When a woman comes across a poorly designed product for the fairer sex, it's often heard with a heavy sigh that it must have been designed by a man. The thinking, of course, is that when it comes to products for women, who better to create them than women ourselves?
The same may ring true for babies. While they aren't nearly as dexterous nor creative enough just yet to design their own products, their mothers are. And this is exactly the thinking that the company 4moms employs. While it wasn't started by a quartet of mamas as the name implies, the company did use a research panel of four mothers to design and bring to market its first products in 2005. And today, the innovative company is highlighting its newest creation: the mamaRoo.
Baby swings have moved far beyond the trusted and true Jolly Jumper or stand-and-push models of yesteryear. Today's swings plug in to AC power, securely strap baby in, and move on their own. They serve as great temporary babysitters when mom needs a moment to herself, or baby needs a quick daytime nap. They come with sounds and music, and some of the highest tech models even let you plug in a portable player and use built-in speakers to soothe baby to a custom selection of tunes.
MamaRoo is one such model, but with an arguably much slicker, more modern design than most of the models on the market today, along with a range of movements that you won't find in other swings.
The idea behind this baby "swing" is that rather than soothe baby with a somewhat unnatural side-to-side or robotic up/down bouncing motion like most baby swings do, the mamaRoo mimicks more natural, familiar motions, like mommy rocking baby in her arms, or a calming car ride. This means, yes, up and down, but with more delicate, fluid movements.
Since he was born this past January, my now five-month-old son has been enjoying the Graco Sweetpeace Soothing Centre ($280), one of the most high-tech baby swings on the market today. Next to the similarly-priced mamaRoo ($250-$270), however, the Sweetpeace looks out-dated, despite the fact that it can accomplish virtually all of the same basic tasks. The Sweetpeace, like most other swings, moves baby at eight different speeds, but only rigidly from side to side. MamaRoo moves at adjustable speeds as well, but with motions like car ride (a smooth side-to-side option with some up/down to simulate bumps); kangaroo (which moves baby in a hopping motion as he might move if he were in a kangaroo mama's pouch); and ocean wave, which goes in a circular motion, like calming water. The names cleverly appeal to mothers, too. Everyone knows the old trick of driving baby around in the car to sooth him if he's crying. When you think of protective mamas, the kangaroo is right up there on that list. The ocean? Just watching baby sway to the virtual waves could easily soothe mom herself. And rock-a-bye baby? No explanation is needed for that one.
The mamaRoo comes in six design options, from muted to bold patterns with fabric that (music to any mom's ears) can be easily removed and is machine-washable. You can also buy replaceable fabric, allowing moms to change the look to match the décor. The recline-able seat reminds me of seats one might find in an upscale bar: sleek black and oval-shaped, with silver trim and a base of solid white. Baby will sit at about the level of your living room sofa cushions, making it easy to take him in and out without standing up. Other swings, like the Sweetpeace, position baby higher up; at your eye level, which some may prefer. It'll accommodate a baby up to 25lbs.
Unlike the loud and clack-ety toys on other swings, the mamaRoo comes with three soft, reversible ball toys that baby can grab and examine as he enjoys the rocking pleasure. On one on side are patterns in black and white for newborns, and on the other are the same patterns in colour.
While the built-in speakers are nothing to write home about, we enjoyed having our son relax to tunes like Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know and Billy Joel's Piano Man instead of standard lullabies. That is, when he wasn't enjoying the built-in sounds, like ocean waves.
It's clear this swing was designed for the utmost simplicity. It's easily assembled in less than 10 minutes, and the instruction guide is cleverly devoid of words: just pictures that explain the basics. There's an LCD panel on the front that displays the five motions, a mode dial for navigating and adjusting speeds, a selection button, a music button, and a 3.5mm jack and cable for connecting an audio player. Unfortunately, these are at the bottom of the unit, which means you'll have to crouch down to the floor to manipulate them, or use your toes. You'll have to position your mobile device there as well, though there's a nifty recessed spot that perfectly fits an iPhone. At the back is a lock tab that is pushed down to secure the unit in place, or popped up to adjust the recline position for baby's optimum comfort.
One complaint I have with the mamaRoo is that it's loud: while soothing for baby, the unit emits a constant motor noise that can be distracting. It can, of course, be drowned out by simply upping the volume on the tunes or built-in nature sounds.
My baby's first 15 minutes in the mamaRoo were absolute bliss. He was completely silent, mesmerized by his new toy, and clearly quite relaxed by all five of the soothing motions. Perhaps too relaxed. While he tends to fidget with the built-in toys, stimulating his mind in the Sweetpeace, he lies still and reflectively in the mamaRoo, often not even bothering with the three soft ball toys that hang just within his reach.
Over time, it became evident that while the mamaRoo is a great option if you're looking for a baby swing to add to your baby registry or purchase for your newborn or upcoming bundle of joy, it's no magical solution. While keeping in mind that every baby is different, in my case, the mamaRoo wasn't any more or less effective than my Graco Sweetpeace Soother at soothing and comforting baby.
That said, it does look a heck of a lot cooler, and is sure to elicit "oohs" and "ahhs" from other moms, and even high-tech dads who will kick themselves for not having realized they could get their babies on board with such a cool AV toy. The mamaRoo is the epitome of modern design for babies. If you're looking for a high-tech baby swing that has built-in sounds, audio player connectivity, and soothing motions, the mamaRoo is a viable option for a competitive price at the top end of the market.
-Great modern and sleek design
-Connect a portable audio player for your own music/sounds
-Smooth, fluid movements
-Must crouch down to manipulate menu
-Not as interactive as other comparable swings