Crib vs. Bassinet Explained For New Parents


Crib vs. Bassinet

There’s a million and one items that you “need” for your nursery, which can quickly take the process from exciting to overwhelming. Cribs and bassinets are two pieces of furniture that are essential for newborns— but not necessarily at the same time. Each has a specific purpose, benefits, and drawbacks.

Bassinets are smaller, temporary beds meant for newborns and infants up to six months, whereas cribs can hold newborns up until their toddler years. Both create a safe sleeping environment for infants and reduce the risk of SIDS, but many parents prefer bassinets for newborns because of its advantages.

Bassinets hold several advantages over cribs, such as portability and versatility, though cribs have plenty of benefits on their own. Both bassinets and cribs are safe for newborns, although all infants will eventually need to be transitioned to a crib.

Do I Need A Crib And Bassinet?

Cribs and bassinets provide newborns with a safe sleeping environment, but parents don’t necessarily need both at the same time. Bassinets are intended for newborns and babies up to six months, while cribs are suitable for newborns, babies, and even toddlers.

Providing your child with a safe sleeping environment is the most important function of a crib or bassinet. A core element of creating a safe sleep space is having your baby in the same room as you, known as room sharing, but not in the same bed.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “room sharing is known to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.” This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend keeping your baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep until they’re at least six months old, but preferably 12 months.

Bassinets are easier to keep in your room and more accessible, so many parents prefer them to cribs for their baby’s first six months.

Parents can also create a safe sleep space by doing the following:

  • Placing their baby to sleep on his or her back at night and during naps
  • Using a firm, flat sleep surface covered with a fitted blanket (no loose blankets)
  • Removing blankets, pillows, toys, and other bedding items from the sleep space
  • Keeping their baby’s head uncovered and their sleep space cool (prevents overheating)

Creating a safe sleep space can be done with either a bassinet or crib. Therefore, using both or just using a crib is a personal choice that every parent must make according to their wants and needs.

Differences Between Cribs and Bassinets

There are several key differences between cribs and bassinets, including their size, portability, structure, lifespan, and price. Both are safe for newborns and babies as they grow.

  • Size – Though smaller cribs are becoming more readily available, bassinets are generally much smaller than cribs. This makes them ideal for smaller spaces, such as apartments or two-bedroom houses.
  • Portability – Because bassinets are smaller, they’re easier to move and maneuver than cribs. Cribs are meant to be set up in one room and then remain there, like other bedroom furniture; bassinets are designed so that they can be moved around as needed.
  • Structure – Bassinets are smaller and have lower sides than cribs. This makes it easier for parents to reach over and lift up or lay down their baby. But it also means that bassinets have much lower weight limits than cribs. 
  • Lifespan – Bassinets are primarily used for the baby’s first few months, whereas cribs can be used as a baby grows. If the crib can be converted into a toddler bed, then it has an even longer lifespan.
  • Price – Typically, bassinets are less expensive than cribs. A bassinet usually costs roughly $50 to over $200, while cribs can cost anywhere from $150 to well over $1,000. This isn’t always true, however, depending on the brand and quality of the bassinet.

Whether you use a crib or a bassinet for your baby’s first few months primarily depends on how close you want them (i.e., in the same room as you or not). Past that, it depends on your needs.

If you want to keep your baby close just in case, then a bassinet is the better method. Similarly, bassinets are the better choice if you need something easily accessible and affordable.

But if you want to make a long-term investment, then cribs are the better choice. They’ll continue to be useful as your child grows, whereas bassinets are usable for less than a year.

What’s The Point Of A Bassinet?

Bassinets are small beds specifically designed for newborns and babies up to six months old. They are typically oval, with low set mesh or cloth sides, and can be raised to the same height as an adult’s bed. They come in a variety of colors and styles and may include features such as hoods, lights, rocking, sounds, and storage.

Bassinets are convenient, affordable, and able to easily meet the infant and sleep safety recommendations put forth by various federal agencies. They were designed for room sharing and to be kept bare, both of which are key to keeping your baby safe.

The Point Of A Bassinet
A Bassinet

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that “placing the crib close to the parents’ bed so that the infant is within view and reach can facilitate feeding, comforting, and monitoring of the infant” and reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.

