What’s the safest option for my kid?
What’s the difference between a crib and a cradle?!
Bassinets, cradles, cribs, travel sleepers, Moses baskets, bedside sleepers…
When it comes to preparing for a new baby, there are so many difficult choices for a pregnant mother or a new parent to make. There is a wealth of information available about every imaginable safety hazard and all the potential benefits and disadvantages of different sleeping arrangements, and it can be a lot to process.
The truth is, every baby and every parent is different, and as long as your child is sleeping and is safe, that’s really all you can ask for. Either a bassinet, cradle or crib could be best for you and your baby, and some parents have all three!
What is a Bassinet?
Bassinets are small baskets, often made of wicker or cane. Unlike Moses baskets, which really are just a basket, a bassinet has legs and a hood or cover. Bassinets are meant for very small babies, usually younger than 4 months.
Bassinets are great for co-sleeping. Pediatricians recommend that you and your baby should share a room for the first 6 months, without necessarily sharing a bed. A lightweight, compact bassinet is a great way to accomplish this. Since these products are so small and light, they are also very portable, so you can move them around your home. Some stroller models have a detachable bassinet, which is very convenient.
For an exhausted new parent, there’s something to be said for less lifting. The walls of a bassinet are lower than a crib, so it’s easier to lift a baby in and out; you can even lift from a seated position instead of having to stand up and lean over a crib.
- Lightweight and portable
- Good for a small budget (less than $200)
- Often made of natural materials (ex. wicker or cane)
- Very snug and cozy (some babies prefer this)
- Available features include a way to make lights or sounds, and built-in toys or a mobile.
- The baby will grow out of it quickly (within 6 months)
How to Buy a Bassinet:
- Look for mesh or fabric walls, so your baby can still breathe if his/her face is pressed up against the wall.
- Avoid used ones, as safety regulations are frequently updated.
- They often come with bedding; if so, make sure to use the bedding that’s designed for your bassinet, as it will fit closely with no gap.The mattress should be thin and firm.
- Pay very close attention to the manufacturer size and weight guidelines, and move your baby to a new bed when he/she outgrows the bassinet.
- If buying a stroller with a detachable bassinet, keep in mind that stroller bassinets are typically designed to be used with supervision, since you can always see that your child is safe when pushing him/her in a stroller. These are not recommended for nighttime use.
- If there are any folding mechanisms, check that they can lock when extended (without locking mechanisms, the folding elements will not be as strong).
What is a Cradle?
A cradle typically looks like a small version of a crib, and they’re usually bigger and heavier than a bassinet. Cradles are generally made of wood or manufactured materials, and often have a rocking/gliding mechanism.
- Both stationary and portable models are available
- Soothing rocking/gliding mechanism
- Will last longer than a bassinet
- Typically bedding is purchased separately
- Heavier than a bassinet or basket
How to Buy a Cradle
- Avoid cradles with a pronounced rocking mechanism that tilts the baby strongly from side to side; this motion is connected to suffocation when the baby rolls against the cradle wall. Look for gentle rocking, gliding or vibrating mechanisms instead.
- If you have an heirloom cradle with a rocking mechanism, supervise the child while in use.
- As with a bassinet, make sure the mattress is thin and firm and fits closely to the edges of the cradle so there is no gap.
- Look for a safety certification, like JPMA or CPSC, particularly for old-fashioned wooden cradles; many of these models are not safety-certified, unlike most cribs and bassinets.
What is a Crib?
A crib is a child’s bed with slatted/lattice sides. They are built of wood or manufactured materials and are typically stationary, though you can buy models with castor wheels.
If you want your purchase to last a long time, a crib is the way to go. It will take your baby a long time to outgrow it and you can buy convertible models that will transition into a cot, bench, or even a full bed.
If you are looking to invest some money, cribs have a higher price point because they are sturdier and last longer. This means you can find a lot of different features and styles to suit your needs.
If you plan to have your child sleep in his/her own nursery, a crib will be the natural choice. Cribs are also more secure, if you have another small child or pet that might try to climb in with the baby or lift him/her out; the high walls of the crib will prevent interference with the baby.
How to Buy a Crib
- Avoid drop-side cribs, these are not considered safe.
- Also avoid crib bumpers, which are associated with SIDS.
- Look for cribs that allow you to adjust the height of the mattress, so you can lower it when your child learns how to stand up.
- Teething bars, to prevent your child from chewing the wooden rails and getting splinters, can be a very good idea.
- Make sure the mattress fits the crib closely, with no gap. The mattress should be thin and firm.
- If you buy a model with wheels, make sure there is a locking mechanism.
Whichever product you decide to go with, always check your safety regulations before shopping and look for safety certifications on the product. Many manufacturers have guidelines regarding the size and weight of your baby, as well as ability to sit up, grab things, etc.; these are very important for using your products properly.
In the long term, the choice between a crib, cradle and bassinet is mostly one of preference, and whichever you pick, you’ll soon be shopping again – this time for a full bed!