Rocker vs Glider: Which Chair is Right for Your Nursery? (Differences Explained)

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A nursery rocking chair
M Sundstrom/Flickr

Oh, the excitement that comes along with having a new baby; there’s just nothing quite like it!

Of course, along with all of that joy also comes a lot of questions:

  • How many diapers will we use each day?
  • What if he cries all of the time?
  • How do I get him to calm down when he’s upset?

Look, it’s a given that your baby is going to cry, and probably cry a lot. One of the ways you can calm your baby is by using a gentle rocking motion or some other form of movement, which is one of the reasons people buy rockers and gliders.

It might seem like these two items are one and the same, but they actually have their differences.

In this article, I want to break down the differences between rockers vs. gliders and help you decide which one is right for you; and it might be both!

So…what is the difference between rocking chairs and gliders?

The main difference between rockers and gliders is their range of motion or movement. A rocking chair literally rocks back and forth on its legs in an arc and its swaying movement can be pretty intense. A glider, on the other hand, moves smoothly in a back and forth motion upon a fixed track.

Gliders usually (though not always) have more features like the ability to lock in place, recline, or swivel.

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

Rockers Explained

Click to see on Amazon

Rocking chairs have been around for ages.

There’s probably nothing more classic when it comes to new babies than the sight of a mother snuggling her infant as they sway back and forth in a beautiful wooden rocker.

Rockers have evolved some over the years in terms of style and materials, but they’ve retained their basic function, which is to rock back on forth on their arched legs. 

You can find rockers with and without padding, in a variety of colors, and ranging from very basic to very detailed designs.

Depending on the look you want for your nursery, you might go with a classic wooden rocker, or you may find a more modern style that is a better fit.

However, whichever style you choose, keep in mind that you are going to be sitting in this chair very often, so comfort should be your top priority when making your selection.

(Most parents find a cushion on the firmer side is just right for longer sessions.)

The main uses of rockers are:

  • To provide a soothing motion as you rock your baby
  • To provide a comfortable place to nurse, feed, cuddle, and hold your baby

Rockers come in a variety of sizes and styles, and though they are often placed in a nursery, they can also be used in another spot in the house like the bedroom or playroom.

Rockers are a comfortable place where you can spend time with your baby, whether it is to rock her to sleep, nurse her, or just cuddle. 

Rockers can be the old-school, wooden, simple classic that conjures up images of grandma knitting, or they can be sleek, completely upholstered chairs that are set on rocking legs.

It all depends on what you are looking for and the level of comfort that you desire.

Pros and cons of rockers


  • Intense Motion: A rocker provides a swaying motion that can be extremely comforting for your baby, simulating the rocking motion that she felt when she was in the womb. Since a rocker is free-moving, you can control the motion, making it small or very intense.
  • Classic Look: A rocking chair and a nursery go hand in hand. If you are looking for a classic design for your baby’s room, a rocker can be an excellent choice.


  • Large Footprint: When you get a rocker, you need to make sure that you allow for enough space not only for the chair itself but for the additional room needed for it to complete its full motion. Although there are some smaller models available, overall, a rocker can become overpowering in a small room.
  • Safety: As your baby gets older and starts to crawl and toddle around, a rocker can become a safety concern because it is more prone to tipping and moving around than a glider.

A great example of a nursery rocker is the Delta Lancaster (Amazon link).

Check out photos & reviews from real parents by hitting the link.

Gliders Explained

Click to see on Amazon

Gliders offer a smooth, back and forth motion as they move along a fixed track.

Their movement is not as aggressive as the arching motion that rockers provide, but they are still very comfortable and can be a great addition to your nursery.

Gliders are a great option for a place to soothe and snuggle your baby, and gliders provide an excellent and comfortable place to nurse.

Many gliders also come with a matching ottoman that can either be fixed or glide along with the chair. 

Gliders can be sleek or extra plush, and they come in a variety of designs (just do a quick Google or Amazon search and you’ll be overwhelmed by all the styles out there!).

You need to allow enough room for the glider to fully move back and forth, but since gliders don’t have the arched legs like a rocker, a smaller model might be a better fit if your nursery is pressed for space.

The main uses of gliders are:

  • To provide a comfortable place to sit with your baby
  • To provide a smooth, noiseless motion to help soothe your baby

Pros and cons of gliders


  • Smooth Movement: Gliders offer an extremely smooth, quiet motion since they glide along a fixed track.
  • Comfortable: Gliders are often upholstered and very comfortable, plus many come with an ottoman that lets you put up your feet while you relax.
  • Safety Features: Many gliders can be locked into position, making them safe for little fingers.
  • Options: Many gliders have the ability to recline, swivel, or become stationary, making them a more versatile furniture piece.
  • Smaller Footprint: The range of motion is usually smaller on a glider, so they can sometimes be a better choice for small rooms


  • Squished Fingers: Fingers can get caught in the gliding mechanism, so you’ll want to make sure to always keep an eye on baby when he’s toddling around the chair. Purchasing a glider that comes with a locking feature can help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Limited Movement: Since a glider moves along a fixed track, you are limited in terms of the level of intensity that you can generate.

Check out the Windsor Glider and Ottoman on Amazon for one of the top picks for new parents.

Wrapping Up

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

The biggest difference between the two is the way they move. Rockers provide the option for a more intense movement that you can control with your body; gliders offer a more even-keel, smooth ride.

Otherwise, rockers and gliders both offer many of the same benefits for both you and your baby. Gliders tend to be more economical when it comes to space and usually have more features, but you’ll want to look into specific models to see what catches your eye.

All rockers and gliders are not created equal; there are a ton of different styles and designs, and some might put form before function and not be very comfortable.

Therefore, before you purchase any rocker or glider, give it a test run at your local Buy Buy Baby or another baby store to see how it feels!

I hope this helps, parents, and good luck with your search!

And before you go, check out more baby 101 articles like: