other distractions. They also commented on several other positive aspects: sleek and stylish design, easy for baby to bounce by kicking, no assembly out of the box, machine washable cover (but hang dry), and durability and reliability. Neither had any issues with stains, rips, or other problems. One also mentioned that the legs on the unit go directly behind the bouncer; this is different from most cheaper bouncers that have legs that also stick out on the front/sides and prove an annoying tripping hazard (especially for visitors!). This is a truly trip-free design, which is a big plus. The ergonomics of this unit are really great, they position the baby with some leg flexion and with nice head padding. It also folds completely flat, which is great for traveling or storage. There are some cons, however, that you should consider. First, it is the second most expensive bouncer on our list, which can be a limiting factor for many people. Second, instead of buckle clips on the harness, this bouncer uses buttons which can be a pain when you're trying to quickly get a baby in or out. Finally, the unit can be used from 8-lbs to up to a 29-lb baby, but this is a bit misleading. When your baby reaches 19-lbs, Baby Bjorn recommends flipping over the seat cover so that it is used as a bouncer seat without the restraint part. But if you have a really large baby that is over 19-lbs but not ready to sit without a restraint, this might not work very well for you. The real problem, as it turns out, is that babies over 19-lbs can't really fit their legs into the restraint straps. Overall, however, this is a fantastic bouncer and we believe it is the best on the market, if you can afford it. Also consider the Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance Bouncer, which is a bit more money but has a few simple added features.
#2. Tiny Love Gymini Baby Bouncer (blue/yellow, or tiny princess colors). About $50-60, depending on color. Fisher Price was clearly the inspiration, but this bouncer takes it to a whole new level. It is available in a blue/yellow pattern (as pictured) or a rather feminine tiny princess pattern. At first glance, the Tiny Love bouncer looks like a typical traditional style bouncer. But look closer and you'll find plenty of features that help it stand out against many of the rest. This bouncer has two adjustable bars for hanging toys. You can put them directly over the baby's reach, or slightly to the side. This is great for expanding your baby's range of motion in the arms and increasing contralateral reaching and looking. It's also convenient to be able to push them aside when you're putting the baby in or out. Unlike the Baby Bjorn bouncer, this one comes with some basic soothing vibrations, and the toys have motion sensors that will turn on some music and lights for fun. Don't worry, you can turn them off as well! I played a bit with the crab toy and it was pretty fun, and my 8 month-old loved it. It also has a recline feature that lets you lie your baby down a bit more for naptime, which also helps a bit for portability. Even so, it's still much more cumbersome than the Baby Bjorn. But remember it's less than half the price. Some more positives are the washable cover, good cushioning and ergonomic sitting position with some leg flexion. Cons? Well, it's not as versatile or stylish as the Baby Bjorn: it has only two recline settings, and makes your living room look like a daycare with all the crazy colors, lights, and sounds. This is not for those looking to go back to basics. Of course, there are also batteries that die and need to be replaced from time to time. Overall, for those interested in spending in the $40-50 range and want a fun and well made bouncer, the Tiny Love Gymini is a great option.
#3. Fisher Price Comfort Curve Baby Bouncer. About $30-50, depending on color. The Fisher Price line of baby bouncers are the original and have been around for over a decade now. It's a classic frame style with iconic colors and toy bar over the center. At the basic level, it is quite similar to the Tiny Love. The overall frame is a similar shape, but with a more modern sleek plastic design rather than the flimsy-looking metal. The colors are similar, and it has the basic soothing vibration option if you pop in a single D size battery. It also has the removable and washable cover, decent seating position, and an easy to use 3-point adjustable buckle restraint. The differences are in the toy bars, recline feature, and the toys themselves. The Fisher Price does not recline, has a push-in/pull-out toy bar that is always in the way, and the toys are relatively simple without sounds/lights or motion sensing. Six moms in our focus group had experience with the Fisher Price bouncers. The cons were mostly related to removing and putting the toy bar back on every time they used the bouncer. It is possible to slide the baby in and out from the top, but it requires a bit of a struggle. That said, it's one of the cheaper options on our list, and has very high reliability. All of the moms said the vibration was still working - one had a Fisher-Price bouncer for 7 years and it was still going strong! If you're on a budget and looking for a good bouncer that will last you, but does not have any of the advanced features (padding, adjustments, etc), then the Fisher Price is a great option at about $35-40.
#4. 4Moms MamaRoo Motion Bouncer (several color options). About $200-225, depending on color. The MamaRoo bouncer (well, not really a bouncer at all) is a new addition to the bouncer market as of 2012, and it is a really impressive option. Expensive, yes, but also feature-rich and unique. The MamaRoo is both capable and stylish, and adds a whole new realm of motion to bouncers. It has 5 unique motions that simulate a baby's favorite and most relaxing activities: car ride, tree swing, rock-a-bye, ocean floating, and kangaroo bounce. There is built in music, including nature sounds and white noise, and you can also play MP3s if you attach your iPod. It has a highly adjustable seat recline, a machine washable seat, a nicely padded cover with good ergonomic support, and a sleek and unique style. This is an awesome option if you don't really need a bouncer, per se, but rather want something a bit fancier with more features. With all of its great features and style, there are of course some drawbacks. First, it does not take batteries so you need to position it in a place close to a wall outlet. Second, because of all the moving parts, some people complain of some odd clicking noises and reliability issues; this is rare but worth mentioning (note that they have a 1-year warranty, and if you buy from Amazon you can use their free return policy). If you're looking for something fancy and different, this is the option for you; odds are you'll love it and think it was worth every penny!