Having your infant sleep near you in a cradle or bassinet not only makes nighttime feedings and diaper changes easier, but this practice can save your baby's life. To prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that for the first six months your baby sleep in the same room, but not the same bed as you. Smaller than cribs, cradles and bassinets both serve this purpose.
A cradle is made from wood or metal and looks like a small crib that rocks back and forth. Most cradles have mechanisms such as locking pins to keep the cradle from rocking too far, past a 5 degree angle. The standard cradle size is 18 inches by 36 inches.
The bed of a bassinet is generally shaped like an oval, has mesh or cloth sides, a canopy cover and a storage space located below the bed. Bassinets can be stationary, rock bath and forth or set to vibrate. Bassinets come with bedding while cradles generally do not.
In addition to their small size, cradles and bassinets each have their own benefits. The fluid, rocking motion of a cradle may help soothe your baby to sleep. Both cradles and bassinets can come with wheels for easy portability.
Your baby may feel added security in a bassinet, which is more enclosed due to the fabric sides and canopy. A number of bassinets are equipped with mobiles and music, and most bassinets have a storage space underneath. Some bassinets transform to changing tables and play seats, while others are made to fold up for travel.
In 2010, Toys R Us sold bassinets from $60 to $200 and cradles from $80 to $160. Deluxe cradles and bassinets can run well over $1,000. The type of bedding as well as the material the bed is made of affects price. Any electronic device added to a bassinet, such as music, lights and battery-powered movement, will drive up the cost.
Buy only a cradle or bassinet that conforms to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM safety requirements. According to Consumer Reports, the cradle or bassinet should have a wide bottom, a sturdy base and no sharp or protruding objects that could harm your baby.
Follow the weight and size requirements of your chosen bed. Fill out the warranty card and send it back as soon as you assemble your cradle or bassinet. Manufacturers use these cards to alert you of any recalls. Don't carry your bassinet or move your cradle when your baby is inside, and never leave your baby unattended while the bed rocks or vibrates.
Cradles and bassinets are not immune to the hazards that cause SIDS—the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old. Babies can suffocate on loose bedding and soft mattress pads. Your cradle or bassinet mattress pad needs to be firm, no thicker than 1 1/2 inches, and it must stay in place. Only use the fitted sheet made specifically for your mattress pad. Keep the cradle or bassinet away from any curtains, blinds, cords or wall hangings. Do not add loose bedding or toys to your baby's bed. Bassinets should have a breathable fabric such as mesh along the side to prevent suffocation.
- American Family Physician: AAP Releases New Guidelines on Preventing SIDS; Carrie A. Morantz; Dec. 2005
- Toys R Us: Cradles, Bassinets & Portable Cribs
- Baby Center: Should My Newborn Sleep in a Bassinet or Cradle Before a Crib?
- Consumer Reports: Crib Alternatives
- KidsHealth: Ensuring Babies' Safety in Bassinets