rockers and gliders buying guideOnce your new baby arrives, you’ll be spending more time than you could ever imagine sitting in a rocker or glider. They’re great for feeding, rocking your baby to sleep, reading a bedtime story, or just putting your feet up and squeezing in a few minutes of R&R whenever you have the opportunity.

When it comes to what type to get, there are lots of choices, and important differences between rockers and gliders. Here, we’ll help break it down for you.

What are rockers and gliders?

A rocker is that traditional rocking chair you probably remember having when you were a kid, and that might still very well be at the grandparents’ house. It’s a chair that rocks in an arc motion, back and forth. They’re usually made of wood, wicker, or possibly fabric, and sometimes with a cushion. But they’re usually fairly simple in design.

rockers and gliders - kidiway santa maria bonded leather gliderA glider, on the other hand, offers many more features, and comes in many different types and styles, including bow, sleigh, transitional, curved, grand, or two-post; and in wood or upholstered, or a combination of both. They can move forwards and backwards, and some swivel 360-degrees on a fixed track. Sometimes, they can recline, and come with a matching ottoman (or you can buy one separately), or a built-in footrest. It’s essentially an updated, more modern version of the traditional rocker that functions between a rocker and a rocking armchair/recliner.

Advantages with a rocker

A traditional rocker will probably be cheaper, and likely smaller as well, taking up less space in the nursery, or wherever you plan to put it. This makes them great for a very small room, or as a secondary rocking option for the basement or grandparent’s house. They are usually easy to clean by simply wiping down with a cloth.

rockers and gliders buying guideAdvantages with a glider

There are more options with gliders, and although they tend to be larger, they can also includes more comfort features, like extra padding, the ability to swivel so you can keep an eye on a second child or toddler, for example, pockets for storing items, and a footrest or ottoman so you can put your feet up.

My glider with matching ottoman became my daily chair: after nursing and rocking my son to sleep, I’d often recline back and catch some ZZZs myself while he took a nap, or grab the TV remote from the side pocket and watch a movie while he was deep in slumber.

A glider is also designed so that it can’t accidentally pinch little fingers or toes as it moves back and forth, thanks to a fixed track. This can happen with a rocker, which rocks back and forth, since the front and back inches closer to the floor as you move. This makes gliders a more attractive option if you have another walking or crawling toddler in the house, or even a pet, and are worried that they might scoot underneath as rocking is in session.

rockers and gliders buying guideWhat to look for when shopping for a rocker or glider

Where will you put it?

First, decide where it’s going to go, as this might impact the type you choose. Chances are, it will be in the nursery. But this isn’t always the case. For example, I lived in a condo when my son was born, and we decided to place the glider in the living room because we had more space there, and it would allow me to relax there during day and evening nursing sessions while enjoying some television, or chatting with my husband.

If you are using it in a very small space, it might be best to get a simple rocker. If you’re planning to park it right smack-dab in the living room, where it could be used by visitors as well, or beyond you child’s baby years, an upholstered reclining glider might be the smarter purchase.

Where you put it might also impact the choice of colour and design: while a glider with a bold, patterned material might add a nice design touch to the nursery, if you plan to keep rockers and gliders buying guide - stork craft hoop custom glider and ottomanthe chair in a central part of the home both during and after your child’s first year, a solid, dark colour might make the most sense.

Design options

That leads to the many design options from which you can choose. If it’s going in the nursery, you’ll want a colour and design that fits. If the room is designed with solid colours, for example, maybe you want a glider with a fun, patterned fabric that will pop, or want something in a soft pastel hue like pink for a little girl’s nursery, or with floral motifs or bold blue and white stripes. Conversely, perhaps you just want one with a dark finish that will fit with light paint colours in the room, and work equally well in other rooms of the home if you decide to re-locate the chair.

Along with colours, look at the different material options, which might include wood, woven fabric, bonded leather, and/or other materials. You’ll want something that is easy to clean: the rocker or glider will inevitably be the victim of accidental spills and spit up. If you can wipe it down easily, that’s a bonus. Even better if you can remove the fabric or cushion to wash it. Otherwise, you’ll want something you can wipe down with a cloth and fabric rockers and gliders buying guide - stork craft tuscany glider and ottomancleaner, or a handy homemade solution. Dark fabric has a hidden advantage beyond being versatile for fitting with a room’s decor: it can also better hide stains!

