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Fisher-Price Cradle Swing: The New Parent Lifesaver

06/27/2009 at 09:00 AM ET

My brother is having his first baby and like all new parents, he and his wife are completely baffled by what baby gear they really need. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the products they’re going to absolutely need in the first few months of their daughter’s life.

One of the products that literally SAVED us the first few weeks of Anya’s life was the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Cradle Swing ($120). I don’t even recall if we registered for it but we received it at our shower and it was definitely the best unexpected gift. The compact size of the box is deceptive as it doesn’t exactly have the smallest footprint. Additionally, the colors of the seat were a bit garish for us (we’re mid-century modern folks). But we discovered that none of that mattered once we started using it on a daily basis.

One thing you may hear about in the beginning as a new parent is how important it is to get baby on a schedule. Whether you plan to follow that philosophy or not, for the first weeks of your child’s life, you have no choice in the matter. Baby doesn’t know the difference between night and day and if you want to sleep a solid 4+ hours at night, too bad because your baby thinks it’s time to party as much as you want him to be more awake during the day. After the adrenaline wears off, you’re going to crash hard and you need some rest so what do you do with the kid who not only wants to be held but wants to be rocked?

Anya, six weeks old

In our case, we had the Cradle Swing so we put Anya in there at those wee hours in the morning when we thought we were going to die of exhaustion. We kept ours in the living room so we’d crash on the couch while the swing rocked and rocked and rocked and often put her to sleep. Then during the day, we’d use it when we needed a break or when we wanted to prepare or eat a meal. When she was awake, she loved to look up and watch the aquarium mobile and I’m sure the nature sounds lulled her as well.

After Josh returned to work, it was a lifesaver for me when I needed to use the toilet or take a shower or do anything that required two hands, like loading the dishwasher or use the computer. In fact, since she was so fond of the swing, I was able to accomplish quite a bit of work on this site while she rocked next to my desk. I’d look over at her every few minutes, or talk or sing to her, and once she started smiling, she’d give me this HUGE grin.

Anya, six months old

The chief difference between the cradle swing and typical swings — and the reason this kind takes up more room and costs more — is the side-to-side cradle swinging motion versus the traditional forward-and-backward motion. The Fisher-Price Cradle Swings do both which is what makes them special. If you find your baby is not comforted by one motion, try the other. Fisher-Price does make traditional swings and they are less expensive so if cost is an issue, you may want to go for the traditional swing.

I’ve heard that other babies dislike the swing (any swing) as much as Anya loved hers, but there’s no way to predict. If you can try one at a friend’s house to see if your baby likes it, that’s a great way to see if you need to buy one, but in the beginning, you have enough to worry about. Chances are you’re not going out too much those first 14 days to try out baby gear or visit, so either borrow one or suck it up and buy one (or request it as a gift). Worse comes to worse, you can return it if your kid doesn’t enjoy it or resell it on a site like handmedowns.com.

Butterfly Garden ($119-160)

Since 2005, Fisher-Price has come out with different fashions and themes for the cradle swing — and most are now the papasan style — such as the Butterfly Garden ($119-160), Rainforest Open-Top ($140), Starlight Papasan in Cocoa/Pink or Periwinkle ($119-160), DwellStudio for Target ($140), Precious Planet ($120-130), My Little Lamb ($119-150) and the more high-end wood Zen Collection ($180-210).

Pros: Can be a lifesaver when you can’t hold baby. Mobile features provide more entertainment and the tray has a toy but Anya was too young to reach it.
Cons: Takes up more floorspace than a bouncy seat. Baby will probably outgrow it around 5-6 months depending on size and mobility. If you use it often, you will need to replace the D batteries frequently. Your kid may not care for the swing.

Final Verdict: It may seem like an expensive purchase for something you will only use for a few months but it can literally change your life so I advise going for it!

– Danielle

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Showing 40 comments

Ashley on

Love the look back at Anya! Why no more Anya updates?

Erika on

we have the starlight papasan cradle swing by fischer price and we LOVE it! it projects a light show of stars on the little “curtains” on it. plus it plugs into the wall!

