Why Purchase a Bassinet?
While bassinets are not a must-have item for babyhood, we do think they have their place and can often make the first months of babyhood easier on parents and baby. They can increase the opportunity for bonding and sleep while potentially decreasing the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by keeping baby in the same room with you at night. There are a variety of bassinet choices but the benefits to including one of any kind in your baby gear list can provide peace of mind by keeping baby close at night so you can see them and tend to their needs, with as little disruption to your sleep as possible. Also, studies indicate that sleeping in the same room with your baby can potentially decrease SIDs, while theories abound on why this is, we feel the why is less important than the belief that it does.
Here are some common reasons you may want to consider adding a bassinet to your gear list:
- You are interested in having baby sleep in your room or next to your bed
- You are interested in co-sleeping with your baby
- You desire a portable bed that you can move from room to room to keep baby nearby during their early days
- Your baby's birth did or may include a C-Section keeping baby nearby will help aid healing
Types of Bassinets
Products of this kind come in three basic flavors with some crossover that several could fall into making them a little more versatile.
The co-sleeper developed as a response to parent's desire to sleep with their baby but who also feared the possibility of injury or death that has been reported with bed sharing. Co-sleepers usually attach to the master bed or sit close enough that their design allows them to swing or sit directly next to the side of the bed. This bassinet style is theoretically designed to allow parents to reach and attend to the baby without getting out of bed. This means you can potentially soothe and feed your baby in the middle of the night without getting up. We like that you can touch your baby, and even pick them up for nursing without getting up and walking around your house. It's a great way to sleep with baby without putting them in your bed where injury could occur.
This style is usually larger or designed to stand away from the crib on its own. While you can place some of them next to your bed, their design often prohibits reaching baby or truly taking care of them without getting up. You can usually see them so you can ensure they are sleeping and not in distress, but you'll need to get out of bed to offer anything more. Often this type can be moved from room to room and some even have 2 or 4 wheels for easier transport.
Travel Crib with Bassinent
Sometimes travel cribs come with a bassinet attachment or you can purchase a bassinet as an accessory. This transforms the crib or play yard into a safe place for baby to sleep in their early months. These accessories usually have a weight limit or limit based on when baby reaches certain developmental milestones. The benefit of this tyle is it extends the life of your travel crib and makes it more versatile because it can go on travel with you and baby is already used to sleeping in it. Depending on your goals or needs, this can be a good solution, especially for parents who travel frequently or rely on others for baby care.
Important Details to Consider
The designs and features on these products are about as varied as the lifestyles they cater to. Regardless of your lifestyle, however, there are a few considerations that are important for every family to consider, no matter which option they decide to purchase.
Breathability and Sleep Surface
Two important metrics and design features we think make a big difference in the overall safety of this kind of product are breathability and the sleep surface included with the product both how well it fits the frame and how well it can support the baby and prevent any kind of accidental entrapment.
The safest products are designed with wood slats (like a crib) and mesh walls that provide proper air-flow for safe breathing for your little one, especially if they manage to get their face into a position where it is pressed up against a side wall. Several of the products we tested did NOT have all-around breathable sides which left us concerned that they could impair a baby's breathing should they snuggle up to the side wall. In fact, a few are very similar to a crib bumper that experts agree should not be in a baby's sleeping area due to a potential SIDs risk.
The Summer Infant Comfort Classic has fabric side walls (above left) that are padded and extremely difficult for an adult to breathe through. We suspect they will be very difficult for a baby to breath through. The UPPAbaby Bassinet and Stand has padded side walls covered in canvas (above right). We feel this product is not suitable for unmonitored overnight sleeping because the sidewalls are built to protect baby from the wind while strolling and are, therefore, not air permeable or breathable.
We found a common complaint about bassinets to be that the mattresses are too thin or firm. However, there is a reason for this. ASTM standards state that a bassinet mattress "must be less than an inch thick and the mattress should be firm." The guidelines are proven to reduce the risk of SIDS and have been chosen for this reason. We strongly recommend you never alter, tamper, or change the mattress that comes with the bassinet. The mattresses should fit the sleeping are without significant gaps or movement around the pad. The pad shouldn't compress too much or result in a low spot when a baby is sleeping on it. The mattress should be firm to support the baby and should be designed to avoid their mouth and nose from becoming obstructed.
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 ensures 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.