If you are opting for a glider, but still have limited space, consider looking for one with a built-in footrest instead of a separate ottoman, since that will take up less room. Once the footrest is down, it sits flush in the chair, and only pops up when you recline it.

Functionality and comfort

Look at the various functions of the glider, including how it moves and glides on the tracks, as well as how easy it is to recline, if it has that option, and how far back it can go. Look for things like seat and back cushions that provide good lumbar support, as well as arm rests.

Handy things like pockets might sound like nice extras, but I found the side pockets of my glider to be of tremendous value. They were a great place to put the bottle when I needed to stop and burp my son, and to hold small burp cloths to clean up spills or spit up, or rest over my shoulder before burp time. They were also perfect for holding the TV remote and smartphone, and maybe even a granola bar for a quick snack if you’re unable to get up, as well as storage for a water bottle for your much needed hydration. Also use them to keep thinrockers and gliders - kidiway condo nursery glidergs like books, baby toys, and an extra pacifier or blanket for easy access. Some gliders might also include cup holders so you can enjoy your morning coffee, or for putting the baby’s bottle down to avoid spills.

What to do before buying a rocker or glider

The most important thing to do before buying a rocker or glider is to sit in it and rock. See how smoothly it moves on the tracks, and how seamlessly it can swivel from side to side. Check the width of the seat to ensure you have some extra room to move around and re-adjust yourself – you could be sitting in it for hours on end. You also want some extra space to set up a nursing pillow if you plan to use one.

Check the cushions to see how comfortable they are, including both the seat and backrest, as well as arm cushions, if any. While you won’t be able to determine how comfortable the chair might be after sitting in it for long periods of time (unless you want to park yourself at the store for a few hours!) you can usually tell pretty quickly if a chair meets you comfort needs by sitting in it for a few minutes, and observing how your back, legs, arms, and head feel. Consider how it feels against your skin as well: if you have sensitive skin, you don’t want material that might irritate it.

rockers and gliders buying guideRecline back if the glider has that feature, and see how easy it is to do so, and move the chair back to the seated position. And see if it can recline as far back as you might like, to one or more desirable positions. Does the chair jerk? Is it a seamless movement that requires little effort? Also, check if the glider has a locking mechanism that can stop the chair from moving if you want, as this could be a useful feature.

Put your feet up on the built-in footrest or ottoman to gauge comfort. Some ottomans can also rock back and forth, which is perfect for rocking your baby to sleep while you relax as well to sleep with him. When seated, check that your feet can comfortably reach the floor. With a rocker, see if you feel like you’re missing a footrest, or could do without one.

Look at the fabric and ask yourself both how it will fit with the decor of your room, and how easy it is to clean. You might want a glider in a material like bonded leather, for example, that can be easily wiped down. And think a few years down the line: if the glider might become a perfect reclining chair in the living room, look at solid, dark colours and consider investing a bit more money for a chair that can do double duty beyond the baby years.

Measure it against the space where you want to put it, to ensure it will fit properly, and you’ll have plenty of room to rock back and forth without hitting walls or leaving too small gaps between the back of the chair and the wall. And measure a glider when it’s reclined rockers and gliders buying guide - pocketsand with a footrest in the out position, or with the matching ottoman, to consider the space you’ll need for that as well.

Don’t forget to check the warranty and what it covers. While you never expect something to go wrong, warranties can come in handy in the event of a defect of some kind.

Bottom line about rockers and gliders

Gliders are more modern and feature-rich than rockers, and are ideal for comfort, especially for parents who might find themselves sleeping in them often, and using them for everything from feeding to nap and story times. But if you are looking for a simple solution for the nursery that you can sit in to rock baby to sleep, or do a quick late-night feeding session, a rocker might do just fine. It did the trick for decades before us, after all!

The most important thing to consider is how much time you’ll be spending in the chair, and where it will go. Since my chair was in the living room, and I used it multiple times daily, often for several hours at a time since I often couldn’t bring myself to transfer my son to his crib during his hour-long daytime naps, our glider was one of the most important purchases we made.

Take the next step

Check out plenty of rockers and gliders from top brands at Best Buy Online.

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Christine Persaud
I am a tech expert and journalist with 12 years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism. I write for a number of technology, business, parenting, family, and lifestyle Websites, blogs, and magazines. A self-professed lover of tech, I'm also a passionate foodie (and aspiring baker), a TV junkie (PVRs rule!), and a proud mother to a toddler-aged son.

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