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Bassinets

Bassinet buying guide

Last updated: January 2014
Getting started

Getting started

Small, cozy, and portable, a bassinet might seem like the perfect place to put your new baby. As cute and convenient as it might seem, your bassinet won't get that much use, since babies outgrow them by about 4 months of age. In addition, a crib is the safest place for a baby to sleep.

Some bassinets meet voluntary standards set by ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). But full-sized cribs have had to meet federal safety standards for much longer, and can be recalled if they fail to meet them.

There are no federal standards specifically for bassinets, cradles, Moses baskets, or bedside sleepers beyond those for such items as small parts and rough edges, and the spacing of rails. (See Crib alternatives to avoid: Bedside sleepers (co-sleepers) and Moses baskets.) The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will eventually set mandatory requirements for many baby and infant products, including bassinets.

ASTM also has voluntary standards for cradles and has agreed to work on some for bedside sleepers. But we don't recommend using a bedside sleeper, because babies have slipped through gaps between sleepers and adult beds. If you want your baby nearby, keep the crib or bassinet close to your bed. Cradles, which are less popular than bassinets, should rock gently. (Those with a pronounced rocking motion can cause an infant to roll against a side, posing a suffocation hazard.)

Bassinet and cradle manufacturers can voluntarily comply with the ASTM standard. Look for a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturer's Association to see if they have. The certification can provide some level of assurance that the product met safety standards after lab testing. You might see products categorized as bassinets that don't have a JPMA seal. We don't recommend them. Make sure to read our Shopping tips and Safety strategies.

Consumer Reports has not tested bassinets, cradles, or other crib alternatives. We think a crib is the best place for your baby to sleep from birth up to about age 4. See our Ratings for Cribs.

More reasons to stick with a crib

The danger with some cradles is that babies can roll against a side and suffocate. In 2009, some 24,000 Amby Baby Motion Beds were recalled after two infants died in them. The product was a small hammock-style cradle suspended from a frame; the side-to-side shifting or tilting caused the infants to roll and become entrapped or wedged against the hammock's fabric and/or mattress pad, resulting in suffocation. There are currently no safety standards for hammock–style cradles.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) report on nursery product-related injuries and deaths among children under age 5, there were 43 deaths reported in bassinets or cradles between 2005 and 2007, and most were caused by extra bedding. Nearly half the suffocation deaths from bedding involved pillows. The next most common cause of bassinet-related deaths involved entrapment or wedging between the mattress and the bassinet frame.

Another item you might see or receive as a gift is a Moses basket, a basket with handles, a bottom pad and puffy fabric sides, for toting your baby around. It might look adorable, but anything that surrounds a baby who still lacks head and neck control with a lot of soft or quilted fabric is never a good idea because of the possibility of suffocation. We strongly recommend that you avoid Moses baskets.

Many parents opt for a bassinet or something like it because they think a newborn or young infant will feel more comfortable in a compact space rather than a large crib. But a full-sized crib (with a fitted sheet only--no quilts, blankets, bumpers, or pillows--see our Cribs guide) is the safest place for a baby. Your baby should be placed on his back to sleep, in a footed sleeper, sleep sack, or wearable blanket to keep him warm. Don't use a loose blanket or comforter.

Recommendations

First, decide whether you really need a bassinet or cradle. If you do, buy a basic model that has JPMA certification.

We think the safest plan is to use a crib from day 1. You can put it in your bedroom (if it fits), then move it to your nursery when your baby is about 6 months old.

When buying and using a bassinet or cradle, follow our Shopping tips and Safety strategies. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's suggestions for weight and size, and stop using the product when your baby can roll over, push up on his hands and knees, or sit up by himself. There are usually warnings on the product, sometimes a lot of them. As far as assembly, some bassinets have as many as 23 parts, and you might need a Phillips screwdriver and half an hour, at least, to put one together. Follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly. If you need extra parts, get them from the same company that made the cradle or bassinet. To order, check the instruction manual. Never use any cradle or bassinet with missing, broken, or loose parts.