Depending on how you plan to use your bassinet you need to think about whether or not it is mobile enough to move around your house and/or whether or not you can easily pack it up and take it on the road. If you are looking for a stationary co-sleeper that you'll leave attached to the bed then it won't matter as much. But if you travel a lot or plan to have your childcare giver use the bed away from your home, then it will matter more.
Even if a bassinet has four wheels and you won't be moving it very far, you should never move a bassinet with your baby inside. Accidents and mishaps can occur while moving that could potentially result in injury or death. It is safest to move baby from the bed to a safe location and move the empty bed with both hands.
Size and Weight
Size and weight are pretty important, depending on your intended use. If you plan to move it from room to room as an extra space for baby, then weight matters, and believe us, having a product that is really huge and clunky will be a major inconvenience.
The footprint or size also matters because it can limit where you use it, especially if your home is small. A few other things to consider: will you need to move it over stairs? How wide are your doorways and halls? Are there awkward turns you'll need to negotiate? The weights in this review range from around 9 lbs to over 33 lbs. The high ranking BabyBjorn Cradle is 12.1 lbs, while the HALO Bassinest Essentia is a whopping 33 lbs thanks to a metal stand and frame.
How do you decide which bassinet is right for your family?
With so many potential options it can be difficult to know what kind to get or how you plan to use it. Friends and family may step in and suggest you get a particular kind or specific model, but depending on your parenting goals their suggestions may be nice, but potential useless. Here are some simple steps to break down the decision making process into one or two potential options that could be a good fit for your family.
Step 1: How will you use it?
This is a crucial question because it will cut your options virtually in half. If you plan to co-sleep with your baby, then you have a few options that will work well and keep your baby close by and within reach. While some co-sleepers can be used as freestanding options, most freestanding bassinets make poor co-sleepers. If moving the baby's bed from room to room or from house to house is more important to you, then the size and portability will play more of a factor in your decision-making process.
The babybay Bedside Sleeper is an excellent co-sleeper that attaches to your bed and is height adjustable for a good fit for most beds. However, purchased alone it cannot be used as a stand-alone bassinet. You need to buy a conversion kit to turn it into a freestanding product. The Arm's Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper also attaches to the bed but the side can be lowered or raised for a free-standing bassinet if you want to move it to another location. The HALO Bassinest Essentia doesn't attach to the bed, but it can swing over your bed with a side that dips for easy access to the baby. This makes it a unique co-sleeper that works well as a freestanding option.
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, companies are designing innovative solutions for sleeping closely and safely next to your little one. This is where a co-sleeper comes into play. Traditional co-sleepers are designed to attach to the side of your bed as a sort of "extended" sleep area, a space just for baby away from possible hazards like sheets, thick blankets, and human bodies.
Step 2: Do you want to move it?
If you plan to move your bed from room to room you'll need an option that is lightweight or potentially has wheels. Large and heavy products will make regular movement difficult and a hassle unless they have wheels. Smaller and lighter is easier, but wheels can make a huge difference in ease of movement. If you plan to set it and forget, then the weight is less of an issue. If you need to use it in a home other than your own, then you'll want to choose a product that can pack up and be transported easily.
The Arm's Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper has four wheels and a narrow width making it the easiest to move from place to place, even through narrow doorways. Its moveable sidewall also makes it good as a co-sleeper or freestanding option. Alternatively, the babybay Bedside Sleeper is heavy, larger, and doesn't have wheels. It also has a lower side wall so it can't be safely used as a standalone without an additional accessory. The HALO Bassinest Essentia is also hard to move because it lacks wheels and is heavy (33 lbs). You can move it, but you won't want to. The best options for travel are not surprisingly the travel crib cross-over products, the Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go Bassinet and the Lotus Bassinet.
Step 3: What is your budget?
The prices of bassinets vary widely between $50-435. This means there is something for everyone in this review and in our award winners no matter what your budget or needs. Once you've narrowed down whether or not you'd like a co-sleeper or a freestanding option and whether or not you plan to move it frequently you may be down to only a handful of options. Your budget can be the deciding factor that often makes the decision for you, but should your one true love be out of your price range you can always put it on your registry or seek help from family to make your dream bassinet a reality.
Choosing the right bassinet for your family's personal needs can be more difficult than you originally thought once you see all the possibilities. Through our rigorous testing process, we found that many have specific features that make them better suited for certain scenarios, such as co-sleeping and portability. We think that the variations tested in our complete review cover almost any plan or goal, so you can find the perfect choice for your baby.