How to Choose the Perfect Bassinet

If you are in the market for a bassinet but are feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of options  prices and features  you are in luck  because our review of eight of the leading bassinets will break down everything you need to know before you purchase.
Article By:
Molly Hutto
Review Editor
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday


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After months of use and in-depth assessment, we've pulled together what we found to be some of the most important details to consider when purchasing a bassinet for your baby. We'll share with you what we learned through our testing so that you have all of the information you need before making your purchase. We carefully chose 8 leading products and compared them side-by-side in order to determine which were the most comfortable, convenient, portable, and safe.

You may also be interested in reading our Best Travel Crib Review if you are looking for a portable piece of gear for your little one to sleep in.

Why Purchase a Bassinet?


So, you're expecting, and you have no idea which products you need and which will end up stashed away in your closet. Friends who have traveled down the parenthood road before you may swear about this or that, adding to your ever-growing list of new parent must-haves. And, depending on your lifestyle, a bassinet may be on that questionable list of new gear. Although not a necessity like a car seat or diapers, we found that this item can indeed be helpful and appropriate in many situations. Here are some common reasons that you may want to consider one:
  • You would like to keep your baby in your own bedroom but do not have enough room for a crib
  • You desire a compact, portable space that you can move from room to room in order to keep baby close to your side during their earliest days
  • You are interested in co-sleeping with your baby
  • You plan to travel or visit with family and friends often
  • You plan to have (or have had) a C-Section and would like to keep baby nearby for easy access to help aid healing

Figuring out exactly how you would plan to use it is the first step to narrowing down the right product for you. As you consider this, read on as we delve into more about the different features available among the ones we tested.

Important Details to Consider


Designs and features are just about as varied as the different lifestyles they cater to. Regardless of your lifestyle however, there are a few considerations that are important for every family to know about, no matter which item they decide to purchase.

Safety


One detail that they all do have in common is that they have to meet very stringent guidelines in order to be considered "safe", especially since infant sleep safety is a major and valid concern. For more on sleep safety, please read this article written by our Mom-in-Chief and Pediatrician, Dr. Juliet Spurrier: How to Protect Your Infant from SIDS and other Sleep-Related Deaths. Below you will find a list of additional safety features to consider in your search:

Mesh is best.  When it comes to siding  we found the more mesh the better  as it allows for adequate air flow which contributes to a safe sleeping environment.
Mesh is best. When it comes to siding, we found the more mesh the better, as it allows for adequate air flow which contributes to a safe sleeping environment.
Mesh Walls: The safest products are designed with mesh walls, assuring proper air-flow and safe breathing for your little one, especially if they were to get into a position where their face was pressed up against the side. Several of the beds we tested did NOT have all-around mesh sides, and thus, lost points in our rating process.

Thin, Firm Mattress: During our research phase, we actually found a common parental complaint to be that the mattresses are too thin or firm. However, ASTM standards state that a bassinet mattress "must be less than an inch thick and the mattress should be firm." These guidelines are in-place because they have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. Many crib and cradle mattresses rest on MDF boards(a manufactured wood similar to plywood), which are controversial since MDF does emit formaldehyde. If this concerns you, look for a product that meets the CARB Phase 2 criteria (many do not), which assures that it emits an extremely low level of formaldehyde, similar to the amount that is emitted by trees, and therefore not considered a real threat to babies.

Look for the Oeko-Tex Standard Label which shows a product is free of harmful chemicals and flame retardants.
Look for the Oeko-Tex Standard Label which shows a product is free of harmful chemicals and flame retardants.
Clean Materials: The one thing a newborn does more than anything else in the very crucial earliest days is sleep, and the materials that come into contact with your baby's skin and mouth can, unfortunately, present a real and present risk. The cleanest products we tested did not use potentially harmful chemicals or flame retardants in their products. When it came to Eco-Health, the BabyBjörn Cradle stood out far beyond the rest, certified by the renowned Oeko-Tex Standard, Class 100. BabyBjörn designed a unit that is not only the cleanest we rated, but also the most versatile, which is why it won our Editors' Choice Award. Also worthy of mentioning as cleaner and healthier is the Cariboo Folding Bassinet, manufactured in New Zealand and certified by more stringent standards than most of its contenders. We recognize that both of these products fall at the higher end of the cost scale and it can be tempting to go with a lower-priced yet still functional item. However, we determined that investing in a product that is made with fewer chemicals is an important consideration (and worth it in our opinion), and this was reflected in our assessment of all of the products.

Size and Weight


The size and weight, or rather, the footprint is pretty important, depending on your intended use. If you desire using it as an easy-to-pick-up and tote-around-your-house extra space for baby, then obviously the weight matters, and believe us, having a product that is really huge and clunky will be a major inconvenience. If mobility is indeed an important factor for you, we'd say go ahead and cross the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper and the Babyletto Bowery off of your list, as they are both designed to be stationary in one space. A few other things you will want to consider: if your home has stairs, will need to move it between the levels of your home? Are your hallways wide, or rather narrow? Are there any awkward turns you will need to make between the rooms where you will use it? We found the BabyBjörn Cradle, and the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play Portable were the easiest to lift and move inside the home and even up and down stairs, if needed.

