Cradles and bassinets are miniature cradles for new babies. Smaller than a regular crib, cradles and bassinets fit close to the baby’s body, mimicking the close quarters of the womb. Parents often place cradles or bassinets next to their own bed, whereas the larger crib requires more room and often stays in the nursery. Both crib alternatives work for a newborn’s first four or five months.
Materials and Size
Most cradles and bassinets are made of wood and wicker, respectively, and they range from about 30 to 40 inches in length, compared to the larger crib, which can be more than 50 inches long. Width and height also vary, with many cradles and bassinets being at least 24 inches wide and about 40 inches high. Metal is another material found in cradles and bassinets, most often for the cradle’s stand or the bassinet’s frame.
Because of their small size, cradles and bassinets are both highly mobile. Wheels are common on bassinets, and some cradles feature them, too. This makes moving them from room to room even easier to keep the baby close at hand. Cradles rock from side to side. Cradles may rock because of a curved bottom, or they may rock because of the frame on which they are suspended.
A fitted mattress and accompanying fitted sheet are a must for any cradle or bassinet. Bassinets also often feature a hood, either made of the same material as the unit or the frame, onto which you can hang a fitted hood cover. Some units feature collapsible legs for easy transport. Others feature extra storage bins, drawers or storage space beneath or next to the main unit.
Both cradles and bassinets have had safety issues in the past, Consumer Reports notes. However, updated safety standards have helped correct those issues. Look for certification by the Junior Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) before buying. Cradles that rock too easily or severely--or bassinets with sharp edges--can be safety issues. Consumer Reports also warns against buying used cradles or bassinets. Instead, go for new products. Both cradles and bassinets are temporary lodging, many with a maximum capacity of 25 pounds. Once a baby surpasses the suggested weight--or once he can push himself up--it’s time for a crib.
Pros and Cons
Both bassinets and cradles have advantages and disadvantages. The small hoods on some bassinets offer extra protection and a way to keep out light, but they also often require a small curtain, which adds another cost to the unit. Bassinets with collapsible legs make for easy storage and transport; however, the legs can collapse unintentionally, unless they have a mechanism that firmly locks them in place. Cradle’s wooden slats may be smoother than the wicker on some bassinet's wicker, but slats can be hazardous if they are more than 2 3/8 inches apart, Dr. Spock notes.
A cradle's rocking motion can be soothing, but it can pose a hazard a suffocation hazard if the cradle ends up tilted to one side while the baby is asleep. Rocking pins--or even placing two pieces of wood under the rocking base to keep the cradle stable when you don't want it to rock--help prevent that hazard.