Ask many parents of babies about must-haves, and you’ll probably find that one of their essential items is a jumper or bouncer. These can help keep little ones occupied so moms and dads can catch their breath between tummy time, diaper changes, and feedings.

But how familiar are you with the safety recommendations around jumpers and bouncers? And more importantly, do you know why some pediatric experts don’t always recommend using them? Here’s what to know, including how long to wait before starting your baby on a jumper or bouncer.

While jumpers and bouncers are great for giving parents a break, they’re not always an item that you can use the minute you bring your baby home from the hospital.

A bouncer for your newborn

Baby bouncers have angled seats that usually are designed with a stationary frame and include restraints to ensure that your baby is safely situated in the seat. Either through the baby’s motions or power — typically via battery or a power outlet — it gently rocks your baby and works as a soothing mechanism.

Because babies are securely strapped in and the seat usually extends past their heads with full neck support, even a newborn can be placed in a bouncer for short periods under supervision.

Jumpers for older babies

By definition, a jumper is designed for a much more active baby who has met specific milestones before you start using it. Even though jumpers typically feature padded seats and sometimes come with a sturdy frame if they’re freestanding models, they’re designed without neck support. This gives your baby a bit more freedom to do as the name suggests — jump.

Before you set up a jumper, make sure your baby has mastered neck control and no longer needs assistance to keep their head up. This usually happens around 6 months of age, but it can occur sooner or later depending on your baby’s developmental timeline.

Bouncers

Parents often use a bouncer as a space for letting their little ones snooze, but pediatricians and medical experts highly discourage this. The angled position can potentially contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

While these are considered safe from the get-go, that’s when they’re used properly. Always supervise your baby when they’re in a bouncer.

Jumpers

With jumpers, there are two risks at play. The first concern centers around mounted jumpers that must be attached somehow to a door frame or beam. Because there are potential obstructions around the bouncer, a very active baby may accidentally hit their head, arms, or other body parts against the door frame.

The second concern is that any jumper seat — freestanding or mounted — can set the child’s hips in an awkward position, focusing exercise on the wrong leg muscles. Parents who rely too heavily on a jumper to keep babies occupied may accidentally delay their motor development as babies learn to crawl and walk.

As such, experts usually recommend that you limit jumper sessions to 15 to 20 minutes and no more than two sessions per day.

All good things must come to an end. For bouncers, the general recommendation is that your baby has outgrown it once they’ve reached 20 pounds or can comfortably sit up on their own.

At this point, there’s the risk that your baby could tip the bouncer over as they sit up or roll over on their own. You can reduce these risks by buckling your baby in — which you should do regardless of age — but as your little one gets stronger, they may try to wrestle themselves out of the seat anyway.

In terms of maximum weight limits, always check the specific recommendations from the manufacturer, as weight thresholds vary.

With jumpers, you’ll need to check the weight limits and phase it out once your child reaches that limit. The weight limit can vary by manufacturer, but the most common upper range is usually between 25 and 33 pounds.

Beyond ensuring that your baby is developmentally ready or the right weight for a bouncer or jumper, you should also consider safety recalls.

Typically, if you’re buying a new bouncer or jumper from a reputable store or e-commerce platform, you can be reasonably confident that it meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But if you’re inheriting or buying a secondhand item, always check that it’s not on any recall lists.

So what are the benefits of using a bouncer or jumper at the age-appropriate time? The obvious answer for parents is that it gives you a much-needed break. No matter how much you love being with your bundle of joy, everyone deserves to sit down for 10 or 15 minutes without sharing their seat with their baby.

Many bouncers and jumpers also come with activity sets that help keep babies engaged. And specifically with bouncers, there are plenty of adjustable models that grow with your child, turning into traditional seats once they’ve outgrown the bouncer stage.

Giving little ones their own space to safely explore and grow — while you take a break from the frenzy that is parenting a baby — is good for both you and your child. As long as you’re mindful of the necessary milestones for introducing or phasing out these baby gear options, there’s no reason to avoid integrating a bouncer or jumper into your baby’s routine.