Look, I know that we’re not supposed to really think about “style” when it comes to baby equipment: in the same way that you have to accept that your vintage sideboard is probably going to have Ella’s Kitchen broccoli and swede puree caked onto it permanently by this time next year, or that your best sofa cushions are most likely going to get stained and ruined, when choosing baby “stuff” you are, it seems, supposed to think more about functionality and safety and how greatly it entertains/stimulates your baby.
It now feels ridiculous that we ever sat down to discuss the exact specification of our kitchen units (champagne glass) or got pernickety about the finish on our matte-white, minimalist, perfectly-rendered walls; I can imagine that the worries we had when renovating our house will become completely and utterly pointless when the baby is old enough to run along the open-plan kitchen-diner with a marker pen/piece of beetroot/twig/plastic fairy wand in her hand. It’s laughable that we waited months for a set of corner sliding glass doors “to bring the outside in” and “provide an uninterrupted view into the garden” when almost the entire view is obscured by the great big f*ck-off Fisher Price Jumperoo that we’ve installed in the dining room…
Don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge any of the rolling/bouncing/sleeping/jumping/feeding equipment that I’ve installed in my house – some of it has provided quite literally days of fun, hours of relief from constantly jiggling a bored baby, whole months of unadulterated amusement. Most of it has been pretty much essential. But why oh why do the things that are bouncy/jingly/interesting have to be so bloody ugly?
This review is long overdue; I’ve been using the Soft Bouncer since Angelica was about three weeks old. It is as useful now, at six months, as it was then – a completely adaptable bouncer that’s brilliant in its simplicity and provides a comfortable, safe place to put your baby down when you need the use of your arms. (Which tends to be quite a lot.)
The BabyBjorn Balance Soft Bouncer is sort of an updated version of those classic bouncers that they had in the seventies and eighties – the bouncer that many of my own baby pictures were taken in – that has a fabric seat that moulds to the baby’s body and supports head and neck. With the Balance Bouncer the baby’s weight is evenly distributed so that even the smallest baby is properly held – no little heads lolling forward or necks dropping into awkward angles. Which is incredibly important in the first few months especially – I was quite paranoid about head support but felt confident that the Balance Bouncer was more than adequate in that department.
For the first few months, the bouncing action was gentle at best – the bounce is completely baby-supplied, so the more they move, the more the bouncer bounces. Now that Angelica can really kick with quite some force, we have to actually limit the time in the bouncer because she gets too excited! But I still love that she is properly supported, even if she is trying to sit up and bounce her way free… No batteries required, just baby-power: or you can rest your toes on the very bottom of the bouncer and flex them, which provides just enough motion to lull your baby to sleep.
I really like the simple, stylish design – very pleasing, especially if you like clean lines and unfussy fabrics. True, there are no inbuilt “tunes” or vibrating seats or dangling plastic lions with the Balance Soft, but this bouncer just does what it says on the tin – bounces. It has been the default place to put the baby down when I’ve been upstairs in the lounge (which has been a lot of the time) – and when I’ve been off visiting people, it has been the chair that I’ve taken with me. It unclasps so that the frame lies completely flat, meaning that it takes up barely any car space at all – and in terms of storage at home, it’s a dream. You can pop it behind the sofa, under the bed, in that space between the fridge and the wall…
The BabyBjorn isn’t the most inexpensive bouncer on the market by any means, but in terms of value-for-money it’s superb. Impeccably designed, and probably one of the few that will actually last from birth until when the baby has started to toddle about. (In fact it’s suitable up until about two years because the seat fabric is reversible, turning the bouncer into a rocking seat for those who have started to walk. Tried it with my two-year-old niece over Christmas and she didn’t want to get out of it. Though I suspect she was a little bit over the weight limit.) The fabric is easy to remove and wash and even with an accidental 60º spin-cycle (oops) it hasn’t shrunk or become misshapen. I’m properly impressed.
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