Types

While there are a variety of crib alternatives on the market, we suggest you avoid some of them. But here are two types--bassinets and cradles--to consider. To learn about crib alternatives we don't consider safe, see Crib alternatives to avoid: Bedside sleepers (co-sleepers) and Moses baskets. If you do choose to use a bassinet or cradle, we recommend--as does the American Academy of Pediatrics--that you buy one with a certification sticker from the Juvenile Products Manufacturer's Association. All the models used as examples here bear this sticker.

Bassinets


A bassinet is a compact baby bed with a frame made of wood, wicker, metal, or plastic tubing. It's usually covered, at least inside, with fabric, and many come with wheels, making it easy to move them from room to room. You'll often see models with a rigid hood that can be attached on one end to block the light. Some have small shelves underneath. If you plan to move the bassinet from room to room, however, you might not want to keep much on the shelf underneath, since items could slide around. Many modern bassinets come with all sorts of additional features, such as soft lights, vibration, or music.

Carter's Bumble Soothe ‘n Sleep Bassinet by Summer Infant, about $140, has a more modern look than some other bassinets and comes in a neutral gray. It can play four melodies, two nature sounds, and one "womb" sound (babies are often soothed by white noise). It can also vibrate, has an adjustable canopy, a large storage basket underneath, and casters that lock.

The My Little Lamb Rocking Bassinet from Delta Fisher-Price, shown here, has casters that retract, swivel, and lock. (Retractable wheels mean you can turn the bassinet into a rocking-style cradle, which is also true of other models). It also comes with a mattress pad that's an inch thick. The bassinet, which is $130, is recommended for babies from birth to 5 months, and 15 pounds or less.

Cradles

Cradles are usually quite simple; they rock from side to side. Like a bassinet, they won't take up much space. But your baby will quickly outgrow one. They aren't as popular as bassinets. While it's true that babies like to be rocked to sleep, we don't recommend using a cradle that rocks vigorously, and you should never leave a baby alone in a rocking cradle. You might find that simply rocking your baby in your arms, then laying him down to sleep in a bassinet or crib works just as well. A few manufacturers still make wooden cradles that look like something your grandmother used, but we couldn't find any with JPMA certification that we would recommend.

Bassinets that come with strollers

Some high-end strollers come with a bassinet, also called a carrycot, that attaches to the carriage. They're handy for newborns, although not necessary. But we don't recommend using them for naps or as overnight beds inside your home. (While the CPSC has safety standards for bassinets and rules for strollers, there are no federal standards for bassinets that attach to strollers.) If you're pushing your baby in a stroller during the day, you'll be able to see that she's safe. That won't be the case if you leave her in a stroller bassinet at night and then go to bed.

Features


Your baby won't be using a bassinet or cradle for long, so when selecting one, look for the features that will serve you best during that short time. We think it's a good idea to buy a bassinet that's certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer Association--as are all the ones mentioned below.

Functionality


Some bassinets include pockets or storage underneath for diapers, wipes, and clothes. Some can be used as a changing table, and others can become a bedside sleeper that attaches to an adult bed (although again, we don't recommend using that option).

The Carry Me Near 5-in-1 Bassinet from First Years/TOMY International (about $100), pictured, can be removed from its stand so you can carry your baby elsewhere. The manufacturer says the vinyl-covered changing area is convenient for night-time diaper changes, but we doubt you're going to want to fiddle around with switching the bassinet into a changing table in the middle of the night. (You have to lift it off the frame, which will reveal a changing area underneath.) You can also attach the bassinet to your bed with a strap that slides between your mattress and your box spring, turning it into a bedside sleeper. (We don't recommend doing that.) The Carry Me Near has a large basket underneath for storage, can vibrate and play music, and has a nightlight. (You'll need batteries to use those functions.)

