In the middle of the night, when your baby is inconsolable, few things will be as soothing to both of you as a good rocking session. The gentle motion will help turn tears to sniffles to sleep in no time. And just think how much you'll appreciate not having to pace back and forth with your baby at three in the morning.

But a rocker will be good for more than lulling your child to sleep. It will also be great for middle-of-the-night feedings, and it will eventually become a soothing place for story-time. That said, a rocker is not essential, but for those with the budget and the space, it's definitely nice to have.

your basic choices

rockers
This is a simple concept that needs little introduction—it's any chair that rocks. They come in all kinds of styles, from vintage wooden rocking chairs to the latest in cushioned comfort.

gliders
Most indoor gliders are big, plush, reclining, and specifically designed for parenting. Their gentle gliding motion requires little effort and can be just as soothing as rocking.

general guidance

This varies by preference, but look for a good rocking or gliding motion. Generally speaking, a gentle and deep motion is more soothing than fast and short. Test for how much noise the chair makes while it's in motion because a squeaking chair is counterproductive when you're trying to rock your baby to sleep.

feature to look for

  • Generous seat. Remember, the chair will eventually need to accommodate both you and a growing toddler, who will still want to climb into your lap for soothing and reading.
  • Good head rest. Make sure the headrest is comfortable and high enough to support your head—something you'll value during those sleepy, middle-of-the-night feedings.
  • Adjustable leg rest. If your chair doesn't have one, a footstool might be a solution, but you'll need to find a leg position that's comfortable for you.
  • Cleanable. Anything that involves a nursing baby means spit-ups and spills, so avoid fabrics that can't be cleaned. Washable slipcovers are also a popular option.

stage considerations

A rocker is great for the nursing and bottle-feeding stage, but its usefulness doesn't end there. It can help with nighttime soothing at any age and live on as a favorite chair for story-time.

lifestyle considerations

Space. Gliders in particular can be big, so more streamlined rockers present a better option for the space-constrained. Either way, make sure you measure before you buy.

usage tips

  • Ottoman or footstool. Although you should be able to sit comfortably with your feet on the ground, these will help you find an even more comfortable position to alleviate back strain.
  • Equipment bag. Sort of like a "stuff" holder that hangs off your glider, this helps keep you from having to get up mid-snuggle. Use these to stash extra burp cloths and binkies, and maybe even a bottle of water or magazine for you.

accessories

  • Changing pads. These pads are what the baby lies on during changes. Vinyl pads are surface-washable and cloth-covered pads are machine-washable; both are waterproof. Some are just a simple, flat pad; others are curved to keep a wiggling baby in place. Most come with a safety belt for extra safety.
  • Changing pad cover. Protect your changing pad with this extra layer. Covers come in all sorts of styles, colors, and fabrics, from terry to cotton to sherpa. Just make sure yours are machine-washable to get the most out of them.
  • Diaper caddy. Keep your diapering supplies organized and close at hand. There are lots of different styles, but anything with several compartments should do the trick.
  • Diaper pail. The least expensive are plastic, but be careful: they may not be as economical if they require specific refill bags, and you may find they're not airtight enough to keep in odors once your child is on solids. Metal diaper pails cost more, but a really good one can be virtually odor-proof.
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