Cleaning


To wash the lining  merely unzip the fabric from the frame and remove.
To wash the lining, merely unzip the fabric from the frame and remove.
There is just no way of knowing before one experiences parenthood for the first time, how messy your sweet little bundles can actually be. The ease of cleaning a product will quickly become a prerogative you consider in anything you purchase. No parent has an abundance of time to spend cleaning up after their kiddos, hence a product that is smartly designed for easy cleaning is a major bonus. Unfortunately, a lot of the beds required spot-cleaning as they just don't include convenient ways to remove the lining. We were thrilled with the ones that did have removable linings which made for a much more practical cleanup. Our favorites for ease-of-cleaning were the BabyBjörn Cradle, the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper, and the Chicco Lullago.

Portability


With the increasing amount of parents who are frequently out and about, many modern bassinets are designed with a primary function of portability in mind, meaning they break down or fold up for convenient transportation. Most of the ones we rated are portable to some degree, minus the HALO Swivel Sleeper and the Babyletto Bowery. The Brica Fold 'n Go Travel was by far the most compact and portable unit we tested, but it lacked in other areas. When it comes to final decision-making, consider the importance of your desire for portability vs. features and stability/sturdiness carefully as we found that you may have to trade one for the other.

Extra Features and Modes to Consider


Now that we've crossed some of the major points off your check-list, it's time to move on to the fun stuff. Bassinets run the gamut in terms of extra features. Some of them are merely for entertainment or convenience, while for some parents, one or two may in fact be imperative in their decision-making.

While none of the ones we rated offer all of the following features, some do offer a combination. It may be wise to start by figuring out which features are imperative to you, if any, and working from there. If you don't want one with extra features or modes, one of the more basic models may be best for you. Cariboo did a good job forgoing extra details, in exchange for an elegant yet simple statement.

Rocking, Movement, and Sound


The feet of the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play Portable bassinet turn  allowing for both rocking and stationary modes.
The feet of the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play Portable bassinet turn, allowing for both rocking and stationary modes.
Some of the beds offer a rocking motion or vibration that many parents find soothing to their little ones. We like the versatility some of the units offer, like the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play, for example, which has feet that are adjustable to a stationary or rocking setting. The BabyBjörn Cradle's innovative engineering causes a soothing vibration in response to your baby's movement. Another fun and functional feature was found in the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper, which includes a comfort module that has a battery-operated vibration setting, as well as calming music, a nursing timer, and a nightlight.

Toys


Though it may seem counter-intuitive to provide entertainment where you want your little one to sleep, you may find you are eternally grateful for the extra two minutes you are granted if your bundle wakes to some simple entertainment, or something to look at. The Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play includes an attached mirror and plush toy for your baby's enjoyment. With so much to discover in their new and ever-expanding worlds, a little mirror goes a long way.

Use as a Co-Sleeper

A co-sleeper like the Arm's Reach allows baby to be as close as possible to you while still sleeping safely in their own space.
A co-sleeper like the Arm's Reach allows baby to be as close as possible to you while still sleeping safely in their own space.
If you are interested in co-sleeping with your newborn, it is imperative that you do so safely. Bed-sharing is never a safe option. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatircs, "bed sharing remains the greatest risk factor for sleep related infant deaths." Luckily, as interest in co-sleeping rises, companies have begun to design innovative ways for you to still sleep closely but safely next to your little one. This is where a co-sleeper comes into play. Co-sleepers are designed to attached to the side of your bed as a sort of "extended" sleep area, a space just for baby.

The two products we rated that were also co-sleepers were our Best Value Award winner, the Arm's Reach Mini Arc Co-Sleeper and our Top Pick for moms recovering from a C-Section, the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper. Our extensive testing of both of these products showed us that both have benefits and drawbacks. The HALO, for example, is too heavy to move around, and is best used strictly as a co-sleeper. Albeit a great co-sleeper, it is not practical if you need a unit to move around from room to room. The Arm's Reach has wheels on one side, which makes it easier to move around, yet it's not as lightweight and easy to maneuver around the home as the BabyBjörn Cradle or the Fisher-Price Deluxe Rock 'n Play.

Visual Appeal


We feel the BabyBjörn Cradle makes a very modern and elegant statement that is soothing for baby but not unappealing to mom or dad.
We feel the BabyBjörn Cradle makes a very modern and elegant statement that is soothing for baby but not unappealing to mom or dad.
One last consideration to note is how a product like this will fit into your desired home design. For a lot of new parents, the sudden inundation of baby-themed furniture is an overwhelming and less welcome surprise that goes along with parenthood. Luckily for them, many companies still focus their design around making baby products that are attractive and tasteful to an adult-eye. The most attractive and sleek-looking beds we tested were our Editors' Choice Award winning BabyBjörn Cradle which is modern yet unpretentious, the Cariboo which is elegant and classic, and the Babyletto Bowery which is contemporary and edgy.

Conclusion


In conclusion, you need to choose what is best for your family's personal needs. Through rigorous testing, we found that many have specific features that make them ideal for certain scenarios, such as co-sleeping and portability, but our favorite for general overall use was the BabyBjörn Cradle, because it was compact, easy to clean, easy to maneuver, and BabyBjörn really outdid themselves to assure your baby's safety by using the very cleanest materials. One thing for sure is that no matter what your intended use may be, there are designs to suit every family.

Molly Hutto
About the Author
Molly Hutto is first and foremost, mama to a happy baby boy. She is also a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist in Annapolis, Maryland, where she treats a variety of patients, including women and children. She is a skilled writer who has written about many topics beyond baby gear reviews, including creative writing, parenting, personal blogging, and professional writing for the field of acupuncture. She leads a very busy and active lifestyle, and is always keeping one eye open for new ideas for her little one.

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