Last updated: June 9, 2017
Babies like to be where the action is. A bouncer seat – also commonly called a bouncy seat – gives babies who can’t sit up a place to hang out near you and the rest of the family during their first five or six months. For babies who need a little motion to fall asleep, a bouncer seat that vibrates can also be a big help.
Generally, a bouncer seat consists of a lightweight frame made from metal wire, tubular metal, or heavy-gauge plastic. Most are curved underneath to allow the seat to rock. Covered with a soft, removable, washable pad that conforms to a baby’s shape, bouncer seats are somewhat springy, which may help keep your baby relaxed and amused. The fabric seat is rounded to support a baby’s still-fragile spine, while a semi-upright tilt afford a view of the surroundings. Many parents report that their babies love to nap and they’re thankful that they purchase a bouncer seat or one of their loved one does. The sitting angle also appears to be more comfortable for some babies after they’ve had a big meal than the flat posture demanded by a crib.
Most models of bouncer seats have a detachable, bent-wire play bar (sometimes covered with padding) that suspends plastic toys and teethers in front for your baby to kick, bat, and chew. Some models feature a set of colorful lights and sound effects that respond to a baby’s movements and/or vibrate at two or three different speeds to lull baby to sleep. Some simulate the sound of a heartbeat as heard from the womb or play computer-ship-generated classical music. Others are simpler versions that transform your child’s smallest movements into a soothing rocking motion, sans batteries.
Many parents report that it’s overkill to buy both pieces of equipment; one may end up going largely unused because the two essentially do the same thing for a baby – provide a secure place to relax and be gently lulled by motion.
Your baby will only use a bouncer for five or six months – tops (and then, it’s n to more interesting things, like sitting up and rolling). With that in mind, an inexpensive, lightweight model, provided it’s stable may serve you as well as a top-end design. In general, more money will get you a seat with toys, reclining and vibrating features, realistic (as opposed to tinny) music, plush fabric, and possibly the ability to rock as well as bounce. Still, more isn’t always better. Parents report product satisfaction at both ends of the price spectrum.
Some bouncer-seat hybrids accommodate babies up to 45 pounds and will grow with your child into the toddler years. Your toddler will probably appreciate having at least one seat in the house sized just for him or her.
Seat padding can vary from basic to extra-thick. Because wet diapers are bound to come in contact with the fabric covering, at the very least, upholstery should be removed and washable (check the label). There also shouldn’t be any loose threads or gaps in the seams.
When you’re in the store, give the various display models a “bounce”. A bouncer seat should be stable and sturdy, but not stiff. Otherwise, some parents report, it won’t bounce when baby is in it.
Some models fold nearly flat, which is handy if you think you’ll be traveling with your bouncer seat.
If you choose a bouncer that vibrates or has music, opt for an automatic shut-off for the music/vibration feature.
Some models have add-on features, such as a folding canopy that acts as a sunshade. Another option is mosquito netting, which may be important if you have a spring or summer baby. Both are useful protectors when the seat is used outdoors. Still, as we mentioned, use the seat only in the shade so your baby won’t become overheated.
Some bouncers are designed to rock as well as bounce, which parents may prefer because it gives a baby even more options. If you buy a rocking bouncer seat, make sure it has a stationary position, because your baby may not always be in the mood to rock.
Most models have a soft fabric three-point crotch strap as a restraint, although others feature a five-point harness, which is ideal for newborns because they tend to list to the side. If you don’t buy a bouncer seat with a five-point harness, consider adding a head support – the kind you use with an infant car seat to stop your child’s head from rolling to the side – but only if it’s one supplied by the maker of the bouncer. For models with three-point harnesses, check the butterfly clips. They should be stiff enough to be safe without being so stiff that they pinch or are difficult for you to operate.
Fabric patterns range from kid-friendly to sophisticated. But foremost, a seat cover should be removable and washable.
Some bouncer seats recline more than others. The recline feature is necessary for infants, since they don’t have the head control that sitting, even on a slight incline, requires. Some models let you select levels of reclining. Seats also vary in legroom and depth. Be sure your baby has enough wiggle room and leg support.
Besides watching you and your family from the sidelines, your baby may get pleasure from the toys that many bouncer seats come with. Toys are typically suspended from a removable play bar, although some models feature a swing-away arm, which suspends toys in front of a baby in mobile fashion. Colorful spinning and squeaking toys and teethers are usually what’s offered. Some toy bars have several positions and offer interactive noisemakers and lights. Most bouncers allow you to take the play bar off and use just the seat. Not all models have toy bars. We consider them an unnecessary feature, since your baby may not want to play with the toys all the time and during his or her early months won’t know what to do with them.
Manufacturers will suggest a seat weight limit, usually ranging from newborn up to 20 or 30 pounds. Stick to it. Putting a child who is over the weight limit into the seat can make it tip. Here are some other safety recommendations:
– Never use a bouncer seat as a car seat.
– Stop using a bouncer seat as soon as your baby can sit up unassisted if it’s not designed to be used by toddlers (some are); check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
– Put the seat on the floor, which is the best place for it. Never use it on an elevated surface, such as a table.
– Don’t carry your baby while he or she is in the bouncer.
– Always keep a close eye on your baby, even if you think he or she is completely safe and snug on the bouncer seat.