Movement


Some bassinets, including the My Little Lamb Rocking Bassinet from Delta Fisher-Price, about $130, can be turned into a cradle by using a quick-release latch and retracting the wheels, allowing the unit to rock gently. Other models glide while the unit's wheels stay stationary (batteries are required). The Zen Collection Gliding Bassinet from Fisher-Price, pictured here, moves at a variety of speeds and costs about $180. It also plays 16 songs, and offers nature and "womb" sounds. It has a small shelf underneath, and is made for babies 25 pounds and under. This model comes with a mesh canopy, which we recommend you remove to avoid a strangulation or entrapment hazard.

Portability


Some bassinets, like the Carry Me Near 5-in-1 mentioned above, have a handle so you can carry it. Others, like the Cuddle ‘n Care Bassinet & Incline Sleeper from Kolcraft (about $160), pictured, have casters so you can roll the entire unit around. But don't move a bassinet or cradle with your baby in it. And we strongly advise you not to use the Cuddle ‘n Care's incline insert, which is intended to help if your baby has congestion. This feature is not certified by JPMA; in fact, there is no standard for any infant "incline" products. Our experts say that some parents might not use the harness each and every time, which can lead to a child slipping down or to the side and suffocating.

The Cuddle ‘n Care also has a rocking feature. Remember to always read the fine print: This bassinet, for example, is designed to be used "by infants up to 3 months of age or up to a weight of 15 pounds, and should no longer be used by a child who can push himself/herself up on hands and knees." It shouldn't be used with a child who can pull up, either.

Toys


You might also find bassinets or cradles with detachable mobiles or canopies with attached toys. Carter's The Love Bug Soothe 'n Sleep Bassinet from Summer Infant (shown) costs about $170 and has soft toys hanging from its canopy (like most, it can be folded out of the way). The bassinet also vibrates and plays music, has two large baskets underneath, and locking wheels.

Sound effects, vibration, and light


As we've noted, many bassinets include soothing music and heartbeat, ambient, or nature sounds with volume control, all of which can be controlled by a keypad or sometimes a simple switch. They might also feature a soft night-light so you can peek in on your baby without disturbing her. That's a plus. You should note, however, that most of those extras run on batteries, and you might find yourself having to replace them frequently, depending on your usage and the model. They can also provide too much stimulation for some babies. The My Little Lamb Bassinet, for example, will play music and shine soft twinkling lights, and has a nightlight feature. It requires three C batteries. The Kolcraft Light Vibes Rocking Bassinet (pictured), about $100, has several features, including 10 classical songs and vibration you can control with variable speeds. It also requires batteries.

Bedding

Besides a thin mattress or pad (which should be no thicker than 1½ inches) and a fitted sheet, most bassinets also have a fabric lining. You'll find models with a liner that includes an attached pleated or ruffled hood and some with a bed skirt, often cascading to the floor. These frilly details are standard on many bassinets. (The bedding is also sold separately to fit bassinets of certain sizes, and you can find sets for bassinets that come with a liner/skirt, hood cover, and sheet. Just remember that the sheet you use should be made for your bassinet's mattress.)

At the highest end, these extras can be custom made. Popular bassinet and cradle bedding fabrics are toile, vintage florals, gingham, white eyelet, and colorful checks and plaids. Undyed, organically grown cotton bedding in natural shades of cream, brown, and green is also a trend. (See our crib bedding buying advice for information on eco-friendly options.) No matter what look you're going for, choose bedding that's machine washable. You might need to line dry it to prevent shrinkage (check the instructions). And refer to your instruction manual to make sure you always remount the bassinet cover correctly. Be sure that this cover is not too puffy or deep.

Even if you had a certain look in mind, we recommend putting safety first and getting a JPMA-certified bassinet.

Canopy


A stiff canopy can help to block out the light, so you can read before bedtime, for example, without waking your baby. It can be retractable or removable, which gets it out of the way if you'll be changing your baby in the bassinet. The Nod-a-Way Bassinet by Safety 1st (pictured) has a retractable canopy and sells for $80.

