Pros: * Plug-in option
* Two swing options
* Variety of songs/sounds
Cons: * Expensive!
* No auto-shut off
* Tray issue
With our first child, we had Fisher Price's Ocean Wonders Aquarium Cradle Swing and loved it. Since I sold that off shortly after she stopped using it, we needed to buy a new one for our second child, born 3 years later. By this time, Fisher Price made some nice enhancements to its cradle swing. In short, the Fisher Price Rainforest Cradle Swing is even better than our Aquarium Swing.
General Advice re: Swings
For parents-to-be who don't know much about swings, let me outline a few basic principles to keep in mind. There are travel swings, regular swings, and cradle swings. Travel swings are smaller and more portable and lack some features the other types have. Regular swings are larger, sometimes can be plugged directly into an AC outlet (as opposed to burning up batteries or having a crank mechanism), and swing front-to-back. A cradle swing is like a regular swing but also swings side-to-side.
Rainforest Cradle Swing's Features
Where the Aquarium swing had fish and sea-themed animals, the Rainforest swing has an elephant, monkey, parrot, toucan and other jungle animals. In addition, while our Aquarium model featured lots of different shades of calming blue, this Rainforest pattern is much more varied, with greens, oranges, blues, and reds. I like the contrast of the different colors.
The chair itself is actually a plastic base that isn't even a full chair! If you lift off the fabric covering, you can see that there really isn't a seat back (just a wire frame). At first, that made me a bit nervous, as the Aquarium model had a full plastic seat back that hinged where the seat back met the seat bottom (to allow for adjustments in the recline). On this model, you adjust the wire frame to recline it. However, the seat fabric is sturdy enough to hold a child up to 25 pounds and not having a firm plastic seat back means it fits more snugly like a hammock. There's also a padded head pillow attached to the fabric seat that provides more plushness for your baby.
The swing has a 3 point harness to secure your infant and a removable snack tray that latches closed over your infant's lap. Note that we never used that tray for actual snacks with my first daughter since pediatricians recommend waiting until 6 months old to feed solids and my babies have been too huge at that size to use the tray with the swing.
There are two entertainment options for your baby to enjoy when not sleeping: (1) a rotating mobile featuring 3 small stuffed animals (red/orange frog, yellow monkey, and blue toucan) and 3 palm fronds that flap up and down and (2) 12 different sounds/songs that range from upbeat tropical music (the first song featuring steel drums is my 3 year old toddler's favorite) to soothing melodies/background noise (rushing water?) and lively rainforest sounds (frog ribbiting, monkey screeches, etc. so not what you'd put on to lull baby to sleep). You can choose to have just sound and no mobile, just mobile and no sound, or both at the same time.
To control the three main features (swing motion, mobile, and sound), you have a turn dial for the swing motion and two switches for the mobile and music. The turn dial sets the speed, as there are 6 speed settings, so you can adjust according to your baby's preferences. I've found that as your baby grows and gets heavier, you have to increase the speed setting to match the same swing speed. Most newborns will probably prefer the lowest speed setting since it still swings pretty quickly because they're so much lighter. The swing can hold babies up to 25 pounds and we found that at one point, as my eldest daughter got closer to 20 pounds, even the highest speed setting wouldn't swing as quickly as she preferred.
The switch for the mobile turns it on or off, while the switch for the music has the lively music option (with 5 songs), soothing melodies/background noise option, and the lively rainforest sounds option.
Comparing it to other Cradle Swings
Fisher Price, Graco, and other manufacturers offer several swing models. Since we previously owned a Fisher Price cradle swing (albeit in a different pattern), I am best able to compare this model to that model. The actual operation is identical. You also have the option of turning just the swing on; swing and mobile; swing, mobile and sound; sound only; and mobile only.
First, this swing can be powered by either batteries or an AC outlet plug. Most swings are battery-powered so this is a great option to save on batteries and minimize the environmental impact of using dozens and dozens of batteries. Simply flip the switch on the back of the motor to choose which one you prefer. I always hated how we burned through so many batteries on the old Aquarium swing, yet this model still retains the battery option if you wish to travel with the swing or move it someplace where no outlet is available.
Second, the Rainforest swing has a nice locking mechanism so you know how wide the support legs need to be. On the old Aquarium model, we just pushed it wide until the swing seemed stable but were never quite certain. On the Rainforest model, it actually clicks when you're at the right width.
