What Is a Bassinet?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 27, 2022
5 min read

When you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital, you will need a place for them to sleep. You can choose between a bassinet, a cradle, and a crib for your baby. Bed bassinets are popular for their portability and low cost. Your baby can sleep in one for the first few weeks. Learning about bassinet safety is a crucial part of preparing for your little one. 

A bed bassinet is a tall, small bed for your baby to sleep in. The frame is metal, plastic, or wood. The sleeping area has low side walls made of mesh. You'll be using one just after vaginal birth or cesarean section, so you'll probably appreciate its height. You won't have to bend low to place your baby inside or take them out.

Bassinets come with precisely sized mattresses. They have no gaps between the mattress and sides, where your baby could get trapped. Firm mattresses are safe for your baby. Make sure to get enough fitted sheets for the mattress so you always have clean ones available.

A bassinet is lightweight and portable. At night, you can have your baby next to your bed in their own safe sleeping place. During the day, your baby can be near you in your kitchen or living room. 

Not every baby has to use bed bassinets. Some children use a cradle or a crib instead. Manufacturers certify their product for use with babies weighing up to 10, 15, or 20 pounds. Regardless of your baby's weight, you must stop using the bassinet when your baby starts rolling over or pushes themselves up on their hands and knees.

Your baby's bassinet should be in your room. Being in the same room reduces your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing for at least the first six months or ideally 12 months. 

Keeping the bassinet next to your bed is convenient. You can respond to your baby sooner if they wake up and need a feed. 

Keep the bassinet away from windows and air conditioning or heating vents. Make sure there are no dangling electric wires, curtain cords, or other fastenings nearby that could strangulate a baby.

Bassinets are lightweight and can topple over. Choose a bassinet with a broad base. If the legs are folding, make sure they're locked in place before placing your baby inside.

Most bassinets are meant for children who weigh less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). That means your child can sleep in one for a month or two before moving to a crib. Some bassinets are rated for 20 pounds (9 kilograms). Always follow the manufacturer's rating.

Babies learn to turn over at about five months. Even if your bassinet is rated for 20 pounds, you need to move your baby out of it by four months. A baby that learns to turn over can fall out of a bassinet with low side walls.

Don't move the bassinet on its wheels or carry it with your baby in it. Move it where you need it, lock the wheels, and then place your baby inside.

Cradles are an alternative to bassinets. They're a small sleeping space for newborn babies. In a cradle, the baby's bed is suspended. You can rock it side to side. A cradle can often soothe a crying baby to sleep with its motion.

Cradles are built for young babies. Your baby will outgrow one by about four months of age. 

You should follow these measures to keep your baby safe if you're using a cradle:

  • A cradle should have a limited range of side-to-side motion. Vigorous rocking can roll your baby over. Babies can get trapped between the side fabric and the mattress pad.
  • Never leave a baby unattended in a rocking cradle.
  • The cradle should have a firm mattress and fitted sheet.
  • Nothing but your baby should be in the cradle. Remove all blankets, pillows, and soft toys before placing your baby inside.
  • Make sure the cradle base is stable and not likely to topple.
  • Once your baby has learned to roll over or sit up, never put them in the cradle.

You might think that cribs are for older babies. You may be considering only a bassinet or cradle for your newborn's first sleep space. But take into account that your baby will outgrow these small beds in two or four months. On the other hand, you can use a crib until your baby learns to climb out of it. Some cribs also convert to beds.

A crib is the safest place for a baby to sleep. Cribs are heavy and stable. They won't topple, but they can't easily be moved around. 

Choose a crib with a base that can move up and down. Bending far down to place your baby inside may be hard just after a vaginal birth or cesarean section. Raise the base high enough that you can gently place your baby on the mattress. Never drop a baby from any height.

The crib's slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart. This prevents your baby's head from getting stuck between them. There should be no gap between the mattress and the crib's sides. Always use a fitted sheet.

Your baby spends most of their day in their bassinet or crib. It's vital to make this a safe place. Sleep safety is crucial — 3,400 babies die in their sleep every year in the U.S. Most of these deaths are caused by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suffocation, or strangulation. Keep your baby safe by following these recommendations: 

  • Your baby should always sleep on their back.
  • Blankets are a suffocation hazard. Your baby should have properly fitted sleepwear — a one-piece sleeper, wearable blanket, or sleep sack.
  • Remove all pillows, soft toys, or bumper pads from the bassinet, cradle, or crib before placing your baby inside.
  • The mattress should be firm, with a fitted sheet. There should be no gap between the mattress and the side walls.
  • Your baby should not sleep in your bed with you — ever. It's extremely dangerous. If you bring them to your bed for feeding or comforting, return them to their own sleeping space as soon as they're asleep.
  • Remove all necklaces, bibs, and pacifiers with cords before putting your baby in their crib or bassinet. These are strangulation risks.
  • Never let your baby sleep on a waterbed, couch, or sofa. They're suffocation hazards. 

Your newborn baby sleeps 16 to 20 hours every day. A bassinet, cradle, or crib is an important part of their life. Choosing a comfortable and secure sleeping place for your baby is vital. Everyone in the family should know the rules of sleep safety to keep your baby safe while they sleep.

Show Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Bassinets and Cradles," "How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained," "Make Baby's Room Safe: Parent Checklist."
Canadian Pediatric Society: "Safe sleep for babies."
Consumer Reports: "Bassinet Buying Guide."

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