Cradle vs Crib vs Bassinet – Which is Best for Your Baby?

When you are making a list of all the items that your newborn is going to need, the list is long and can sometimes be cluttered with too many choices, such as brands of formula, bottles, car seats, and the list goes on and on!! But one of the most important items is, of course, a safe and comfortable place to sleep. But even this is a complicated decision with a plethora of questions and choices to be considered.

Should I choose a Crib, a Cradle, or a Bassinet? It can be so easy to become overwhelmed and to lose sight of the important factors that you should consider when making this decision. So to help you with this decision here is a breakdown of each of those baby beds, their features, and what you should be considering when purchasing each one.

baby in a crib

What is a Cradle?

The definition of a cradle is a ‘baby’s bed typically mounted on rockers’. This would still be used today and is also one of the features that makes them the perfect choice for many newborns. The Cradle is an ancient piece fo furniture yet its origins are unknown. The very first Cradles were made from hollowed-out tree trunks with detachable rockers. Cradles soon became more extravagant with paneled and carved sides, pillars were added to support them and many were even mounted in gilded bronze.

baby cradle

Every period in history has produced its very own and unique version of the Cradle. From simple wooden boxes that were used by peasants to the elaborately draped cradles of 18th century France. These were typically used by the nobility and were often decorated in silver, gold, and precious stones.

Our period in history is no different and we have produced our own unique version of the cradle. The cradles of today are either typically traditional in wood with detailed carving or a simple clean design. Or they are a modern design with wood being replaced by mesh and soft padded sides in light pastel colors.

Many modern cradles come with detachable rockers making them easy and light to move around your home if needed. Some also feature a rocker that can be locked in place so that you can choose whether to rock your baby or not. This feature is fantastic if you happen to have a baby that does not like the rocking motion. Many come with a canopy while others choose to follow the more traditional open top.

Cradles are designed for newborns and very young babies. Once your baby is mobile and able to roll over it will be time to move on to another type of bed. Cradles typically do not come with bedding included but you are able to pick up bedding bundles specifically for them.

Features to look out for when purchasing

Like all other baby equipment, you should ensure that your Cradle meets all current safety standards. This is your top priority when purchasing your baby’s bed.

  • Most cradles do not come with a mattress and will have to be purchased separately. Ensure that the mattress that you purchase is firm and fits snug to the edges of the cradle, with no gap.
  • Look for safety certifications, although if you have a cradle that is a family heirloom it is unlikely that they will have these.
  • The rocking mechanism- check how pronounced it is, you are looking for one that is a gentle smooth motion. If it is too vigorous or tilts the baby too far side to side then there is a risk that your baby will be pushed against the side of the cradle.

Assembly should not be an issue when purchasing a cradle as they are usually one piece. The only construction that you may need to do is to the rocker if it is separate from the cradle itself.

The stability of the cradle is very important, while shopping don’t be afraid to touch and test the product. Check the rocking mechanism, if it does have a lock-in place feature, ensure that it can be securely locked.

Pros

  • The small dimensions of a cradle can often make your baby feel more secure while sleeping.
  • The rocking motion is soothing
  • The ability to move them around the house due to their lightweight.
  • Due to their small dimensions, they are great for those that have limited space.

Cons

  • They have a short lifespan as your baby can only use them in the first few months of their life
  • Depending on the design that you choose – placing your baby in the cradle can be difficult if it is very low to the ground, especially if you have had a cesarean.

What is a Crib?

It wasn’t until the 19th century that infant beds developed from bassinets, to what we now commonly know as a crib. Back in the 19th century, their purpose was to keep children in their bed and once their beds were raised off the floor the role of the sides were more a safety feature than a convenience.

night time crib with stars

There are many different types of cribs available-

  • The traditional wooden crib comes in a standard size. This is not commonly purchased by parents these days as we expect our purchases to have multiply uses and last longer than a few months. due to the fact that this does not convert into a toddler bed, it can only be used as a crib. It can be used until your child is a toddler so it will last for a few years. It is great if you intend to have more children and can reuse the crib for them. It is also perfect if you intend to move your child straight from crib to a standard bed.
  • The convertible crib is very popular with parents due to its versatility. These cribs are built to last and can potentially be used for many many years. They do have some downsides in that they are usually heavier than traditional cribs, cost a little more initially, and can take up a little more space. You may need to purchase additional items when you convert your crib to a toddler bed such as a guardrail.
  • The round or oval crib – This is not so common and takes up a lot more space than the traditional rectangle crib. This is due to the fact that they are meant to be in the center of the room. Most people do not have the option of having a room the size to accommodate an oval or round crib. Some of these cribs also have the option of converting to beds so they are versatile but they will still need to be placed in the center of the room. Most children will not like this and will offer them less space to play. There are other downsides to this kind of crib such as the ability to find a suitable mattress or bedding. They also cost more than traditional cribs.

