Anyone who has a kid or is having a kid has probably seen this thing. It’s showcased prominently in every baby store in America and, if you’re like me, at first it probably looked like nothing more than an overly-expensive baby swing. Because, let’s be honest, if you’re either a parent or a pet owner, you see this kind of stuff all the time. The overly-expensive gadgets, preying on the fact that we love our kids and fur-kids enough to spend large amounts of money on stuff that promises more than it can deliver. That’s what I thought about the mamaRoo by 4moms, until I bought one.
When we brought my daughter home, we had a secondhand swing, and it was a nice one. She loved it. Like a lot of babies, sometimes it was the only thing that would calm her down. So it got used. A lot. And eventually it broke. If you’re a parent, you’re feeling the anxiety already. A crying baby, parents who desperately want some sleep or just a few minutes of quiet, and the magical machine is broken. So we went swing shopping, and we settled on the mamaRoo for two reasons, the first two reasons of many I came to love the thing. So, without further ado, the pros and cons.
1. Five Natural Movement Settings
The mamaRoo has 5 settings: car ride, kangaroo, tree swing, rock a bye, and ocean. Each one is designed to emulate some movement that babies commonly like. Again, I was skeptical, but car rides were about the only thing that could calm my daughter down when she really got going, so it was worth the chance. As soon as I got it home and assembled, an activity that took maybe twenty minutes for someone so technically inept that he’s not allowed near Ikea furniture, it proved its worth at once. After a couple of minutes of fiddling with the controls, we found the speed that she liked, and calm once again prevailed in our house.
These settings are one of the most unique things about the mamaRoo when compared to other swings. Whether your baby enjoys being bounced, car rides, being rocked, or the feel of a traditional swing, it has you covered. Over the course of the six months we’ve been using it, we’ve tried a bunch of different settings, but we usually stick with “car ride” at speed 4. It’s her favorite, and one thing I’ve learned as a parent is not to question the magic seat that keeps your child quiet.
2. It’s Sleep-safe
Now, I’m not suggesting that you go out and replace your bassinet with one of these, but this discovery was one of the most valuable I made during the early days of owning the mamaRoo. Because the base is stationary and the seat can’t move when in “off” mode, and the seat can go all the way down to “flat” (less than 5 degrees), it meets the federal standards for what constitutes a safe sleeping environment for a child. Again, not something I’d suggest doing all the time, but there were days when this thing made the difference between us getting sleep or not. If we left her in it until she fell asleep and then took her out, she’d wake up and begin to cry again, but if we just turned it off, she’d sleep. That, alone, was worth the price.
3. It’s Sturdy
This wasn’t something we thought much about when we bought it, but as she got older, it’s one part of the swing that we’ve been regularly impressed by. Since she turned four months old, this is one aspect that we couldn’t be more thankful for. At about that time her love of kicking things and her increase in weight meant that she was finally at risk of doing some damage. However, after two months of her attacking the swing in her persistent battle against sleep, the most she has ever managed to do is move the angle of the seat a few degrees.
4. It’s MP3 Compatible
Now, this isn’t a feature we’ve used much, but it’s one I can imagine being attractive to many parents. In addition to the large number of nature sounds that come pre-programmed, the mamaRoo can also play music from any smartphone or mp3 player. So, if you want to rock your baby to sleep with some KISS or Pearl Jam, you can do that too.
5. New 2015 Feature – Bluetooth Compatibility
One feature I haven’t had the chance to use, but spent our six months of ownership continually wishing we had, was some sort of remote control. Apparently I wasn’t alone, because that feature was added to the 2015 model that I linked above. So now, using any Bluetooth-compatible smartphone, you can turn it on/off or change settings. This doesn’t sound like much, but when all the controls are at floor-level, a remote control makes life a lot easier.
I know nothing is perfect, and the mamaRoo is no exception. While it is a lifesaver, there are a few things I would change.
1. It Gets “Obstructed”
One recurring issue, if you look at the forums and reviews, is that the mamaRoo’s obstruction sensors, intended to keep blankets and other items from being caught up in the mechanism, can sometimes begin to view itself as obstructed when there isn’t anything in the area. Perhaps it’s dust in the mechanism or a faulty sensor, but one it starts saying “obstructed,” the mamaRoo’s days are limited. While 4moms has a history of being good about these replacements, it’s only within the one-year manufacturer’s warranty that they offer. Now, if you are only planning on using it for one child, this isn’t a problem. But if, like my wife and me, you’re hoping it can be useful for a second child, you may want to consider the extended warranty.
2. It’s Expensive
And so we cycle back to the beginning of the review where I said it looks like an overly-expensive baby swing. And really, it is an overly-expensive baby swing. When you can get other high-quality baby swings for $70-$80, it’s hard to justify the expense. This is one of those items that should definitely go on the baby shower list or found at a mom-to-mom sale (likely with half of its manufacturer’s warranty remaining), but might not be a “must have” for a cash-strapped pair of new parents.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line is, the mamaRoo is a GeekDad lifesaver. While it’s expensive and the obstruction issue can be a headache, I have never regretted buying it. For me it’s enough to know that there’s a magic chair that can quiet our daughter in the same way that we can, freeing us to do something else. And sometimes, that freedom is the best gift you can be given as a parent.