As much as we love holding and cuddling our little bundles of joy, there are moments when we need to put them down so we can use both hands every now and then (although we mums are pros when it comes to one-handed tea making)!
Baby rockers and bouncers are great for those very moments and they keep our little ones entertained - especially if the chairs have toys attached to them. They're also great for those times when you need a helping hand in getting them off to sleep as the gentle bounce or vibrations of a rocker or bouncer get them quickly drift off.
Do you need a baby bouncer?
Yes! Having somewhere safe to lay your baby is essential, and while a blanket or playmat on the floor can do the job, a bouncer is a safer option – you won’t have to worry about baby suddenly figuring out how to roll across the room when your back is turned. It’s also useful for when your baby is tired, when they may object to being popped on a stimulating playmat. A bouncer will buy you a little time hands-free, which is worth its weight in gold when you’re a new mum. Most are suitable from birth until around six months, though some can be used for much longer.
What to look for in a baby bouncer
Seat recline position: A bouncer seat with adjustable recline settings offers much better value for money than one with a fixed chair, as you can lay it back for short naps or make it more upright as your baby grows. It’s a must if your baby suffers from reflux.
Harness: This keeps your baby safe and secure in the seat, so make sure it feels substantial. Check that you can fasten it and unbuckle it easily with one hand.
Carry handle: A useful extra if you’re likely to move the chair between rooms frequently.
Toy bar: This gives your baby something to focus on and bat at with their hands and feet, which helps to keep the momentum of the bouncy chair going. Check that they will be able to reach the toys though, otherwise, they’ll just get frustrated.
Newborn insert: This offers extra support and comfort for your newborn. It should support their head and prevent them from slouching over to one side.
Vibrating function: Many chairs have various vibrating settings, which can really help to settle some babies.
Future-proofing: Some bouncer chairs convert to seats for older children. Think carefully about whether you actually want this extra functionality, and if you’re prepared to pay more for it.
How much will a baby bouncer cost me?
There’s a huge difference in cost - in our round-up, the options range from £26.99 to £225. This is a piece of kit you’ll use a lot, and if you have more children, will need to stand the test of time – so do think in terms of value for money rather than pound signs. Check out the resale value on eBay when you’re setting your budget, too – some models fetch high prices secondhand.
The best baby bouncers and rockers
There are loads of different rockers and bouncers available on the market, so we've rounded up some of our favourites from the Mother&Baby awards that were rated highly by our mum testers.
This ergonomic bouncer chair wows many parents, despite having no musical or vibrating features. The chic, minimalist design appealed to our style-minded mums, and they loved that it folds away easily and compactly when not in use. This chair converts to a seat for children up to two years once your baby outgrows it, and the fabric cover is easy to remove and machine washable. Plus, no hunting for batteries – bonus!
M&B tester Emma says: "Miraculous! I can’t normally put Elias down for more than 20 minutes, but he loves this and cried when I took him out of it. I was sceptical about whether the price was justified, but I was proved wrong. Elias enjoyed the gentle perpetual motion, and I love the adjustable seat recline – perfect for naps. The harness is a bit tricky to fasten, particularly as I have post-pregnancy joint pain."
Looking for a seriously stylish, unobtrusive baby chair? This is it. It doesn’t bounce as much as sway gently from side to side – think of the soothing dance of a leaf in the breeze! A gentle nudge starts it swaying, and the motion lasts for over two minutes. It’s easy to dismantle for storage or travel use, a toy bar is sold separately, and it converts to a big-kid seat too.
Review: "We got the leaf grow for our little one and it is hands down the best thing we purchased. She loves it, spend hours in it casually rocking away. When she kicks it makes it rock on its own too. Such a clever seat. Love the fact it will last for years and years too. Most rockers only last a few months but this goes up to 60kg!"
Suitable from birth up to 9ks (6 months, or until baby can sit unaided), Chicco’s Hoopla Baby Bouncer offers a multi-position backrest, enabling baby to relax, play or feed, as well as an adjustable headrest to ensure baby’s comfort.
The harness features two clips either side of a central support and the bouncer’s ergonomic booster not only prevents baby from overheating but makes the chair more accurately adjustable to the proportions of each little user. Controls at the front of the product, which can be a bit stiff, adapt the Hoopla into a fixed position or a rocking chair and although the bouncer has no music feature or vibration mechanism, an easily-removable toy bar ensures that baby is entertained for as long as necessary.
The Hoopla is a lightweight design with carry handles, making it easy to move, but is quite bulky and takes up a lot of space when travelling. It is, however, a robust product, made with high quality materials, and will easily see families through multiple babies – making it great value for money.
This bouncer chair can be used on its own or in combination with the Stokke Steps highchair. A cosy, padded newborn insert offers extra support and comfort, and we love that there are multiple seat-recline settings. It folds away compactly and offers a soothing, gentle bounce. The detachable toy hanger is a lovely extra touch. This is available in several fab prints to suit all tastes.
