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Baby swings vs bouncers – What are the differences?

If you are here, you’re probably putting together your registry or that scary new-parent shopping list.

Don’t fret.

baby in a baby swing happy

In the following few minutes, I’ll do my best to concisely answer all the questions you might have on the dreaded “bouncer or swing” dilemma.

Are they safe? Which is better? Do you need both?

These are all legit but seemingly complex questions. The good news is they all have simple answers.

To understand it all, we need to understand the basics of both products.

Baby swing

A baby swing is basically a swinging chair with generous padding mounted on a robust frame.

Role and age limits of baby swings

The purpose of a baby swing is to calm or to entertain the baby through the soothing back and forth motions and give the parents the much-needed occasional break.

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The rocking motion mimics a mother’s womb, which is soothing to the little one.

You can start using a baby swing from day one and use it for 6-9 months, depending on the model and baby’s development.

For more info on that read the following guides:

When to stop using a swing?

How long can a newborn be in a swing?

Can a baby sleep in a swing?

Humans are born into this world more dependent on their parents than pretty much all mammals. There’s very little independence, and the baby relies on you, the parent, for pretty much everything.

That’s why some pediatricians (like the famous Dr. Harvey Karp) call these first few months “the fourth trimester.”

baby awake on a baby swing

And while those moments are a gift that keeps on giving, most of us can’t hold, rock, and shush the little rascals 24/7.

Some babies won’t require this type of attention all the time. If that’s the case with you, consider yourself lucky. It’s not atypical for fussy babies, especially those with conditions like colic, to need constant attention.

Soothing

The sheltered cocoon-like environment, soothing motion, and sounds of a swing feel like a mother’s womb. For some babies, it’s more calming than being held and shushed.

Entertaining

Some of the more elaborate, modern swings come with toys, music, and lights. For some babies, the entertainment aspect of a swing will be more important than soothing.

Swings might help with acid reflux

Acid reflux is common in newborns. About half of them spit up multiple times during the day for the first few months.

The reclined position of a baby swing can help manage the symptoms of acid reflux.

Types of baby swings

Full-size and travel swings

The explanation of the two types is pretty intuitive, just based on the names.

When I talk about “swings” in the context of this guide, I’m talking about full-size swings. The travel versions are smaller, lighter, and more portable.

AC or battery powered

Most of the good swings come with both options. Some of them, however, drain the power of a single battery much too quickly and it all becomes frustrating.

If you have the option, go for the models that come with an AC adapter.

Downsides of baby swings

For most parents, swings are a lifeline and offer some much-needed rest to tired arms. Sometimes though, things are not as simple.

Some babies don’t like them

While it doesn’t happen often, some babies aren’t fans of swings. In these cases, the swing can be of no help at best or even make them fussier at worst.

Swings and overstimulation

The toys, the light, and the music can just swamp the baby. The effect can be delayed, and they can become extra grumpy.

baby sleep on a baby swing

While the reaction might seem like an act of defiance, it’s a call for some downtime. Learning to recognize overstimulation is one of the critical skills for parents of a fussy baby.

Look for these signs:

  • Clenched fists
  • Restlessly waving arms and legs
  • Unusually calm or irritable
  • They avoid facing you

If you recognize these signs, talk to your pediatrician. Using the swing might still be OK, just without the stimulating parts.

Not enough tummy time

The AAP (Academy of American Pediatrics) recommends avoiding using bouncers and swings to the point of the baby becoming reliant on them and not having enough tummy time, which is crucial in those first few months.

Babies should have 6-15 minutes of monitored tummy time a day (3-5 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day). As they get stronger, you can gradually increase the tummy time.

Developing flat head

The APP also warns that overusing a swing can result in the flattening of some areas of the baby’s head as a result of being in the same position for too long.

Increased risk of SIDS

In those early months, the baby has very little control of its neck muscles. That’s why leaving them in an upright, seated position is a huge no-no.

To avoid slumping and keep your little one safe, you should choose the most reclined position of the baby swing, at least until they’re four months old. That’s when they start getting more control of their neck muscles.

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You should also ensure that none of the toys or mobiles on the swing can be torn and become a choking hazard.

Finally, NEVER leave the baby to sleep in a bouncer or swing. If you do notice they’re falling asleep, move them to a firm, flat surface.

Choose a good one

Most of the downsides and risks can be eliminated or at least minimized by choosing a good swing. Two of my favorites are the Mamaroo by 4Moms and Graco Sense2Soothe.

You can read their reviews and comparison below.

See the Mamaroo swing review here

See the Graco Sense2Soothe swing review here

See the Graco vs. Mamaroo comparison here

Bottom line – are baby swings good for babies?

For many parents, baby swings are an invaluable tool and a game-changer in finding that precious space for rest. Furthermore, they can be both soothing and stimulating for the baby.

As long as they’re used safely, they make for a great addition to your parenting arsenal.

Baby bouncer

Baby bouncers (also known as bouncy seats) are much lighter and simpler than baby swings.