As one such sleep surface, bassinets are therefore often utilized by parents with newborns. Bassinets that meet the AAP’s other safety recommendations can also reduce the risk of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment.

Bassinets are also often more practical because of how easy it is for parents to lay infants back down. This is useful at any given moment, but especially after breastfeeding, which can often cause parents to become drowsy.

If a parent is falling asleep, they’re more likely to lay their infant in an easy-to-reach place, such as a bassinet, versus rousing themselves and walking to the nursery for the crib.

Are Bassinets Really Necessary?

Bassinets aren’t strictly necessary, but they are easier to access and more convenient than cribs for your baby’s first few months.

Here are some factors to consider if you’re thinking about getting a bassinet (or forgoing one):

  • Where Do You Want the Baby to Sleep? – Though the CDC recommends sleeping in the same room as your child, it’s ultimately up to you. If you want your newborn in the nursery, then a crib will suffice (no bassinet needed).
  • Do You Have Space In Your Room? – Alternatively, if you want your baby to sleep in your bedroom, bassinets are often the better choice because they’re much smaller than cribs and more temporary. But if space isn’t a problem, then a crib works great.
  • What Can You Afford? – Cribs are typically more expensive than bassinets, though this isn’t always true. So you can make the choice to buy both, buy a bassinet first and then a crib, or just buy a crib.
  • How Much Do You Value Convenience? – It’s easier to put your baby into or pick them up from a bassinet. So if you’re still recovering from the pregnancy, have physical disabilities, or just aren’t super fit, then a bassinet will be more convenient. 

Keep in mind, bassinets have a limited lifespan. So while a bassinet isn’t technically necessary if you have a crib, a crib is absolutely necessary even if you have a bassinet.

There are several factors that determine when your baby is ready to move on from a bassinet into a crib: age, mobility, and weight. We’ll cover all of these in the sections that follow.

Do You Need A Bassinet If You Have A Crib?

Bassinets are only designed for a baby’s first few months, so they’re not technically essential if you have a crib. However, many parents prefer bassinets to cribs for their newborns.

If you’ve had a C-section or have undergone a recent surgery, bassinets may also be a temporary necessity. It can be difficult for people in good physical condition and health to bend over the bars of a crib to pick up or lay down their infant.

So for people who aren’t in the best health, bassinets present an easy and safe solution. Bassinets are also useful for: 

  • People who have disabilities or mobility issues, such as those in a wheelchair. Bassinets are height-adjustable and easier to interact with
  • People who want to keep their newborn away from siblings and pets, who could otherwise easily reach through a crib’s bars
  • Multi-story houses where families are downstairs for the majority of the day and upstairs at night; bassinets can be easily transported up and down stairs
  • People who are short, since foot stools, stepstools, and similar equipment are dangerous to use in conjunction with a crib

Though bassinets will only be viable for so long (generally up to six months or 20 Ibs), they can be invaluable for a whole host of reasons, especially to people who need to have access to their baby with minimal physical exertion.

Can A Baby Sleep Overnight In A Bassinet?

Newborns and infants can safely sleep overnight in bassinets, provided the bassinet is bare of sleep materials besides a fitted sheet. Bassinets are intended for newborns and babies up to six months of age.

However, being able to sleep through the night and actually doing so are different matters entirely. Though bassinets are designed for overnight sleeping just like cribs, there are several factors that may be affecting your baby’s sleep patterns.

For example, noise and movement are a large contributor to poor sleep. Though sleeping in the same room as your baby reduces the risk of SIDS, it does mean everyone is hearing everyone else’s noises and movements. Your baby may be reacting to what she or he hears in your room.

It’s possible that you may just need to adjust the sleeping environment for your baby to stay asleep overnight. Using a sound machine is a great way to ensure your infant isn’t woken up by errant noise, such as snoring.

But if your child is uncomfortable because of another reason, such as a growth spurt, then it’s unlikely they’ll be able to sleep through the night.

Crib Or Bassinet: Which Is Better For A Newborn

Both cribs and bassinets are safe for newborns, provided they are in the same room as where the parent sleeps and meet the other criteria for a safe sleep environment.