Tested by mum Heidi Short for M&B: "This set is beautiful. I love how it matches my home and how easy it is to clean. The interchangeable parts are very useful and well designed. They don't take up more space then necessary, the whole system is just the right size. It's very durable and still looks like new.
"The pieces snap together easily and I can use the pieces together as well as separately. I can have my toddler in the highchair while the baby is in the bouncer. I love how the plastic of the chair is so easy to clean without little corners for food to get stuck. And I can lift the whole seat out of the base to wash it at the sink when it's really dirty. I really enjoyed using this system, but I don't think I would spend so much on it."
Read our full review of the Stokke Steps Bouncer.
This simply-designed contemporary baby bouncer has a cute elephant print, and a colourful toy bar included. It’s lightweight and easy to move between rooms. The fabric cover is machine washable and easy to remove, and the non-slip feet make it sturdy and secure. And did they get the price wrong? We think it’s unbeatable value for money, and great for leaving at Nan’s house.
Review: "With all the expensive and extravagant baby bouncers and chairs on the market, I was tempted by some of the big brand ones. But I just couldn’t bring myself to spend loads on a baby chair that my baby might not like sitting in or may not be in for very long. I am really pleased I bought this chair. For the first week or so, it seemed huge so I supported my baby at the sides with a muslin. Since then it has been perfect. It’s nice and calm and not over-stimulating for a baby (why do they need flashing lights and toys in the first few months?!) My baby loves staring at the elephants and they got one of her first smiles, so they are obviously popular."
This folds flat for easy storage, and offers three recline positions. The fabric is especially soft (and machine washable) and the ergonomic design offers good hammock-style head-and-back support. This seat is suitable for up to age two and is chic, sleek and stylish. A compatible toy arch is also available.
Tested by mum Elizabeth Porter for M&B: "I would recommend this bouncer, I am a fan of the bjorn brand and think they really think about the comfort of the baby alongside their physical development. It is easy to use, clean, fold away and having the different height options make it useful for relaxing or playing. My little one loves it she gets over stimulated with vibrations etc and this really seems to keep her happy as she can control the movement. It can be used for older children as well which makes it value for money. I also like how it looks as it is not too intrusive wherever we put it."
The Serina 2-in-1 baby seat offers baby a multi-motion ride as it swings from front to back or side to side to comfort baby. With six different swing speeds, a toybar, a night light with four brightness settings and a choice of ten lullabies and nature sounds, the Serina 2-in-1 is able to keep baby both entertained and relaxed. For newborn babies the removable, washable, plush infant body support and seat pad offers supreme comfort by perfectly cocooning baby. The wheels, integrated handle, and compact frame also make moving from room to room a breeze for parents.
Tested by mum Sophie Wood for M&B: "The Joie Serina has some really handy features. The charger has a usb connection so if batteries do run out it can always be used. Good quality materials used, very solid. Very easy to set up and seat just clips into base. The seat can be picked up and used to carry baby around house. Also has a mobile with 2 toys on it and music which nature sounds where very white noise like, which helps to soothe baby and help sleep.
"You can use the seat as a rocker without the base and also means if you need to pop upstairs you can just take the seat off the base and carry your baby up with you. The seat has three positions which meant my little girl could sit up right or recline a little when tired. The classical and nature music were very soothing which helped her fall asleep peacefully."
Read our full review of the Joie Serina 2in1 Rocker.
Quick to assemble, this chair folds flat for easy storage and transportation, and is easily converted from a rocking chair to a fixed baby seat. There are three recline positions, plus a gentle vibration setting and four different musical modes. The detachable toy bar features two plush hanging toys.
Tested by mum Katy Tanton for M&B: "My son was happiest in it for the longest, and he loved batting the toys about and making the bells ring. Unlike other chairs, the toy bar doesn’t fall off. The colours are really appealing to a baby but it’s stylish and not garish. The seat angle is great, the material is lovely and soft, and the whole thing feels sturdy and well-made."
How sensitive is your baby?
Some bouncers convert your baby’s wriggles into soothing movement, while others do the swaying for them. What one newborn finds calming, another may find over-stimulating, so consider whether they need less or more when it comes to entertainment!
How portable do you need your baby bouncer to be?
If you move around the house a lot throughout the day, a bouncer chair that’s easy to carry with you is a must – though you should always take your baby out of the seat before you move it. Some are light and even have carrying handles for this purpose, whereas others are designed to be left permanently in one spot.
Will you store it away?
Some mums like to clear the baby clutter away at the end of the day and reclaim their living rooms, and some bouncers are designed to be folded for easy storage.
Do you want it to look good?
There’s a real divide between contemporary chairs that make a design statement and more traditional-style of bouncer seats. Do you want a chair that’s designed to appeal to you as well as your baby?
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