The lowdown on bouncer seats
A bouncer seat (or bouncy seat) is a versatile, relatively inexpensive piece of baby equipment that your baby can use from day one. It's especially helpful in the early days as a safe place to lay your newborn while you grab a bite to eat or take a shower – just bring the lightweight seat into the bathroom.
At first your baby will recline semi-upright, happy to stare up at you or the attached toys. Later, the bouncer will respond to your little one's kicks with a springy up-and-down motion, satisfying your child's desire for movement. It can also have a calming and relaxing effect, perhaps lulling your baby to sleep.
You can choose between a simple model that moves when your baby does or models that vibrate, play music, move baby around, hold electronics within baby's view, and fold flat for storage and/or travel. Some are made from natural materials like wood; others of plastic or metal.
Many bouncers can only be used for a baby’s first 6 months, up until he weighs 25 pounds or can sit up independently (which usually happens between 4 and 7 months). But some models can be used for children up to 30 pounds, while some have weight limits so high that even small adults can sit in them – at least one model holds up to 130 pounds.
Some parents choose either a bouncer or a baby swing to hold and soothe their baby in the early months, rather than investing in both products. That can work fine, especially if you're trying to avoid having your home taken over by baby gear. If your baby loves constant motion, both products will come in handy. Bouncers are lighter, typically less expensive, and easier to move from room to room than baby swings, but they don't offer as much movement or the dramatic side-to-side or back-and-forth swinging that some tots love.
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What to look for when buying
Batteries vs. plug-in: Many bouncer seats are driven by a battery-operated motor. But you'll go through a lot of batteries unless you choose a model with a plug-in option in addition to, or instead of, the batteries.
Safety straps: Your bouncer needs a 3-point harness to keep your baby from falling out. A 5-point harness, which includes over-the-shoulder straps, is even safer.
Motion: Some bouncers rock, vibrate, or even glide side-to-side on their own. Others bounce gently (or vigorously) in response to a baby's kicks.
Sturdy frame: Look for a bouncer with a wide, sturdy frame that's low to the ground so it won't tip if your baby leans to one side. It should also fold or disassemble easily for storage or travel.
Removable seat cover: Drool, spit-up, and diaper overflow are common in a baby's early months, so look for a seat with a removable, washable cover.
Comfortable seat: Make sure the seat cushion is nicely padded or otherwise comfy. You may want a seat that reclines in several positions or converts to a toddler seat.
Extras: Fun features include toy bars, mobiles, and sun canopies. Some bouncers play children's songs or soothing sounds, and some come with a hook-up for your MP3 player so you can play your favorite tunes.
- Look for a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which means the model conforms to independent safety standards.
- Bouncers have been recalled in recent years for having frames that broke, toy bars that detached unexpectedly and caused injuries, and sharp metal objects in the seats. Before buying one or using a secondhand one, check the list of product recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- When your child’s in the bouncer, place it well away from hazards like heaters, window cords, and monitor cords. And keep it in the same room as you so you can keep an eye on the baby.
- Never place your bouncer on a table or other elevated surface with your baby in it. The same goes for soft surfaces, like a couch or bed. A baby's movement could tip the bouncer or send it over the edge, leading to a fall or – in the case of soft surfaces – suffocation.
- While your baby is in the bouncer, don't carry it by the frame or toy bar. These aren't intended to be handles and could come loose or snap off.
- Follow the manufacturer's recommended weight and age limits.
- Finally, although your little one may love the bouncer – and it may feel like a lifesaver during the newborn months – try not to rely on it too much. Your baby needs plenty of time cuddling with you and doing tummy time to strengthen the muscles needed for crawling and standing. Experts recommend limiting the time your baby spends in car seats, bouncers, and baby swings.
What it's going to cost you
You can get a simple bouncer seat for less than $30; those with vibration/music features and a battery-operated or electric motors are typically in the $30 to $80 range. High-tech bouncers, or those with designer materials and sleek styling, can cost $220 to $350 or more.