Lilliness on

I recommend the newer version of this, from the Rain Forest collection. Same wonderful product only with an AC Adapter! We have never had to buy batteries for it and let me tell you THAT IS WONDERFUL! lol

Dori on

This was the swing we had too, and I agree with this soo much. My son LOVED it. The only problem we had was that my son, even at 3 months old, is an adrenalin junkie and the swing didn’t rock fast enough for him, so we had to push it a little as well, but it was worth it!!!

Johanna on

As a midwife, I cannot recommend leaving your child in such a cradle swing for more than 10-15minutes.
Especially Babys should never be placed in an upright position like that for any longer than needed.
The same is with taking a child for a walk while it sits in a car seat like a Maxi Cosi. As we see many celebrities doing that with the Orbit Infant System or the car seat placed on a Graco Stroller and going shopping with the baby in it.

Beth on

I agree with Ashely! Can you show us even 1 more recent photo of Anya? Before the site went to People, I loved seeing her face every now and then. She must be getting so big!

Xandi Atkinson on

Borrowed that same swing back when I had my daughter 5 years ago. It was such a lifesaver. I had 2 basic swings which she hated and my sister-in-law let me borrow hers and my daughter used it until she was around 10 months..practically lived in it when I couldn’t hold her. Then I had my son a few years later and I had to go and buy one since my sister-in-law was also having a new baby. My son really disliked it. I was completely shocked. I highly recommend trying it out first before you buy it, or you can always sell it on craigslist like I did.

quadromom on

The papasan is great because it provides more of a reclining position, it also comes in more neutral colors. I had a slight problem with my one-and-a-half year old wanting to sit on it all the time when she discovered it vacant.

andrew on

this swing was also a lifesaver for us during the first 6 weeks of our son’s life.

Stacey on

We had the same Ocean Wonders swing and my daughter loved it, it was the only thing she would nap in when we was a tiny little thing! Boy do I miss those days!

cher on

We had this too and it was a lifesaver for us. There were times that this was the only thing our baby would sleep in. Even now…sometimes it is too when she is fussy!!

Ursula on

We received the same swing at one of my showers and my son loved it!! He had numerous medical issues so I needed him to be near me when he napped, and it was the perfect spot. He needed to be slightly upright due to some of his medical issues, so this was not only easy but it was comfortable for him.

Carrie on

We’ve had two cradle swings – the very first one that Fisher Price put out (I think in 2001) and then the newer Nature’s Garden papasan style one. We swear by the cradle swings. They have been lifesavers with all three of our babies.

mizMolly on

A friend gave us their Ocean Wonders swing when their son grew out of it. My son wanted nothing to do with it. He would tolerate it only for a couple of moments if it didn’t move and wasn’t on. My daughter LOVES this swing. I cannot tell you how great it was when she was a newborn and had acid reflux! She was finally able to get some sleep. Johanna would need to provide me with some scientific studies before I would take her recommendation. I think she is referring to the studies done in older infants who should spend no more than 20 minutes at a time in swings, bouncers, and exersaucers. This swing is a godsend for tired newborns and parents!

Sherri on

Wonder why they make SOME with ac adapter and some without??? The ones with the ac adapters are harder to find. IMO, they should ALL come with them!

Momma on

Sherri, the ones without the plug are cheaper, but IMO it is worth the extra $ to be able to plug it in since as everyone else says you will either never use this if your child hates it or you will use it all the time if your child loves it. We had the plug in Rainforest one which was great, and although my son was one of those kids who didn’t love it we did get a little use out of it and you NEVER know which products your baby will like so it is best to have as many as you have room for/can afford because you won’t have free time to go out and figure this stuff out after the baby comes unless you have help (we didn’t, and on the RARE occasion a grandparent did come in to town we used the relief to sleep not shop). I liked our swing enough to save it to try for future babies.

Erin on

I love this swing: I’m a NICU nurse and we use it all of the time on our bigger babies. I do agree that the floorspace is big and it does suck the life of batteries.