They are also lighter, more compact, and easier to move around the house. When interviewing new parents, I’ve seen that the percentage of babies who love bouncers is higher than those who love swings.

In my opinion, that’s probably because babies who don’t like swings find them overstimulating. The chances of that happening with the much simpler bouncer are low to non-existent.

How do baby bouncers work?

Baby bouncers are motion-powered, meaning that a string mechanism starts the gentle rocking when you pull the chair towards you.

Are bouncers safe?

Bouncers are safe as long as you follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Don’t move the baby and the bouncer together. Take the baby out, move the bouncer and then safely place the baby back in.
  • Don’t let them sleep in the bouncer – for the same reasons I mentioned when I talked about swing safety.
  • Always place a bouncer on the floor and never on an elevated surface
  • Always use the harness
  • Stop using the bouncer when the baby reaches the age or weight limit or when they start pushing up, whichever comes first.

Types of bouncers

Natural-motion bouncers

Natural bouncers are simple products that rock back and forth and are “powered” by the baby’s movement. They don’t need power or batteries.

baby and a pink bouncer

This is the type I have in mind when comparing bouncers and swings.

Battery-powered bouncers

These are powered and are more similar to a swing than your basic bouncer. Some of them even come with vibration and music.

3 vs 5-point harness

Most of the modern swings have 5-point harnesses – the waist and belt are mandatory and the shoulder straps are optional but safer.

Can you use a baby bouncer with newborns?

Yes, baby bouncers are safe for newborns. The set of all the good ones go well beyond their heads and provide complete neck and head support. You can use a bouncer until the baby starts propping up without your help. Typically, that happens around the 6-month mark.

Benefits and downsides of a bouncer

The benefits and downsides of bouncers are similar to that of a baby swing. The gentle rocking motion will be soothing for most babies.

Two key differences compared to swings

Swings are typically powered, and the movement is not as natural as that of a baby bouncer.

The movement is more natural and stimulating

A bouncer responds to the baby’s movement and moves as they move their arms and legs. This helps with the baby’s brain development and stimulates the muscles they’ll need when they start crawling.

You can probably tell by now, I’d say that a bouncer is a must-have piece of baby gear. It’s inexpensive and, if used right, an efficient way of promoting the baby’s development.

Not as many positions to choose from

Most bouncers will have only one reclining angle, which lowers the risk of choosing a position that would put too much stress on the baby’s neck or increase the risk or cause them to slouch.

For those with multiple position settings, go with the most relined one in those first few months, just like you would with the swing.

In a minute, I’ll share my opinion on how best to solve the “bouncer-or-swing” puzzle and get the best out of both without investing extra money.

FAQs about baby bouncers and swings

Can swings and bouncers cause SBS?

One main question I kept seeing while gathering the data for this guide was about the potential risk of developing the Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). The concern is raised more often about swings than bouncers, which makes sense because the swings are mechanically powered, and the movement can be more intense.

baby resting in a bouncer

I searched far and wide and found no evidence that gentle rocking can cause SBS. Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of child abuse that happens when a baby is violently shaken.

Even at the highest motion settings, a swing can’t cause SBS.

Are swings and bouncers bad for babies?

If you follow all the safety guidelines, swings and bouncers are not bad for babies.

Are bouncers safer than swings?

Both bouncers and swings are safe as long as you follow the guidelines.

If you consider the risk of misuse, it’s my opinion that bouncers are indeed safer than a swing.

Is a swing or bouncer better for a baby?

A swing and a bouncer have their own substantial roles in making the parent’s life easier.

A swing has more “soothing power” because the motion can be more intense. In those terms, it can potentially calm down especially fussy babies that might not react to a bouncer. Apart from that, the swing is more independent and gives the parent more freedom.

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On the other hand, a bouncer has a more natural movement quality, making it the “better” option if promoting the baby’s development is your priority.

It’s also the more portable option. It allows you to move around the house or take a shower without leaving your baby unattended.

So, which one do I get?

I’d say both. Before you judge me for not being helpful, let me explain what I mean by that.

I believe that the optimal solution is getting a 2-in-1 bouncer swing. A good example is the Graco DuetConnect LX Swing and Bouncer.

Graco DuetConnect LX Baby Swing and Bouncer, McKinley

You can get one of these without spending money on two separate products and enjoy both the benefits of a swing and a bouncer.

Swing and bouncer hybrids

The alternative could be going with a hybrid (like the Mamaroo by 4Moms).

Although they’re slick to look at and a joy to use, hybrid products like Mamaroo weigh much more than an average bouncer, which limits the portability.

Takeaways

While similar, a swing and a bouncer are not the same. There are things a swing can give that a bouncer won’t and vice-versa.

baby on baby swing

If I did a decent job with this guide, you should now have a clear understanding of the differences, PROs, and CONs of the two options.

More importantly, if you were looking to only get one, you now know there’s a way to get the best of both worlds without spending more.