We pulled together 13 of the most popular baby swings of 2016 and did a hands-on test and review. Four parents and 3 babies (from 1 to 10 months old) put them to the test: all the settings were tried (swinging, vibration, music), noise levels were rated, battery life was measured, and they were used for both fun and naps. Some were so comfortable and soothing that the babies nodded off within a few minutes. Others were a bit noisier and clunkier and were not as soothing or comfortable. Some had great battery life while others didn't last so long and put a dent in the wallet. If you're going to throw between $100-200 at a baby swing you'll use for less than a year, then you want to make sure you're making a good decision. That's what we're here for.
After a week of testing the results of our review and ratings are in.
1. Fisher Price Cradle 'n Swing (several color themes, about $120-150). After all is said and done, we kept going back to the Fisher Price Cradle 'n Swing. Not the sleek & fancy 4Moms swing, or the trendy Cocoon swing. Those were nice, but just can't match the feature list or reliability. The Cradle 'n Swing units are available in a bunch of different themes (we show some below), some really cute (like the Little Snugapuppy), and some fun and adventurous (like the Rainforest Friends). Many of the first-time moms in our group didn't realize how much these have advanced from 7-8 years ago. This one swings either side to side (6 different settings) or front to back. The legs fold up for portability and storage, and it now includes a plug-in adapter to save yourself a lot of D batteries (it can also run on 4 D batteries if you choose). There are songs and nature sounds, a rotating and reclining seat, and it senses the baby's weight to adjust motor torque and compensate for the weight of a growing baby and keep swinging speeds consistent. Moms thought the seat was very plush and comfortable, and the fabric cover was easy to clean (it's machine washable, by the way). They liked that it had a good weight limit of 25 pounds, and some of the themes were ridiculously cute. Out of the box, assembly took about 40 minutes: it wasn't particularly complicated, but there were a lot of connections to be made (and in the right direction!). Another great touch that the older versions didn't have is the 5-point harness, which really helps keep your baby safe and secure and prevent them from sitting up, leaning way forward, or otherwise freaking out their parents! Cons? Not too many. The motor did make a subtle clicking noise, and when not plugged in it burns through batteries pretty quickly. Overall, this is an excellent option. Note that we also tested the Fisher Price Papasan Cradle Swing; it's a bit cheaper but in our opinion the Cradle 'n Swing is the better option overall.
2. Graco Duetsoothe Swing Plus Rocker (3 color options, about $160). Here's another great option with some added versatility relative to the Cradle 'n Swing: the swing seat can be removed and placed on the ground as a rocker. It has a clever handle on the top to help you carry the rocker around. It also has a soothing vibration feature with 2 speeds, which works whether it's in swing or rocker mode. Like the Cradle 'n Swing, the seat can be rotated so the baby can swing side to side or front to back, and it can use 5 D batteries or plug into the wall. It also has music and the great 5-point harness, along with a high 30 pound weight limit. Out of the box, it took us about 25 minutes to but together, which was a bit easier than the Cradle 'n Swing. So with all these great features you're probably wondering why it isn't #1 on our list! Well, we thought needing 5 D batteries was a bit overkill (4 for swing, 1 for vibration in seat), and the motor was a tiny bit louder than the Cradle 'n Swing. And the mobile doesn't rotate around like the Cradle 'n Swing. The one thing our test moms found the most annoying was that unlike the Cradle 'n Swing there wasn't a single power button to shut off the whole system. So if you have the swing, music, and vibration on, you will need to shut off all 3 separately. That being said, if you value the versatility of the removable rocker, you will definitely be happy with this baby swing. The picture is of the Sapphire option, but if you click it you'll see it also comes in Antiquity and Winslet color options. Note that we also tested the Graco DuetConnect LX Swing Plus Bouncer, which we also recommend (rather than the rocker, it has a detachable bouncer). Highly recommended!
3. Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker (two color options, about $50). This isn't technically a swing, it's a "rocker" which means that rather than swinging side-to-side or front-to-back, it rocks front to back, using your or your baby's own power. There is a little "kick stand" on the bottom, and if you put it down the unit can't rock, but when it's up you can gently rock it back and forth. If your baby is having a little kicking and swatting party (swatting at the cute hanging animals), it will likely rock a bit by itself. There are small protrusions on the rocking legs so you don't need to worry that it will rock too far forward or back. This was handy on more than one occassion when our toddler thought it would be amusing to rock our baby a little aggressively! Fortunately it never tipped forward or back! In any case, it also includes a button for soothing vibration, and a 3-point seatbelt to keep baby secure. The weight range is from birth to up to 40 pounds, which is awesome because you can adjust the seat recline (there are 2 positions) to turn it into a comfy little chair for a growing toddler. We also liked how easy it was to detach the cover and throw it into the washing machine. Overall, we found it to be sturdy and stable, with enough space to fit baby and her favorite luvey or blankey. All of that for the lowest price on this list bring it in at 3rd place overall. If you're looking for a true battery-operated swing, go with the others, but if you want a cheaper, smaller, and versatile rocker, this is a good bet!
4. 4Moms mamaRoo Classic (5 color options, about $200-250). It may be the coolest looking on our list, and maybe even the most capable, but it's also the most expensive by at least $100. 4Moms came out with the mamaRoo and simpler rockaRoo (front to back gliding only, but also only $160) a few years ago to provide a swing/glider that mimics mom's natural soothing motions. Just like you bounce up and down and sway side to side when you're holding your baby, so does the mamaRoo. We played around quite a bit with the 5 different motions (car ride, kangaroo, tree swing, rock a bye, and wave) and were really impressed with the fluidity of movement and how quiet the system was overall (the animation on the right is the "car ride" feature). The animation shows the most basic "black" color option, but it is also available in Designer, Grey, Multicolor, and Silver (which we show below). Our reviewers thought it was the easiest to get kids in and out of because of its angle and the sleekness of the arm hanging over-head. The seat has adjustable recline, the seat cover is removable (and there is an infant insert available as well) and machine washable. It also plugs in so you don't need to worry about wasting a bunch of expensive batteries (that will definitely save some $$). Several moms also commented that it has a much smaller footprint than regular swings, and they liked that you are much less likely to trip over the legs that stick out on the sides (like they did with the Fisher Price and Graco swings). They also liked some of the unique features: you can hook up your phone or music device to it and play your own music, you can remotely control the swing through an app on your phone (e.g., if you're cooking or cleaning, or god forbid taking a nap, you can control it without going over to it). Note that we couldn't get it to work with the newer Android lollipop system, but we assume 4Moms will be updating that soon. Other cons? Well, its weight limit is only 25 pounds, which is a little on the lower side. And it also only has a 3- point rather than 5-point harness like some of our other options. Overall, this is an excellent, sleek, and good-looking swing/glider that your baby is likely to fall in love with. If the price were lower, we would have it at a higher position on our list.
5. Arm's Reach Dreamer Cocoon Swing (2 colors, about $120). This is a very different, and much simpler, option for moms who want something without all the bells and whistles. No motorized swing, no music, sounds, or vibrations, no detachable rocker or bouncer, and not over-padded luxury and a 5-point harness. Instead, this is a soothing, comfortable, cocoon-like swing that looks great and functions really well. Moms in our group raved that this is the best way to bring a newborn camping or to the beach, as its zip-up netting keeps out the bugs and keeps the baby secure. The gentle natural rocking motion responds to your baby's input (like a rocker or bouncer seat), if they wiggle or bounce, it wiggles and bounces. If mom gives it a little nudge it will swing smoothly then gradually come to a stop. No more replacing batteries, worring about the cord, or finding the perfect settings. This is for moms who want to keep it natural. One of our moms noted that their dog loves to jump up onto their swing and grab their baby's toys, and thought this would be a great solution for that problem. Another mom noted that their baby often drops toys off the side of her swing, and thought this would solve that problem as well. We also found that assembly was very easy, and the entire swing was very lightweight and easy to move around for portability and cleaning underneath. But it's not a fancy swing like our #1 and #2 options, so it does have some limitations. Aside from not having all the fancy features (swinging, music, sounds, vibrations, recline, rotate, etc), there are some additional drawbacks with this option. First, this is designed for newborns up until they are able to roll over (about 5-6 months of age); once they can roll over, the manufacturer recommends not using it anymore because there is no restraint/buckle system. Second, the mattress/seating surface isn't quite as comfy as the others. Overall, though, if you're looking for a simple, lightweight, adorable, and nature-inspired solution to your baby swing needs, this is the way to go!