Lyndsey on

After buying a cheaper swing and having to return it 3 times due to the music box breaking, we broke down and bought the papasan swing. BEST MONEY EVER SPENT! My son had acid reflux and it was the one thing I could do with him to calm him down. He’d sleep for hours which was a godsend since sleep was not a priority for him. It was one of the first things I brought up before our daughter was born. She loved it as much as our son. In all the uses of it I believe I had to change the batteries 3 times which I didn’t think was bad at all for all the wear and tear we put on it.

denise on

I totally agree with Johanna! I don’t get the point why parents ignore that babies who can’t sit up themselves shouldn’t be placed in a sitting position for longer than a short while, like a short carride oder other inevitable situations. It’s the same with Maxi Cosis or Graco Carriers oder Orbit, you shouldn’t go shopping for hours with you baby in those, you damage your baby’s back!
Why is this only known in Europe?
Please don’t put a young baby in a cradle swing!

Juzza on

I have to tell you this swing got us throught the first 6 months of our sons life. We actually received the Ocean Wonders swing second hand and it didn’t swing very well but I could tell our son liked it. I sent my husband out to but the Papasan and it was the best $250 we ever spent (we’re in Australia). It has the 2 way swing motion and it’s very true that if one way didn’t work the other direction would. Our son was born 6 weeks early and went through a very colicky/slight acid relux few months and if you laid him in his cot he would scream. Some nights nothing either of us could do for him would work. 10-20 minutes in the swing and he would drift off and then we would move him to his cot. It also has the two seat positions so if laying down wasn’t working it could be moved so he was slightly sitting upright which often helped. We used the swing for a long time because he was so small (about 6-8 months) and we only used about 3 sets of batteries which cost about $30.
This swing was really the BEST thing that we ever bought (but I know some babies do hate it too!)

Bri on

We recieved a Papasan as a hand me down from a family friend when our first baby Layla was born, and it is the best gift we ever received! It was so soothing to her when she was fussing and I love the reclining feature because I could turn off the swing and leave her in for the night, since she was laying flat on her back! It definitely saved me some sleep for the first few months!!

jessicad on

This swing saved MY life haha. My daughter would not sleep if she was flat, which meant she didn’t sleep for more than 15 or 30 minutes for the first 3 months of her life, she was miserable, I was miserable, then a friend let me borrow the older version of this and my daugher slept 12 hours straight the first time she used it. My dr told me to let her sleep in it til she was 6 months old, so I bought this version and it truly saved us both! :) It turned out she had a problem with my breastmilk, so as soon as I stopped nursing and switched to formula she was fine in the crib.

Kelli on

Greatest.Invention.EVER. For babies at least…haha. Holy cow we LOVED that thing with our daughter (4) . It really allowed us to do things around the house, hang out, whatever.
My son (2) liked it just as much. In fact, it was one of the items we moved ourselves when we moved from California to Mississippi (rather then the movers taking it).

AJ on

This swing is great! The batteries had to be changed almost weekly. I found an adapter to go with it which was a lifesaver. The adapter fit in two of the battery slots and then plugged in. It was sold by another company and has worked perfectly.

Rebecca on

The travel swings worked better for me. Could stow them behind the couch when not in use to maximize space in small apartments.

Amanda on

Obviously Johanna and denise have never had an infant with reflux or a medical degree specializing in pediatrics, this swing was a LIFESAVER for my second daughter, who could not be layed flat, or even too close to it without being in some serious pain due to severe acid reflux (the meds helped but we still couldn’t lay her flat, and she was breastfed and yes I cut dairy and just about everything else I could think of out of my diet) The seat is adjustable too, so you can control the angle. I can tell you it is no more like a sitting position than a car seat, are you going to start telling people not to use those?

Heather on

The little girl I nanny has this swing in the Butterfly Garden pattern and it’s a lifesaver! Also, there is a plug option for the swing so that you don’t need to use batteries for it anymore. Of course if you need to use the batteries you can, but it’s nice to be able to plug it in.

Pam on

Well, I had that same swing, “garish” colors and all. I loved it. It was fabulous for both of my sons. It helped out when my first son had a terrible time with acid reflux. Neither child has had back issues. I would recommend that swing to anyone. It does take up some space but we do have a small house and I’d take out furniture to make room for it. lol When we have another child I’ll be looking for a cradle swing again and one that plugs in this time.

MZ on

Yah I dunno about the people saying it hurts the baby’s back…our pediatrician told us to use this for my son’s reflux. He wouldn’t even lay in his bassinet at night with the mattress propped up till he was 3 months old. Unfortunately he didn’t like the swing till he was 4 months but we used his car seat for him to sleep in, which sits up about the same level. The swing we have reclines but he couldn’t tolerate it when we did put him in it…we had to have him sitting up. However, the swing we bought was not as nice as this one. Maybe next time around we will get this one instead!

