In the weeks before the birth of our first child, my wife and I emptied our bank accounts buying every baby accessory we could imagine using even once or twice. After our son was born, we spent hours repackaging and returning a lot of them, because we found out the kid had his own preferences. He hated the first bassinet we bought for him, but loved the swaddling cloths. He hates to be cold, but he likes baths. And during this process, figuring out which devices to invest in took some experimentation.
At $270 (about £186 or AU$361), the 4moms MamaRoo is an expensive experiment -- especially for new parents being bombarded with medical bills and nighttime diaper runs -- but it's one that could pay off. Essentially, the device is a Bluetooth-connected chair that, according the advertisements, "moves like you do." 4moms attempted to replicate the range of movement patterns and speed that parents use to rock their children to sleep. Whether it calms your child will depend on his or her particular preferences, this base mechanic works really well.
The MamaRoo isn't a perfect product. It has major technical shortcomings --particularly with its basic mobile app and terrible speakers. Even in light of these issues, I like the MamaRoo. Unless you've got $270 lying around, though, you should wait to buy it until you're sure it's what your baby needs.
The 4moms MamaRoo is basically an adjustable seat that can rock your baby in various patterns at a few speed levels. The seat can sit up for babies getting a handle on balancing, and it can lie back for newborns. The seat itself is made of a soft multi-plush material that is gentle on the skin (though a slightly less expensive model just has a rough nylon material that you'll have to line with your own blanket), and it's machine washable.
Setting up the MamaRoo is a breeze. The instructions are clear, the pieces fit together simply, and connecting it to your phone with Bluetooth will take a minute at most. I had my MamaRoo up and running in less than 10 minutes.
MamaRoo also features a hanging mobile, speakers, and sound effects to calm the baby. You can control the volume, select the sound effects, adjust the movement speed, and choose the movement pattern, all from an app. It's like you get an extra pair of arms to rock your baby, and it's mostly hands-free for you.
My wife parents full-time, I help as much as I can, and our son is surprisingly relaxed. But we still felt the relief of having a device that rocked and engaged him. For fussier kids or busier parents, MamaRoo could be a lifesaver.
For its creative and well-designed base, MamaRoo's extra features are disappointing. When I first set it up, I could imagine using it to rock my son to sleep, engage him with the mobile, stimulate him with music, and calm him with ambient sounds like a heartbeat, the ocean or rain. Besides its basic function, none of these added features worked well.
The mobile has high potential for a smart baby seat. This one not only looks flimsy and basic, with three suspended balls of different color and design -- it also requires you to manually spin it. Yet the whole idea of this device is to distract kids while parents can finish a little work (or just rest). My son is curious and loves watching new and interesting things, and he was bored with the mobile in under a minute.
The second big weakness is the sound system. If I didn't know what ambient sound I was selecting, I would probably have thought they were all just slightly different patterns of white noise. When using the speaker for music instead, I was even more disappointed. Not only is the top volume about equivalent to my iPhone at 30 percent volume, but the sound quality is terrible. I could barely hear any individual strand of music besides the most percussive mid-levels.
Finally, I love the Bluetooth app control of the MamaRoo, but for some reason, even if I wanted to use my phone's music with the speaker, that doesn't have Bluetooth functionality. So to connect my music to the speaker, I have to walk over to the device, plug in my phone with the included auxiliary cord (which is only a couple of inches long), and leave my phone beside it. Given the issues with sound quality and the lack of Bluetooth speaker connection, after a day or two, I just started using my phone's speakers for music.
If you're looking for good speakers or a device to visually engage your child, then MamaRoo won't cut it. The last thing you want is a $270 investment gathering dust in a corner.
But for parents who can't seem to find any seat or bassinet that their baby likes, the 4moms MamaRoo could make those first few months manageable.