Third, the mobile with the cute toys that circle your baby's head can now be swung out of the way. This means you don't have to stoop so awkwardly to lift your baby in and out without banging her head on the mobile. Instead of a lit water globe like on the Aquarium model, it's a flat base from which rainforest animals dangle and 3 palm fronds/leaves flap up and down.
Fourth, you can adjust the recline level of the seat, so your baby can be placed more upright if she has reflux or is congested.
Fifth, the mechanism for switching swing positions from side-to-side to front-to-back (or vice versa) differs. Rather than pushing a button overhead like on the Aquarium model to adjust the seat position, on the Rainforest you just turn the seat until it clicks.
I bought the Rainforest swing off Craiglist for $40, as opposed to over $100 new. I knew we wanted a cradle swing and I definitely wanted the plug-in option. Other than that, I didn't know what we were getting.
It was already assembled, but I can see that putting it together isn't that difficult as the metal tubes connect with "button locks" that pop up when they're correctly connected. I immediately removed the fabric cover and washed it upon bringing it home. It is durable and the cover looks like new. The fabric seems to be higher quality, as my Aquarium swing's cover had a fuzzy pillow that pilled up quickly while this Rainforest fabric doesn't have the capacity to pill.
We keep this in my daughter's nursery, but it has a huge footprint. It literally blocks an entire half of her closet, so I use the sliding door on the right to access the closet. Parents with limited space may want to opt for a travel swing instead.
My second daughter hated this swing during the first week, so we only used it as a temporary "holding space" for her when we needed to deal with our older daughter. In the second week, she'd tolerate it for 3-4 songs (about 15 minutes?) but then she'd start fussing. Then, at the end of the second week, she finally started sleeping in the swing for upwards of 20-30 minutes if I waited until she was drowsy. Normally, she doesn't seem to care for it much while awake, greatly preferring her bouncer or even better, being held by someone. During her 7th week, she finally started to tolerate the swing at night and has slept up to 3 hours in it!
This brings me to that age old adage about how no two babies are alike. With my first daughter, the swing immediately proved its value as it would lull her to sleep each night until the next feeding instead of my holding her for 30 minutes or more until I could slip her into her crib. We tried to avoid having her sleep in the swing all night, but there were certainly stints where she spent 2-3 hours in it. I also found that in the early morning when she was awake but it wasn't yet time for the rest of the family to wake up, I could put her in the swing and turn on the mobile without any sound so she could watch it until she fell back asleep.
After nearly 2 months, this daughter has finally adjusted to the swing and allowed us to place her in it (without crying or fussing!) at night for more than 30 minutes. I'm so glad I didn't decide to just sell this off when she was 5 or 6 weeks old! While the cradle swing is useful now, it wasn't as indispensable right from the get go this time around. Nevertheless, I would stil highly recommend this model to parents of babies who do like swings.
While I am very pleased overall with this model, I think there are just a few minor issues. First, the one drawback to having the plug-in option is that the mobile/music feature stays on indefinitely. Our battery-operated Fisher Price Papasan bouncer will stop vibrating and stop the music after a set period. I believe the battery-operated Fisher Price Aquarium swing was the same way. On the Rainforest model, one can easily forget to turn off one of the features. For example, my husband may not notice the mobile is turned on and will only turn off the swing motion switch.
The other feature I have a minor quibble with is the snack tray, which has "pommel" like thing underneath that goes in between the legs to prevent your infant from slipping out. Unlike the Aquarium swing, where the flat tray snapped on/off, this one is screwed in on one side so you can't lift it on and off as easily. The first week, when we dressed my daughter in gowns for easier diaper changing, I couldn't put the tray down because the gown got in the way. I wasn't about to go rummaging for a screwdriver at 2 am that night and since she didn't like the swing for more than a minute during that week anyway, I just left the tray on. Still, making the tray screwed in isn't an upgrade in my book.
Finally, I find it peculiar that the swing sometimes squeaks annoyingly. It will sometimes stop squeaking on its own only to start up again. I've tried experimenting with different speed settings but it doesn't seem to consistently happen. I'm not sure if it's a defect in my specific swing or a product design issue.
The Rainforest swing is an excellent upgrade from the battery-operated Aquarium swing, aside from some minor complaints. If your child tolerates/likes swings, this is a great choice. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.