Frilly curtains or fabric canopies that drape over the bassinet might look nice, but they can create a strangulation hazard for your child. The risk is lower with the tiniest babies, who are less mobile, but you can't predict when they'll be able to reach something within their grasp.

Storage


A bottom storage basket is useful for stashing a change of clothes, booties, toys, diapers, or wipes. A flowing bed skirt can block access, so get a bassinet with a short skirt if you want to use a basket underneath. The Clayton Rocking Bassinet by Delta (pictured) has a large mesh storage basket with three compartments underneath, plus a pocket for storage on the outside of the bassinet. It sells for $145.

Shopping tips

Look for the JPMA seal

Some bassinets and cradles pose safety problems, including rough, sharp edges inside, soft sides that can be a suffocation hazard, and bars spaced widely enough to trap a baby. The ASTM updated bassinet and cradle standards in 2007 and is working on still more changes because of recent incidents. The following manufacturers carry the JPMA seal: Delta Enterprise, Dorel Juvenile Group (Safety 1st), Fisher-Price, Hushamok, Kolcraft Enterprises, Summer Infant, and TOMY International (formerly RC2/Learning Curve).

Choose a bassinet or cradle with a sturdy bottom and a wide, stable base

There should be no sharp points or edges on the inside or outside, or small parts that could be a choking hazard. If the bassinet or cradle is made of wood, it should be free of splinters.

Check any folding mechanisms

If the legs or frame of the bassinet or cradle collapse for storage, make sure that they lock into place when the unit is set up.

Make sure the mattress or pad is smooth and extra firm, and fits snugly

The mattress or pad in a bassinet or cradle should be no more than 1½ inches thick. A thicker one is a suffocation hazard.

Don't be put off by a "hard" mattress

Parents sometimes complain that the mattresses sold with bassinets are thin or hard. But babies should sleep on a firm mattress (see our crib mattress guide) and never on something soft or squishy.

Check folding mechanisms

If the legs or frame of a bassinet or cradle can collapse for storage, make sure they lock into place when the unit is set up. In early 2011, some 500,000 bassinets made by the Burlington Basket Co. were recalled because some of them collapsed when the folding legs weren't locked in place.

Size up bassinet/cradle sides

"You want an airy environment," says Rachel Moon, M.D., a pediatrician and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) researcher at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington. "If the sides of a bassinet aren't meshy, there's a potential concern that a baby could suffocate against the side." Bassinets have been linked to infant deaths, and suffocation is a leading cause, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Consider a bassinet or cradle only for the short-term

Bassinets and cradles have a short life span. Once your baby can roll over, begin to push up on his hands and knees, or he reaches the manufacturer's maximum weight (usually 15 to 18 pounds, but sometimes as much as 25 pounds), it's time to move him to a crib. Although you won't believe it when you bring your baby home, he'll soon be busting out of his bassinet. Some babies run out of leg and headroom in just three months, so factor that into your buying decision. If your budget is tight, don't go all out for this item. Consider skipping it altogether and using a full-sized crib (placed in your bedroom) from the start.

Keep the receipt and all packaging and materials that come with the product

You'll need them in case you decide to return the bassinet or cradle.

Crib alternatives to avoid

Bedside sleepers

The most common type of bedside sleeper is designed to attach to an adult bed and has legs–sort of like a play yard, only smaller. Another type, which is less common, doesn't have legs and is put into an adult bed. We don't recommend either one. They're also sold as a "co-sleepers" and in some cases even as "bassinets."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hasn't established safety standards for these products, and the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't include them on their list of recommended places to put a baby. "Using a crib, bassinet, or cradle that meets standards is what the AAP recommends," says Dr. Michael Goodstein, a neonatologist on the AAP's SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Task Force.

These bassinet-like devices, designed to go between parents or beside an adult bed, don't necessarily make co-sleeping with a baby safer. In 2008, the popular Simplicity bedside sleeper was recalled after two babies died from strangling or suffocating when they slipped through an opening in the frame. In 2011, Arm's Reach Concepts recalled 76,000 bedside sleepers because infants could become trapped and suffocate in them.

As we mentioned, you might also see co-sleepers without legs, such as the By Your Side Sleeper from Summer Infant. This small basket-style bed has mesh sides and a metal frame. The manufacturer says the metal frame makes it safe to put it in a bed with you, essentially letting you co-sleep with your baby while she lies in her own little bed. As the American Academy of Pediatrics has noted, in-bed co-sleepers are a bad idea, and we don't recommend this product.

Moses baskets

A Moses basket allows you to carry your baby in it. It has handles, a bottom pad, and fabric sides that are sometimes puffy. We don't recommend Moses baskets because the sides can pose a suffocation hazard, and there are no standards for them.

Safety strategies

When it comes to baby's sleep, ideally, a full-sized crib should go in your bedroom for at least your baby's first six months. But if you're short on space, a bassinet or cradle (some do double-duty) can be another option. A bouncer seat, swing, or play yard with a bassinet insert are acceptable for an impromptu snooze, provided they don't have any loose fabric, which is a suffocation hazard. But no matter how tired you are, you should never bring your baby into bed to sleep with you.

If you want to try a bassinet for the first few months, be careful when selecting one. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind.

Buy certified and buy new

Although it's not a complete guarantee of safety, buying a certified product adds a layer of protection. Certified products must meet the ASTM standard requirements, such as correct spacing of side slats or bars. Look for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) seal to guide you. Always buy new; the maker is required to put the date of manufacture on the product. Send in the registration card so you can be notified of any recalls.

Say no to an heirloom cradle or bassinet

It's a quaint idea to use one that's been in the family for generations, but chances are it isn't up to today's safety standards. Some possible hazards are an overly thick mattress or puffy sides (both suffocation risks), uneven spacing of slats, and legs with an old-style latching mechanism that can unexpectedly release.

If you choose a cradle, go with one that barely rocks

Cradles with a pronounced rocking motion can cause a small infant to roll against the side of the unit, posing a suffocation hazard. Look for a model with a frame suspended on hooks, or with locking hardware to stabilize the rocking motion so the cradle won't tilt too much. Don't let a baby rock unattended, especially if you have pets or young children who can exaggerate the rocking motion or even tip the cradle. Use the hardware that comes with the cradle to stop the rocking motion before your baby's bedtime and naptime if you're going to leave the room, and also around pets and toddlers.

Don't use a bassinet or cradle with the wheels unlocked

Lock the wheels as soon as you finish moving the bassinet from one place to another, and keep them locked.

Don't carry or move a bassinet or cradle with your child in it

Ever.

Use only the mattress or pad provided by the manufacturer

And use only the fitted sheet made for the bassinet, or one specifically designed to fit the dimensions of the mattress or pad. Buy at least three fitted sheets so you have one to use, one for the wash, and one as a backup. Don't use a pillowcase or different sized sheet as a substitute.

Don't add stuffed animals or bedding

Never put such items as a pillow, comforter, or blanket, or extra padding such as an additional mattress or pad, or sleep positioner, in your baby's bassinet or cradle; they're suffocation hazards. And put your baby to sleep in a wearable blanket (swaddle sack) instead of covering her with a blanket.

Don't let strings, suspended toys, or cords hang near the bassinet

Cords form window blinds or drapes pose a strangulation hazard if they're too close to your baby's bassinet. Cut them in half to keep them out of your baby's reach. And don't add any suspended toys on your own. Use only those provided with the mobile.

Place your baby on his back in a cradle or bassinet

Do just as you would in a full-sized crib. Ninety percent of SIDS cases occur during the first six months of a baby's life, which is prime bassinet time.

   

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