Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
The baby swing is just that: a swing. Plus a motor. Most models have a number of speeds and play music or white noise (usually pretty tinny). The swing is your at-home version of taking your baby for a walk or driving her around in the car to soothe her to sleep. Secondarily, it’s a place for Juniorette to hang out while you do a little housework or chat with a friend. You know: in all your free time!
But here’s the deal for all us minimalists: they’re pricey, they have a big footprint in your home, and even if your baby loves it, you’ll only use it for six months or so. Which is why, as the Minimalist Mama, I’ll officially say that a.) if you want one, try to borrow one, and b.) it’s not a must-have.
That said, we had a baby who wouldn’t sleep for love nor money, and the swing (borrowed) was our saving grace from months two to four, at which point we transitioned her back to the crib. But she napped and slept all night in that swing for two months. I know it’s not supposed to be good for their posture and we should’ve found another way and so on and so on, but, man, were we tired! And there’s only so much you can take on at once.
During the day, the swing is a more entertaining alternative to the bouncy seat or just lying around in a crib or on a play mat (which, let’s be honest, only works for five minutes without your full attention). Since we had a bouncy seat, I thought we’d save space and skip the swing, but a friend offered hers and I took it on the principle that you never know, right? Thank goodness I did!
Keep in mind that most bouncy seats don’t bounce without your (wo)manpower so they’re more for having somewhere semi-upright for the baby to sit and watch you cook or whatever, so you don’t have to have her in a pack or sling. The swing runs on its own, so you’re not fully on-duty to keep your little one moving or entertained. (The bouncy seat wins hands down for flexibility though: you can pick it up with one hand and take it into the bathroom with you to get a shower vs. the swing, which practically requires two people to shift.)
Bottom line: like the rocker/glider, if you plan on having multiple children, the swing might be a good place to invest from dollars. If you’re only having one (or that conversation hasn’t started yet!), borrow a swing and see how it goes. If you just can’t fit it in your place, don’t worry about it. It’s a nice thing to have, but it’s not a disaster if you don’t have one. You can always hunt one down later if your infant has sleeping issues and could use some motion. The covers are easy to wash – although often challenging to remove – so you should feel comfortable picking up one used off craigslist or from someone on your local parent’s network.
The one we borrowed was a basic Graco Silhouette Swing that swung side to side (some swing front/back) and it worked fine, although changing its dying batteries in the dead of night was a giant pain, and the fact that the attached mobile never moved was a design flaw. Despite my hesitancy to outright recommend buying one, I am #$(*&! loving the new Fisher Price Zen Cradle Swing. Not only does it not look like a circus threw up all over it, it has a plug as well as a battery pack, you can adjust it to swing front/back or side to side and it has a built in blanket. If I had another infant in the house right now, I’ll admit, I’d order this one without thinking twice. If they made an adult size, I’d order that too.OK, fine, I’d order that first and then get the baby one.