LindaLou on

We bought that for our third child and it ended up being a huge waste of money. He was never happy in it and only wanted to be carried around in a sling next to a warm body.

Johanna on

Well,
for those babies that do have reflux it might be helpful, but not every baby has reflux and is still sitting in a cradle.
I don`t think it`s too bad to let your baby sit in it for no more than 15 min a day. But letting your baby sleep in those for hours? That can(doesn`t have to!) occur a big problem with the baby`s spine!

And yes, it is ridiculous, to say that I would be against car seat. Come on! Car seats a necessary and save a life. Those cradles are not necessary!
It is also suggested that when you`re on a long drive to stop at least every hour and get your baby out of the car seat and massage its back before going on the road again.

Sarah J on

Johanna,
If young babies are not supposed to sit slightly upright for more than 10-15 min, does that mean they shouldn’t ride in a car for more than 10-15 min? As a physical therapist I agree that newborns should not be placed in a seated position for extended periods of time if it can be avoided. However, that time limit is certainly not practical for travel. Positioning changes are important to promote baby’s development including prone (tummy time) and most babies should sleep flat to reduce the risk of SIDS, however other positions will be better for your baby depending on their individual needs. The problem with strollers is that most I’ve seen can’t recline completely for a newborn and are made to be used with infant car seats for safety purposes. Bottom line, talk to your pediatrician or physical/occupation therapist about newborn positioning concerns and educate yourself, but you as a mother have the right and responsiblity to make decisions about what “gear” you use with your baby.

Johanna on

Sarah J,

that`s what I`m sayin in my last answer: when your travelling by car with a newborn you should stop every other hour and take your baby out of the car seat for a couple minutes.

Since I don`t think that newborns have to ride in a car seat for hours every day, it is okay to go on longer trips once in a while and have your baby in his car seat.

What I don`t understand is how the GRACO Baby System is so popular in the States since Baby cannot lie in those car seats in a flat position. When I see people taking their babys out for two-three hours of shopping that really bugs me.

In Europe we don`t have any stroller systems like the GRACO and I think that is to protect babies of sitting in such a car seat stroller.

ML on

I received the Zen Collection from my SIL and it was a great life saver for the first 2 month because my daughter wouldn’t sleep in her crib. Now that my daughter sleep in the crib at night, I only put her in the swing during the daytime when I need my nap or cleaning bottles/pumping.

Adrian on

We loved the Fisher Price Aquarium Swing! I loved the comment about the “garish” colors, I agree but still love the design and function of the swing. When my son was six months old, we used the seat in the upright position to fed him baby food which worked out great because of the tray. Our swing is being safely stored away just in case we need it in the future!

May on

We got the exact same swing for $30 CAD (second hand, but it is clean and in great condition). It’s a great little (ok, big) swing and the seat is great for a newborn because it doesn’t force the baby upright (depending on which position it’s swinging, of course), and the toy parts of the swing are really entertaining too. I wouldn’t have bought it new, however, since we use it about 15-20 a day total, and there are plenty of people selling this model on Craig’s List and similar sites. The colours are flashy, but it’s not a permanent fixture, so we’re putting up with them.

Nina on

As with most baby things… that swing is hideously ugly.

linnea on

This swing was by far the best baby gift we received when our daughter (now 5 months) was born. When she was a newborn, it helped her to sleep when she had reflux. She finds it relaxing and happily naps it it during the day (she’s in her crib at night). There were so many nights when the swing was the only thing that helped any of us get some sleep. It’s also helped us eat meals together (with the swing next to the table), fold laundry, make dinner, etc. I would recommend this swing to anyone! Seriously.

AMANDA on

Does anyone know where I can purchase the adapter that fits into the battery slots that was mentioned by AJ or which company produces them? The swing is draining the batteries and needs to be replaced regularly (getting expensive).

MONICA on

This is the best product ever. My son was born with GERDS and was extremely colic. This swing was the only thing that saved us. He hated swinging forward/back because of the GERDS but the side-side motion soothed him when nothing else would.

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