Product Reviews Nursery
Bassinets, cradles and mini cribs—all our options to keep a newborn close for those first few weeks! Here’s a look at our top picks, as well as the 411 on the different options.
What is the most affordable option when it comes to bassinets? Answer: don't buy one. Instead, consider a playpen with bassinet feature. We review specific models of playpens (also called play yards) here, but basic choices like the Graco Pack ‘N Play start at $60. The bassinet feature in most playpens (basically, an insert that creates a small bed area at the top of the playpen) can be used up to 15 pounds, which is about all most folks would need. Then, you simply remove the bassinet attachment and voila! You have a standard size playpen.
What if you still want to get a separate bassinet? We divide our recommendations in two categories: bassinets for home and those for travel.
Bassinet for home. Our top pick is the HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper. This bassinet has side walls that squish down for quick access to the baby; it also sits on a base that allows you to rotate or swivel it 360 degrees. The HALO Bassinest comes in two versions: a basic model for $220 and a deluxe version for $250. The latter adds vibration, sounds and lullabies plus nightlight. Between the two, we'd suggest the basic model—the extra bells and whistles (vibration, lullabies) aren't necessary for a newborn.
Both versions of the Bassinest come with a waterproof mattress pad and sheet; extra sheets are $15.
Here's a quick video with an overview of the Bassinest's features:
Bassinet for travel. The BRICA Fold N' Go travel bassinet is a decent buy at $36—it features a firm mattress with fitted sheet and mesh panels. Like most bassinets, the BRICA is only for use for babies who are under three months of age and 15 pounds. FYI: BRICA is part of the Munchkin baby gear brand.
What’s the difference between a bassinet and a cradle? Although most stores use the terms interchangeably, we think of bassinets as small baskets that are typically put onto a stationery stand (pictured at top right). Cradles, on the other hand, are usually made of wood and rock back and forth (center right).
A third option in this category is “Moses baskets,” basically woven baskets (lower right) with handles that you can use to carry a newborn from room to room. (Moses-Baskets.com has a good selection). Moses baskets can only be used for a few weeks, while you can typically use a bassinet or cradle for a couple of months.
Mini cribs are yet another alternative: most are similar in size to a bassinet (40” long by 28” wide). By comparison, a full-size crib is about 52” long and 28” wide. We recommend a specific mini crib here (see Grandma’s house). FYI: mini cribs, like bassinets, are NOT a substitute for a full-size crib, which is the safest place for a baby to sleep after the first few weeks or months. Mini cribs are fine for newborns or at grandma’s house for the occasional overnight visit.
Co-sleepers are similar to bassinets, but attach to the parent’s bed. We used to recommend this type of product in a previous edition. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out against co-sleepers (or any device attached to a parent’s bed). Pediatricians cited the risk of a parent unknowingly rolling over and injuring a newborn in a co-sleeper. As a result, we don’t recommend these products.
Bassinets go for $100 to $200 and include bedding (sheets, liners, skirts, etc). Cradles run $120 to $400, but only need a mattress and sheet. Moses baskets run $50 to $200 and include all the bedding.
So, which should you buy? We say none of the above. As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, a newborn will do just fine in a full-size crib. If you need the convenience of a bassinet, we’d suggest skipping the ones you see in chain stores. Why? Most are very poorly made (stapled together cardboard, etc) and won’t last for more than one child. The bedding is also low-quality. One reader said the sheets with her chain store-bought bassinet “were falling apart at the seams even before it went into the wash” for the first time. And the function of these products is somewhat questionable. For example, the functionality of a Moses basket, while pretty to look at, can be easily duplicated by an infant car seat carrier, which most folks buy any way.
Instead, we suggest you borrow a bassinet or cradle from a friend. . . or buy a portable playpen with a bassinet feature. We review specific models of playpens (also called play yards) here, but basic choices like the Graco Pack ‘N Play start at $60. The bassinet feature in most playpens (basically, an insert that creates a small bed area at the top of the playpen) can be used up to 15 pounds, which is about all most folks would need. Then, you simply remove the bassinet attachment and voila! You have a standard size playpen.
Since many parents get a playpen anyway, going for a model that has a bassinet attachment doesn’t add much to the cost and eliminates the separate $80 to $200 expense of a bassinet. Another way to save: consider a stroller with a bassinet option. Yes, you can typically add this as an accessory to full-size strollers for $100 to $200—and some companies even sell a bassinet stand for use in your bedroom.
If you still would prefer a traditional bassinet, check the "Recommended" tab above for our picks.
A EXCELLENT-our top pick!
B GOOD-above average quality, prices, and creativity.
C FAIR-could stand some improvement.
D POOR-yuck! Could stand some major improvement.