Gliders are a development of the humble rocking chair, a simple but essential piece of furniture for many homes. Generations of parents have sworn by rockers for nursing and lulling babies to sleep: this is because the regular rocking motion induces feelings of calm relaxation, for parent as well as baby. Gliders work on the same principle; but where rockers rock up and down, gliders glide back and forth, making it easier to keep a regular rhythm and cutting out any feelings of motion sickness. For this reason and more gliders are increasingly popular with new parents and nursing mothers, as they can make a big difference to some of the trickiest and most taxing parts of looking after a newborn. It’s also more common now to find ottomans sold with gliders as part of a set: whether or not the ottoman itself features a gliding mechanism, its presence allows the user to keep their feet up and rested while in the chair. As anyone who has spent hours trying to get baby to sleep will know, creature comforts make a big difference when you’re settling in for the long haul.
As gliders with ottomans grow in popularity, the range of choice for consumers grows too; and the price range at which they’re available expands to match. If you’re in the market for a glider and ottoman, there are a lot of options out there – take the time to know what’s on offer and what you’re looking for and you’re much likelier to end up happy with your purchase.
Joyoushousehold.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
What is a glider and ottoman?
Gliders are a modern twist on the traditional rocking chair, providing additional stability in a variety of styles. The conventional rocking chair has a simple design: two curved rockers are attached to a chair’s legs so that the chair only contacts the floor at two points, making it a simple matter to rock back and forth by pushing against the floor or shifting your body weight in the seat. It’s an elegant model that allows the user to rock at their own pace and rhythm, which makes them a great addition to your home furniture and is also why so many parents swear by them for nursing and getting babies to sleep. Unfortunately, however, some of us aren’t able to get the full use out of a traditional rocker: whether down to motion sickness or irregular movement, some people find old-school rockers uncomfortable or even unpleasant to use.
The glider overcomes some of the problems with the classical rocking chair design, while also improving the usability and suitability for parents of newborns. Unlike rockers, gliders have a stable base which doesn’t shift against the floor, instead using an internal mechanism to generate the back-and-forth motion. It’s important to note that this is just a back-and-forth motion, without any of the up-and-down movement that’s part and parcel of using a rocker. By having the chair’s back and seat glide back and forth using an internal mechanism, the glider is able to provide superior stability and comfort while also allowing easy regulation of your movement while seated. Glider chairs come in a variety of styles and can be bought with a traditional, modern or rustic appearance, meaning they’re no less versatile as furniture than more conventional old-style rockers.
Ottomans are low seats, usually upholstered, which can most often be used in one of a number of ways. Besides serving as a backless seat for children and shorter adults, ottomans work admirably well as footrests; particularly when accompanied by a rocker or glider. Many ottomans also feature a hinged lid, allowing them to do double duty as a container or storage box while taking the weight off your feet or posterior. What used to be a buyers’ guide tip – make sure to buy an ottoman to go along with your rocking chair – is increasingly standard practice on the furniture market, with more and more manufacturers retailing combined glider-and-ottoman packages which provide everything a nursing mother needs right off the bat.
Soothing and inducing sleep, gliders are a fantastic weapon in the new parents’ arsenal; and they’re versatile and multi-functional enough that they’ll stay useful as home furniture once your child’s grown. The same goes for ottomans: they’re the perfect accompaniment to a gliding chair during the nursing phase, after which they’ll work wonderfully in concert with any of your home furniture, while still doubling up as portable storage space. Due to their popularity, there’s an impressive amount of choice on display for anyone shopping for a new glider and ottoman: as with all big consumer decisions, it’s worth taking the time to do your homework before you get down to comparing individual models.
Why buy a glider and ottoman?
There are good reasons to buy any kind of rocker, regardless of whether you’ve had any recent additions to your family. They’re relaxation tools and sleep aids, and they’re timeless furniture which adds a touch of class to wherever you put them. As a new twist on a classic design, though, there are some great reasons to modernize by going for a glider:
- Prevent motion sickness. Some people find the up-and-down motion that’s part of a rocker’s natural movement unpleasant, causing discomfort or nausea. This can also be caused by the irregular motion of a traditional rocking chair – a glider, on the other hand, moves back and forth smoothly and stably, reducing the risk of motion sickness and improving all-round comfort.
- Nurse in any position. With a glider and ottoman, you’ve got some flexibility to how you position yourself, which can make a huge difference to your comfort if you’re using your glider for nursing. The gliding sensation is calming for mother and baby, and can even help ease pain or discomfort experienced during nursing.
- Help baby sleep. Like any kind of rocking chair, a glider’s natural motion will help baby fall asleep while helping you relax; and with your feet up on the ottoman, it’s not a bad place to take a nap yourself.
- Give yourself a rest. As baby grows and gets heavier, nursing in an upright position can become fatiguing. Using a setup like a glider with ottoman can ease the strain by helping you take the weight off, keeping both you and baby safe and stress-free.
- Versatile furniture. Gliders and ottomans are often targeted at new parents and nursing mothers, but they’re far from being a limited piece of furniture. Gliders are comfortable and relaxing seats, and ottomans are versatile and attractive additions to any room. If you invest in a high-quality glider and ottoman, you can do so in the confidence that you’ll be getting value for your money after your child has grown.
