How to Choose a Baby Bassinet

Mother putting her newborn baby boy into bassinet
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When you have a newborn, you naturally want to keep your baby close. This instinct keeps your baby safe. In fact, safe sleep experts recommend that babies sleep in the same room with parents—but not in the same bed—for at least 6 months, and ideally, for the first year of life. Additionally, babies should always be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Buying a bassinet will help you keep a close eye on your baby, and allow you to have your baby sleeping in your room without having to make space for a full-size crib. If you're shopping for a bassinet, these tips can help you find a safe one for your baby.

Bassinet Safety Standards

Be sure your bassinet meets current safety standards. Older bassinets were only subject to voluntary safety standards. If you're buying used, do an extra check for safety problems. Look for labels that say JPMA or ASTM. Members of these groups participated in voluntary safety standards before the newer mandatory federal standards were enacted.

Federal bassinet safety standards went into effect in April 2014. These standards ensure the bassinet is stable and durable. Requirements for mattresses and other soft parts of the bassinet reduce the risk of suffocation or entrapment.

All bassinets manufactured after this date and sold in the U.S. must meet these standards.

Evaluate a bassinet the same way you would a crib. Does it have decorative posts sticking up from the sides that could catch on a baby's clothing? If there are side slats, can you fit a soda can between them? If so, they're too far apart to be safe. Are there decorative cutouts in the headboard or footboard that could entrap a baby? If there are any safety issues, do not choose that bassinet.

Weight and Age Limits

Check the instructions for the weight limit and other advice about when to discontinue using the bassinet. Most bassinets have a weight limit of 15 to 20 pounds. Some may be able to hold a heavier baby—but weight is not the only way babies outgrow their bassinets.

Many babies will be too big for the bassinet well before they reach the weight limit. They may be too long/tall, or they may be developmentally too mature. Some manufacturers may add a maximum age or age range, which is typically 4 to 6 months.

Keep a close eye on your baby so that you can tell if you need to stop using the bassinet before the stated limits. For example, if the manufacturer says that you can use the bassinet until 4 months and 20 pounds, but your baby is rolling over before reaching those limits, you should stop using it.

Remember, babies learn new skills at lightning pace. If your baby is working toward rolling or sitting, transition to a crib or play yard to avoid falls. This is important because falls are the leading cause of bassinet-related injuries reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Buying or Borrowing a Used Bassinet

A used bassinet may be a good way to save money, but use extra caution to be sure it is safe. First, check for recalls. Then, do the same safety check as you would on a new bassinet.

Ask how it was stored. Bedding and wood pieces need to be stored in a cool, dry place so they don't become moldy or warped.

Make sure all of the original parts are there. If it has been modified, don't buy it. Make sure it's sturdy and doesn't have any gaps or soft spaces that could entrap your baby.

Pay close attention to the mattress and supports, making sure the mattress doesn't sag in the middle.

To Rock or Not?

A rocking bassinet might be a nice idea, but it introduces safety hazards not present in stationary bassinets. Once the baby learns to move around a little or roll over, the weight shifting around in a rocking bassinet could allow enough tilt that your baby could become trapped against one side.

If your baby's face is pressed against the side, this could pose a suffocation hazard. Note that since babies often gain their rolling-over skills quickly, you may not even realize that your baby is at risk.

If you choose a bassinet with a rocking feature, make sure it has a lock so that the bassinet can be used in a stationary mode when you're not there to supervise.

Portability

Bassinets are praised for their portability. The smaller size and weight of a bassinet make it easy to move around the house so your baby can always be near you. A sturdy set of wheels makes moving the bassinet even easier. Wheels with locks will prevent curious siblings from moving the baby around.

It's also nice if your bassinet can be folded or disassembled quickly for storage or travel. If it folds, test the latching mechanism before you buy it. Note how easy it is to tell when the bassinet is locked safely in place. Check the folding legs and the places where the bassinet itself attaches to the legs for solid latches.

If you plan to disassemble the bassinet, check if it is easy to tell how it fits back together. If not, skip it. A difficult-to-assemble bassinet will be frustrating for you. And an improperly assembled bassinet is dangerous for your baby.

Mattress Support

It's essential that the bassinet's mattress is well supported. Mattress supports should be strong enough to hold your baby without bending or flexing. The entire mattress should be held up by the supports. Press along the mattress edges and in the middle to see if any spot dips easily. The hammock effect may be comfortable for some adults, but is dangerous for babies who can't extract themselves.

Mattress Firmness

For an adult, it may seem like manufacturers want your baby to sleep on a rock. However, a firm sleep surface is a must for babies to reduce the risk of SIDS. The bassinet mattress should also not be heavily padded because you don't want your baby's face to be able to sink into it.

Just like a crib mattress, the bassinet mattress should fit very snugly inside the bassinet. There shouldn't be any gaps between the edge of the mattress and the sides of the bassinet. Frills and soft decor on the outside is fine, but make sure none of the frills or fluff extend into your baby's sleep space.

Bedding

Consider what kind of bedding comes with your bassinet. All your baby really needs is a simple fitted sheet, and it should fit the bassinet mattress perfectly. Instead of blankets, dress your baby warmly enough to be comfortable without one. Or use a blanket sleeper.

While cribs have standard sizes, bassinets do not, so it may be hard to find sheets that are just right for your bassinet. You'll probably want to have at least one extra fitted sheet for the inevitable nighttime diaper explosion.

It's best if those sheets are easily removed for washing. Any fabric inside the baby's sleep space is at risk of getting messy, so be sure the whole thing can be cleaned somehow.

If the bassinet mattress doesn't come with a waterproof cover, check if one is available for it. If not, consider if can you throw the whole mattress in your washer.

Just like in the crib, the extras that come in bedding sets are not necessary. Don't add bumper pads, quilts, or pillows to the bassinet. A safe sleep space for your baby is pretty much bare. Nearly all bassinet-related deaths are related to soft bedding added into the sleep space.

Bassinet Styles

Once you've dealt with safety, it's time for fashion! Bassinets are available in many different styles, from sleek modern to classic and frilly. You can find bassinets that have baby-oriented themes, such as bears or lambs, or you might choose one with dark, glossy wood and fabrics that tie into your home's grown-up decor.

A Word From Verywell

The primary goal for choosing a bassinet should be safety. Be sure that whichever one you choose meets federal safe sleep standards. Additionally, make sure to only use the bassinet until your baby reaches the recommended weight, age, and mobility limits. After that, transition your baby to a crib, so that they are always in a safe sleep environment.

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6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Make baby's room safe: Parent checklist.

  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safe sleep – cribs and infant products information center.

  4. Federal Register. Safety standard for bassinets and cradles.

  5. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Injuries and deaths associated with nursery products among children younger than age five.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Movement milestones: birth to 3 months.