A crib can be used from birth to the toddler stage. Some can be used beyond the toddler stage too. They are versatile in that due to their stable shape, they are less likely to be tipped over by your baby meaning that they can be used even after your baby is sitting, standing, or even walking.

Most cribs offer two height settings that can be tailored to their developmental stage. For newborns, you can set the crib to the highest setting as they are not very mobile and can be safely left at this height. Once they are rolling over you may need to look at lowering the height and so on through each developmental stage until you reach the lowest setting.

The vast majority of cribs do not come with a mattress and this will have to be purchased separately. Standard sized cribs require a mattress that is 52 inches long by 28 inches wide.

Cribs usually come with slats on at least two sides, some have slats on all four sides. These slats give your baby the opportunity to be able to see the world around them. Many also feature storage in the form of draws that are under the crib.

Features to look out for when purchasing

As all baby equipment, there are safety standards that your crib needs to meet. This includes the materials that they are made of and the distance between the slats.

Things to avoid when purchasing a crib are things such as-

  • Drop sides – these have been banned and are no longer available in stores. They have raised many safety concerns.
  • When purchasing bedding avoid crib bumpers which have been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Look for cribs with the ability to lower the height of the mattress – this ensures that you can use the crib for a longer period of time
  • Teething bars are also a good feature to look out for. These will ensure the wooden rails are not damaged by little teeth and will also prevent them from getting splinters.
  • The mattress should fit the crib perfectly with no gaps.
  • If you do buy a model with wheels, ensure that there is a good locking mechanism.
  • Ensure that the slat distance is no bigger than 2 3/8 inches apart, this is to prevent your baby from getting their head stuck between the bars and is in line with current safety standards.
  • Assembly – Make sure that your crib is easily assembled as some can be very fiddly and confusing and of course if not constructed correctly there is the potential that they can cause harm to your child.

Pros

  • Value for money as will potentially last for many years.
  • Sturdy and stable design
  • You can coordinate all your nursery furniture if bought as a set
  • Standard size so easy to find mattress and bedding
  • Variety of styles and colors available to suit all tastes

Cons

  • Many babies find the size of a crib unsettling
  • Full-size cribs are heavy and they do take up a large amount of space
  • It may be impossible to set up a crib in your bedroom due to its size
  • There may be assembly issues if they are complicated or you are not great at DIY

What is a Bassinet?

A Bassinet is a small basket for your baby to sleep in. They are usually made from wicker or cane. They are perfect for newborns and very young babies as they provide a snug and cosy space for them to sleep in. But they will rarely last more than the first 4-5 months of your baby’s life.

Bassinets tend to have a structure that is taller, usually meeting an average adult’s hip height, this makes putting your baby in the bassinet much easier. They are particularly good for moms after giving birth and especially if you have had a cesarean and bending is an issue in the beginning.

Some Bassinets have decorative features such as hoods, ruffles, or cushioned sides.

baby bassinet

Bassinets are great for those that wish to co-sleep, which is what pediatricians recommend for the first 6 months. They are small, lightweight, and can be easily moved around your home. They will fit in the smallest of bedrooms offering co-sleeping to the most space-starved parents bedroom.

Once your baby reaches around 20 pounds in weight or begins to roll over then a Bassinet will no longer be a safe or suitable option for them.

Features to look out for when purchasing

The same safety standards are required for Bassinets as other children’s beds. There are some key features that you should look for when you are purchasing a Bassinet, these include –

  • Try to avoid used Bassinets as the safety regulations change so frequently there is no guarantee that it will meet current safety standards.
  • Many Bassinets come complete with bedding – ensure that the bedding fits the mattress closely with no excess material
  • Check the manufacturers’ weight and size guidelines ensuring that you move your baby when they outgrow the Bassinet
  • If you happen to have a Bassinet that hs any folding mechanisms, ensure that they lock adequately.

Pros

  • The small snug space makes many babies feel snug
  • Bassinets are small, lightweight and easily moved around your home
  • For room sharing, Bassinets offer you a convenient option even in a small room
  • Easy to place your baby in even after cesarean due to the low sides
  • Usually less expensive than a crib
  • Usually made of natural material such as wicker

Cons

  • Bassinets have a short life span – usually only a few months depending on the size of your baby
  • They have a high tipping point due to their small, light design

Making the decision of which bed option is the best for you will depend on several factors such as budget, the size of your bedroom/home, or your future plans (additional children).

However, doing your research and learning what options are available to you will help you to make an informed decision that is best for you and your family. You will have the knowledge of what features to look for when out shopping and what safety standards each option should reach.

Ultimately you are the best person to make the final decision as only you truly know what will suit your family and situation the best.

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