The other criteria for a safe sleep environment are as follows:

  • Firm and flat sleep surface in a safety approved crib or bassinet, covered with a fitted sheet; no plush surfaces
  • No pillows, blankets, bumpers, toys, bedding, or other loose sleep materials that could cover the baby’s head or cause suffocation
  • No smoke or secondhand smoke present in the room or near the infant’s sleep space

It’s possible to create a safe sleep environment for a newborn with either a crib or a bassinet, so the choice is entirely dependent on the parents’ preferences.

Many people prefer bassinets for practical reasons, but also aesthetic ones. Because cribs are larger than bassinets, they can look sparse and uninviting. Bassinets are smaller, giving your baby’s sleep space a cozier look.

Is A Crib Safer Than A Bassinet?

Cribs and bassinets are equally safe sleep spaces for newborns and infants. Though there are several key differences between the two, such as size and cost, they are both safe for your baby to sleep in.

Remember, it’s not what your baby is sleeping in, but rather where and how safe that environment is. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has outlined several key elements of creating a safe sleep space:

  • Bare is Best – There should be nothing on your baby’s mattress except a fitted sheet. No pillows, blankets, etc.
  • Mind the Gaps – There should be no gaps larger than the width of two fingers between the sides of your crib (or bassinet) and mattress.
  • Follow Instructions – No matter how highly rated a crib or bassinet comes, it will be unsafe if you don’t correctly follow assembly instructions.
  • Be Wary of Old Cribs – Don’t use cribs (or bassinets) that are older than 10 years, have been modified, or have visible damage.
  • Avoid Cords – Don’t place your crib or bassinet near blinds, curtain cords, baby monitor cords, or any other type of cords; they present a strangling hazard.

Another important fact to keep in mind is that each infant should have his or her own bassinet or crib. If you have twins or multiples, each baby should be in their own bassinet or crib. Sharing a sleep space, either with their sibling or parent, is unsafe.

Does SIDS Only Happen In Cribs?

Cribs do not cause ‘crib death’ or SIDS and are not linked in any way to sleep-related infant deaths. Both the CDC and NIH have debunked the myth that SIDS only happens in cribs.

Though the exact cause of SIDS is unknown, research has suggested that there are three conditions whose convergence leads to infant death: a vulnerable infant, the critical development period, and outside stressors. This is referred to as the Triple-Risk Model:

  • Vulnerable Infant – A brain defect or abnormality makes the baby vulnerable. These defects or abnormalities may be located in the part of the brain that controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and other essential functions.
  • Critical Development Period – An infant’s critical development period is their first six months of life, during which time they rapidly grow and settle into certain homeostatic rhythms. Changes to these rhythms can destabilize an infant.
  • Outside Stressors – Environmental stressors include an incorrect sleep position, overheating, upper respiratory tract infection, etc.

When all three of these conditions occur, researchers believe it can lead to SIDS. Though parents can’t prevent a brain defect or control the critical development period, they can take steps to prevent outside stressors, especially since many of these stressors are linked to a baby’s sleep space.

So rather than being wary of the sleep environment, whether it’s a crib or bassinet, parents should instead be concerned with the elements of their baby’s sleep environment.

Both bassinets and cribs can be kept in a parent’s room so that they can monitor outside stressors, therefore lowering the risk of SIDS. But since bassinets are usually more portable and less bulky, many parents prefer to use bassinets during their baby’s critical development period.

Do Bassinets Cause SIDS?

Tragically, it is possible for a child to die of SIDS in a bassinet. But bassinets themselves do not cause SIDS or any other sleep-related causes of infant deaths. In fact, bassinets actually reduce the risk of SIDS.

Most infant deaths due to SIDS occur between one to four months of age. And research has shown that SIDS is more likely when outside stressors are present, such as an improper sleep space. Outside stressors are more common when newborns and parents don’t sleep in the same room, since parents therefore aren’t present to closely monitor their infant and correct any stressors.

Because bassinets are designed for newborns and babies aged one to six months, intended to be placed at the parent’s bedside or in the same room as the parent, they can actually reduce the risk of SIDS and help protect your baby.

Bassinets can also indirectly reduce the risk of SIDS because they make breastfeeding easier. Like sharing a room, breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of SIDS.

Which Are The Safest Bassinets?

Free-standing bassinets that have a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC) from the CPSC are the safest. CPC-certified bassinets have undergone and successfully passed rigorous compliance and safety testing.

