Before having my first baby almost six years ago, I thought providing a safe sleep space was pretty simple — buy a crib for the baby and call it good.
But then I learned the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing with your infant for the first 6 to 12 months of the baby’s life. As I looked around our cramped bedroom, I realized the beautiful crib we had chosen for the nursery definitely wouldn’t fit. In our case, a smaller bassinet made more sense, and while my son did eventually transition to the crib, it remained empty in the nursery down the hall for the first few months of his life.
This worked out well for us, but the choice between a bassinet or crib isn’t always an obvious one. If you’re not sure which way to go, here is a breakdown of the differences between them and what factors to consider when choosing which one to use.
Bassinet vs. Crib: What’s the Difference?
In terms of functionality, there aren’t really too many differences between a crib and a bassinet. They both provide a safe sleep space for your baby to snooze. The biggest differences between them come down to size and portability.
A standard crib is larger than a bassinet, which of course means it will take up more space. But it also can be used for a much longer period of time than a bassinet, with a weight limit of about 40 pounds and a height limit of 31 to 36 inches.
Plus, many cribs convert to toddler beds for use even beyond the weight and height limits. Think of a crib purchase as an investment for years of your child’s life, not months. However, because they are so large and bulky, cribs are not easy to move around. In fact, we had to completely disassemble our crib to move it to another room when our second child was born.
Bassinets are typically much smaller than cribs, making them a great solution for tighter spaces, like in our case. They are usually oval-shaped and typically have mesh or cloth sides.
Because they are small and lightweight, bassinets are much more portable than cribs, meaning you can take the bassinet to the living room during the day and move it back to your bedroom at night. We loved this aspect of having a bassinet because it meant we could easily create a safe sleeping space for our baby in whatever room we were in. I also often laid my baby down in the bassinet while awake and let him gaze at the patterns on the side or the toys the bassinet came with. (At night though, the toys came down, as the AAP recommends a completely empty sleep space for babies.)
While cribs can be used for years in most cases, your baby is likely to outgrow a bassinet much faster. Most bassinets have a weight limit of 15 to 20 pounds and are not recommended for use once your baby can roll over.
Crib vs. Bassinet: How to Choose
If you’re debating whether a crib or bassinet is the best choice for you and your little one, here are some factors to consider:
Size. This is perhaps the most obvious difference between a crib and a bassinet. A crib is bigger. If you live in a smaller home or an apartment, a crib just simply may not be feasible. Keep in mind though, that your baby is likely to outgrow a bassinet by 4 to 6 months. Another option if you don’t have much space is a mini crib, which is exactly as it sounds: a smaller version of a standard crib. The weight limits vary for mini cribs, but many are similar to the weight limits of standard cribs (about 40 pounds) and some also convert to toddler beds.
Room space. If you are planning to room-share (as the AAP recommends) and have the space in your master bedroom, a crib could work well, especially if you’re planning to room-share for the recommended 6 to 12 months. In our case, there was no way a crib would fit in our room, so we decided to get a bassinet. Sometimes the best choice simply comes down to how much space you have.
Feeding plans. Whether you plan to bottle or breastfeed may not seem like a factor in choosing between a crib and bassinet, but it could make a difference in your comfort, especially for those middle-of-the-night feeds. The sides are lower on a bassinet, so it’s easier to lean over and scoop baby up than in a crib where you have to stand to get baby. Not having to reach down as far with a bassinet is especially helpful when recovering from birth, particularly if you had a C-section. With a bassinet next to our bed, I essentially rolled over, brought my baby to my breast to feed and then put him back. If you are planning to bottle feed though, you’ll most likely be up to make a bottle anyway, so leaning down to get a baby from a crib may not be a big deal.
Price. A crib is a bigger piece of furniture than a bassinet and as a result, it costs more. Because babies outgrow bassinets much quicker, if you start with that, you’ll probably end up buying a crib down the road anyway, whereas if you just buy a crib you’re likely saving money in the long run. For some parents though, shelling out a few hundred dollars for a crib right away isn’t financially feasible, so definitely consider what best works for your individual situation.
Safety. Both cribs and bassinets are safe for newborns to sleep in, according to the AAP. Just make sure the one you choose meets the safety requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPCS), like no entrapment hazards and protection from unintentional folding.
Our Final Takeaway
Both cribs and bassinets provide safe sleeping spaces for your little one. We ended up using both at different times and for different reasons, but that may not be an option for every family. The best choice for you really comes down to personal preference and how much space you have in the room you’re planning to have your baby sleep in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to get a crib or bassinet?
Both are safe sleep options for your baby, as long as they meet the safety requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPCS). The better choice for you depends on your budget and how much space you have.
How long can a baby sleep in a bassinet?
In general, about four months. Most bassinets have a weight limit of 15 to 20 pounds and are not recommended for use once your baby can roll over.
Can a newborn go straight into a crib?
Yes. Some parents choose to put their newborn in a smaller space, like a bassinet, but it is perfectly fine for your newborn to go straight to a crib if that is what you prefer.
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