- Appearance and aesthetics. Gliders are available in a range of styles and, like most rocking chairs, are aesthetically appealing furniture that can brighten up any room of the house. Ottomans are great all-rounders – seat, stool and storage all in one – but they also make a cute accompaniment for a lot of furniture, especially if you go for one in a neutral tone.
Things to consider
If you’re shopping for a new glider and ottoman, there are a few things worth considering before getting down to the business of comparing pieces:
- Material and finish. The choice of material and finish will make a difference to how you use and look after your furniture, not just how it’ll blend into your home. Like more traditional rockers, gliders can be made from a variety of different materials, but the most common by far is wood. Hard plastic and metal are also used in the construction of the overall piece, while metal bearings are ideal for use in the gliding mechanism itself. Upholstered gliders will be finished with some manner of fabric covering – wipe-clean polyester is a favorite – whereas most wooden gliders will be finished with stain or varnish.
- How long are your glider and ottoman going to last? The quality of materials and care taken during construction will make a huge positive difference here, while any cost-cutting measures taken at the manufacturing stage (such as the use of hard plastic for components which should ideally be metal) tend to have a noticeable negative impact in terms of longevity.
- This is a simple and pretty subjective one: how comfortable is it? If you’ll be using the glider most often yourself, you can trust your own judgement here – if you’re buying for someone else, try to get an idea of what they like in terms of comfort before making your purchase.
- When you’re shopping for a glider and ottoman, most of your attention is going to be on the glider: it’s the bigger and more expensive piece in the set, and also the one which is more easily broken, by virtue of having internal working parts. The ottoman shouldn’t be ignored, however: you’re paying for it as part of the set and it’s a versatile and valuable piece of furniture in its own right, so make sure it’s suitable for what you want. Does it have good storage space? Is it the right height for you to rest your feet on while gliding, or will it be more useful as an extra seat? Know what you want before you start shopping and you’ll have a far easier time finding the right ottoman-glider combination.
- When choosing a glider, the best dimensions for you will depend on you and where you want to place it in your home. Generally, the wider the seat the better – especially if you plan on nursing in it – but take care to avoid buying something that won’t fit where you want it to go. It’s also worth trying the glider and ottoman out together if possible, to confirm that the ottoman is an appropriate size to complement the glider.
- Does the glider require any assembly? If so, is it straightforward or will you need to bring in a professional (incurring additional costs)? Are any necessary tools included with the furniture, or will you need to shell out again to get the glider into working condition? If you’re a particularly handy person, this won’t overly concern you; but for the rest of us, it’s worth thinking about.
- Gliders and ottomans have a purpose beyond brightening up a room, but there’s no doubt that many of them are attractive furniture sets which can complement a room’s overall aesthetic or even serve as its focal point. Gliders are available in traditional, modern and rustic styles, with some pieces being available with a choice of color finishes, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding something that works in your home.
- Higher-end gliders can come with some built-in features that increase flexibility and usability. A locking mechanism lets you lock the glider in place, for times when you want to stay still; and an adjustable backrest lets you recline in the glider, helpful for when you want to take a nap yourself. Swivel functionality lets the glider be rotated around a full 360 degrees, which can complement the back-and-forth gliding motion and further enhances the furniture’s versatility.
- Most importantly, are any moving parts (such as the gliding mechanism) sealed and contained inside the glider? Any exposed moving parts should be an automatic no, but also look out for frayed material or cracked wood, which can be indicative of cost-cutting measures such as relying on cheap and re-used materials.
- Price will always matter more to some of us than others, but whatever your budget you’ll be well-served by having an idea of how much you’d like to spend before you start shopping. Entry-level glider and ottoman sets can be bought for a little over $100, with good quality pieces costing closer to $200 or above and premium pieces costing $300 or more.
Risks and warnings
- Gliders should be designed to be safe for general use, but like any other large item with moving parts the potential for injury is there if due care and attention isn’t taken. The gliding mechanism is the particular danger in this case, posing a particular danger to any little fingers which get into the inner workings. Before buying and using the glider, make sure that any moving parts are fully sealed and contained, and take care to ensure they stay that way. Any children in your home should be educated concerning the dangers of tampering with the glider and similar items of furniture.
- Keep an eye out for safety recalls: they’re uncommon with good-quality home furniture, but even the most careful manufacturers are capable of making mistakes and some design flaws don’t become evident until after a year or more of regular use. Listen out for any mention of your glider and ottoman being recalled; and if it happens, act promptly.
- If your glider requires assembly, pay attention to the instructions and follow them to the best of your abilities. Not only does incorrect assembly often void any warranty that may be attached to the furniture, you open yourself to the risk of breakages and safety hazards. If you plan on getting professional help to assemble your glider, go for someone you trust and make sure you’re completely happy with their work before using it.
 “Management of Acute Distress with Rocking Chair Therapy.” Study presented by students from the University of Rochester’s Nursing College at the 1998 meeting of the Eastern Nursing Research Society.
 Bayer, L. et al. Rocking synchronizes brain waves during a short nap. Current Biology June 2011. Pp. 461-462.