Some of the key provisions for CPC-certified bassinets cover:

  • Spacing of fabric-sided enclosed openings to prevent entrapment
  • Static load, stability, and side height  to prevent falls, tipping, and collapse
  • Sleeping pad thickness and dimensions to prevent suffocation or asphyxiation
  • Segmented mattress thickness to prevent asphyxiation
  • Rock/ swing angle (if the product has these features) to prevent entrapment

Certified bassinets will have also met requirements related to small parts, sharp points and edges, label adhesion and permanency, unintentional folding, toy accessories, corner posts, fasteners, restraints, openings, protective components, and warnings and instructional literature.

The APP cautions parents against co-sleepers and bassinets that attach to your bed, as these are not as stable as free-standing bassinets.

NIH recommends that parents stay away from bassinets and cribs that go against safe sleep recommendations and/or claim to prevent or reduce the risk of SIDS.

The exact cause(s) of SIDS is unknown and there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS. As such, NIH reports that parents should not trust “wedges, positioners, or other products that claim to keep infants in a specific position or to reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, or reflux. In fact, many of these products are associated with injury and death, especially when used in baby’s sleep area.”

When To Move Newborns From A Bassinet To A Crib

Newborns can be transitioned from a bassinet to a crib at any time during their development, provided the crib is in the same room as where the parents’ sleep. If the crib is in a separate room, newborns shouldn’t be transitioned until they are at least six months old.

More preferably, newborns shouldn’t sleep in a separate area from their parents’ until they are twelve months old (one year). However, this isn’t always practical.

There are several reasons a newborn may need to be switched from a bassinet to a crib:

  • Bassinet Space – Bassinets are smaller than cribs, which is great for saving space— but not so much if your baby hits a growth spurt. If they’re constantly bumping their arms or legs against the walls of the bassinet, it may be keeping them up.
  • Infant Growth – Bassinets are intended for newborns and young infants. They aren’t equipped to safely contain babies that can roll over, sit up, or pull themselves into a standing position.
  • Weight Limits – An infant who is fast growing or who hits a growth spurt may surpass the weight limit for their bassinet, in which case parents will either have to buy a bigger bassinet or begin using a crib.
  • Infant Age – After your baby passes the six-month mark, you can consider moving them to a crib, though there’s certainly no rush. Once they reach 12 months old, you should seriously consider starting the transition.

If you keep your baby’s sleep space in your room, then technically you can move them from a bassinet into a crib at any time. But if the crib is in a separate room, such as a nursery, then when you move your newborn to a crib will likely depend on your infant’s growth and age.

Can A Baby Sleep In A Crib At 2 Months?

A baby can sleep in a crib at two months of age or even earlier if the crib is located in the parents’ room next to their bed. If the crib is in a separate room, allowing your baby to sleep there can lead to a higher risk of SIDS or other sleep-related infant death.

Keep in mind, transitioning your baby from a bassinet to a crib won’t necessarily change their sleeping habits. They won’t automatically start sleeping straight through the night or become less fussy.

At two months of age, they’re only likely to sleep in small spurts, roughly three or four hours at most, and will need to be fed at regular intervals through the night. While a bassinet makes this process easier, it’s still doable with a crib.

Tips To Ease Your Baby’s Transition From A Bassinet To A Crib

Transitioning your baby from a bassinet into a crib can be a momentous step for both you and your child, especially if this is the first time your child will be sleeping apart from you.

To make this move easier, here are some tips on how to acclimatize your baby:

  • Continue using the bassinet for night sleeping, but use the crib for day sleeping and naps
  • Begin feeding your child in the nursery, especially during nighttime meals
  • Transfer familiar elements to the nursery, such as night lights or noise machines
  • Do tummy time or short play sessions in the crib

Keep in mind, this transition may be just as hard (or even harder) for you as it is for your baby. If you’re having more anxiety as a result of the separation, consider investing in baby cameras or dual monitor-cameras.

These will allow you to check up on your baby at any time. And at night, you’ll still be able to hear your baby as they settle in to sleep.

Final Thoughts: Cribs, Bassinets, And Your Baby

Cribs and bassinets are both safe sleeping spaces for your newborn or infant. Bassinets are more accessible, portable, and affordable, but ultimately not suitable for mobile babies or babies over six months. Cribs have a longer lifespan and are more durable. No matter which you choose, parents can rest assured their infants are safe, secure, and sleeping well.

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