Baby Bouncers vs Rockers: What Are the Differences, Pros, and Cons?

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A mobile above a baby rocker or bouncer

It’s impossible to hold your baby every second of every day.

As much as you would love to carry your baby around with you and cuddle him every second, your back would probably not like it very much. Plus, you wouldn’t get anything done; it’s just not practical!

When it comes to safe, comfortable devices that you can sit your baby in temporarily (or for them to nap), bouncers and rockers are two of the most popular.

Both will keep baby cozy and gently rock or bounce him, which has a soothing effect.

In this article, I want to break down the differences between baby bouncers vs. rockers and help you decide which one is right for you; and it might be both! So…what is the difference between baby bouncers and rockers?

The main difference between bouncers and rockers is how they move.

Baby bouncers are activated by self-generated movement; as your baby wiggles, squirms, and kicks, this movement causes the bouncer to move and jiggle in a, well, bouncy fashion. A rocker, of course, rocks back and forth, providing a smooth motion that can be generated by you, or a motor if it is battery-operated or electric. 

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.


Baby Bouncers Explained

Baby in a bouncer on table
Jason White/Flickr

Bouncers basically provide a low-sitting chair for your baby that rests in a reclined position.

Bouncers are safe and portable and allow you to tend to other things while your baby rests comfortably or sleeps, just make sure to always stay in the same room as your baby.

Bouncers are designed to move based on your baby’s movements. They don’t feature a motor, but they gently jiggle and bounce as baby moves around — or you can bounce baby manually with your hand or foot.

We used ours a ton when our daughter was a baby during mealtimes or when we wanted to sit down and watch TV (with her facing away from the screen, of course!) We’d take turns gently bouncing her with our foot and she’d often drift off to sleep.

Baby bouncers are available in a large variety of styles and designs, and many even feature fun extras like:

  • a toy bar
  • various recline positions
  • soothing vibration
  • music and lullabies

Bouncers are fairly portable due to their small size, and some even go the extra mile with the ability to collapse down for easy transport and storage.

They’re quite safe, and almost always feature a multi-point harness so baby can’t climb or fall out. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye and stay nearby whenever baby’s in the bouncer.

The main uses of baby bouncers are:

  • To provide a bouncing motion that can soothe your baby
  • To provide a place for your baby to rest comfortably
  • To provide a safe solution that is portable so that you can tend to other things while you are watching your baby

Baby bouncers are very portable and can be easily moved from place to place without having to take your baby out of them. You can even place bouncers on a tabletop or bed as you work so your baby can keep her eyes on you; just remember to never leave your baby unattended.

Baby bouncers move naturally based on your baby’s motions, or by you gently nudging or jiggling the bouncer. Therefore, there is no need to keep it near a plug or worry about batteries running out of juice.

(Some models feature vibration or music that may require a small amount of battery juice.)


Pros and cons of baby bouncers

Pros

  • Natural motion: Your baby can activate a baby bouncer’s motion with his own movement. This means you never have to worry about getting batteries or finding a place to plug it in.
  • Portable: Baby bouncers are usually smaller in size and fairly easy to move around, making them super convenient.
  • Easy to use: All you need to do is put your baby in a bouncer and your baby will do the rest.
  • Quiet: Since there is no motor, there is no noise. Your baby may not care so much about this fact, but your ears will probably thank you.

Cons

  • Outgrown quickly: Baby bouncers are usually designed for babies up to about 6 months of age, so they are outgrown quickly.
  • Limited motion: Baby bouncers can only move so much since they are mostly activated by your baby’s movements. If your baby needs more intense motion, this might not work, or once your baby falls asleep (and stops moving) he might wake up since he is no longer being bounced and jiggled.

We used the basic Fisher-Price Deluxe Bouncer (Amazon link) when our daughter was little and loved it.


Rockers Explained

Click to see on Amazon

Rockers have more in common with baby swings than bouncers, however, they’re all designed to achieve a similar effect:

Soothing your baby!

Rockers are standalone devices that sit on and low to the ground, similar to a bouncer, but often use a motor and feature a back and forth rocking motion vs a bounce.

Rockers may not be as portable as a baby bouncer, but most can still be moved with relative ease. If you are looking for something with automated movement, a rocker can be a great choice.

You can find rockers in a variety of styles and colors, as well as a vast selection of shapes and sizes.

It’s important to pay close attention to the size and weight, especially if you plan to move rockers around often. Plus, you will also want to consider if rockers can only be used by plugging them in, or if they have a battery option as well, keeping in mind that some rockers are completely manual.

The main uses of rockers are:

  • To provide a soothing back and forth, swing or rocking motion for your baby
  • To provide a comfortable place for your baby to rest as you tend to other tasks

Rockers don’t all move one way; many have several different motion patterns to choose from, meaning you can cater rockers to your baby’s individual personality.

Rockers are a comfortable place for your baby to sleep, rest and relax, while you keep them close by so you can get some things accomplished — but they have a wider range of motion than bouncers and are better for fussy babies and tough sleepers.

Rockers can be simple or very fancy, depending on your needs and budget, and will sometimes include:

  • Mobile app for phone control
  • Built-in music
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Vibration
  • Etc

Sometimes, the simple ones work the best, and other times only the most luxurious will do, it all depends on what works best for you and your baby.

(P.S. Don’t confuse rockers with Rock ‘n Play Sleepers — these sleeping devices were recalled by Fisher-Price in 2019.)


Pros and cons of rockers

Pros

  • Varying motion: Rockers can often come with a selection of different rocking patterns to choose from, or at least, an option to adjust the intensity of motion. These different options give you more choices when it comes to finding what works for your baby.
  • Uninterrupted sleep: Even if your baby falls asleep, thanks to automation, rockers will keep on moving, so your baby stays asleep longer.

Cons

  • Not as portable: Rockers can be moved around, but not as easily as a baby bouncer. Plus, you really can’t move some of the larger rockers with your baby in them. If rockers need a place to plug them in, they lose even more portability since you are limited where you can put them.
  • More expensive: Bouncers are simple, mechanical devices and are usually pretty inexpensive. Rockers, on the other hand, require motors most of the time and can cost upwards of $200 for high-end models.

Many parents swear by the mamaRoo baby swing & rocker (Amazon link) for getting fussy babies to sleep and rest.


Wrapping Up

That about sums it up when it comes to baby bouncers vs. rockers!

The biggest differences between the two are the way they move.

Baby bouncers work via self-generated movements and bounce up and down as your baby moves. Rockers move back and forth with a gentle push or using a motor that works on batteries or with electricity.

In my experience, you might find a need for both of these items:

Bouncers are great for quickly plopping baby down while you attend to something else, and they can be great for quick naps and easy sleepers. The wider range of motion in a swing or rocker can come in handy for fussy babies and tough sleepers — our daughter went through a short phase where she could only sleep in her swing!

(Just remember that bouncers are usually pretty inexpensive while high-end rockers can really break the bank.)

What did I miss? Are you team-bouncer or team-rocker, and why?

And before you go, check out more baby stuff explained like:

Hope this helps!

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