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What Everybody Ought to Know About Baby Swings

Little Boy happily swinging in B&W landscape

This post was written over a decade ago. Since then the evidence about the safety of swings for infant sleep has evolved and I no longer recommend their use for sleep. If you’re struggling to figure out how to help your baby sleep (and I assume you are since you’re googling right?) my book can help. It provides practical and safe approaches that can help your child sleep better today.

I am leaving this post up because many people find this through desperate searching and I want to let them know that swings are not the answer and that help is available.

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


  • 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).


  • 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


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  • 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.



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  • 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 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 ~4 hours. 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.

[box type=”info”]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.[/box]

{photo credits: Rhea Ball and Lisa Stout}