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If you are expecting a new baby soon, there are so many decisions to make.  What will you name your baby?  Should you use cloth diapers or disposable diapers?  Do you want to breastfeed, formula feed, or some combination of both?  Bassinet vs crib vs cradle, which is the best choice for your little one?  Our goal for this article is to help you answer that last question and decide whether a cradle, bassinet, or crib is the best option for your new baby.

Finding the best, and safest, sleep solution is definitely a very important decision.  To help you decide between baby cribs and cradles and bassinets, we’ll share information about what each option is and a few examples to help you understand it better.  We’ll also share some information about the best time to use each type of product and some pros and cons to help you make a final decision.

Bassinet vs Crib vs Cradle

If you’re trying to find the safest and most ideal sleep solution for your baby, you probably have a lot of questions.  You may be wondering:

  • Do you need a cradle and a crib?
  • Which is better bassinet or cradle?
  • What is the difference between bassinet and crib?
  • Is a crib or bassinet better for a newborn?
  • Is a cradle safe for a newborn?

We get it.  There is a lot of confusion around what the difference between a bassinet, a cradle, and a crib is.  It also doesn’t help that you may see these terms used interchangeably.  However, each of these items are very distinct products.

What is a Bassinet?


A bassinet is a small and compact place for a newborn to sleep.

Bassinets often look like a basket and may have a covered canopy.  Many bassinets are also portable, meaning you could bring them downstairs during the day to give your baby a safe place to sleep or take them with you if you visit a friend or family member.

What is a Bassinet Best For?

One of the biggest benefits of a bassinet is their size.  They are designed to fit comfortably in the parents’ room.  Since it is recommended that babies sleep in their parents’ room until they are at least six months old to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), bassinets can help you reach this goal.

One downside of a bassinet is that many babies outgrow them quickly because of their smaller size.  You will also have to discontinue using a bassinet once your baby is able to start pulling up, as it could pose a potential safety hazard since this sleep solution is not very deep.

What is a Crib?


A crib is a larger, more permanent sleep solution for your baby.

Cribs have four sides with slats and a mattress.  The mattress can normally be lowered down to continue keeping older babies and toddlers who can sit or stand up safe.

What is a Crib Best For?

Since cribs are larger than bassinets or cradles, they won’t easily fit in the bedroom of most parents.  This makes them ideal to start using once your baby is older than six months and ready to move to their own nursery room.  You may also choose to start using a crib for daytime naps before your baby has reached the age of six months.  Since you can lower the mattress, a crib will continue to be a safe space for your baby, or even toddler, to sleep as they grow older.

What is a Cradle?


Like a bassinet, a cradle is a more compact space for a newborn baby to sleep.

A key difference when you’re comparing bassinets vs cradles is that cradles are designed to rock side to side.

Traditionally, cradles were made with wooden slats, like cribs, but you may see some other materials used today.

What is a Cradle Best For?

Cradles are another option that could be used for the first few months of a baby’s life.  They are small enough to fit next to most beds, so you could have your son or daughter sleep in your room to reduce the risk of SIDS.  Unlike many bassinets, cradles are not very portable.

So, if you’ll want your baby to be able to take naps downstairs with you, you will need to purchase a separate product for this.

Bassinets

As we shared above, a bassinet is a small or portable space where a newborn baby can sleep.  Today, many bassinets that you see have mesh sides to ensure that air is able to get in to keep a baby safe if they roll up against the side.  Many bassinets on the market also feature an adjustable height.  This will allow you to set the bassinet to be the same height as your bed, making it easier to check on the baby or take them out in the middle of the night for a feeding.  Some bassinets may also be equipped with music or vibrating devices to help you calm and soothe your baby.

Most babies will outgrow a bassinet by the time they are four months old.  When they are four months old, many babies are starting to roll over or may even be pulling up.  This could present a serious safety concern as bassinets aren’t very deep and a baby could fall out.  By the time they are four months old, most babies are also getting too long to sleep comfortably in a bassinet.  They may start pushing up against the sides and feeling too cramped when they sleep.

Here are two examples of bassinets to help you see just what they look like and some features they have.

Difference Between Bassinets and Cribs

So, crib or bassinet which one is better?

The truth is cribs and bassinets are two very different products.  While bassinets are a good solution for younger babies who need to sleep in their parents’ room for safety and the ease of middle-of-the-night feedings, cribs are a better solution for older babies who are ready to have their own room.

Cribs are much larger than bassinets.  A typical crib is about 140 centimetres long and 70 centimetres wide while a bassinet may only be around 85 centimetres long and 60 centimetres wide.  Cribs have wooden slats on the sides to keep babies and toddlers safe, and most bassinets have mesh sides.  You can adjust the height of the mattress with most cribs, but bassinets do not have an adjustable base, so they can’t be used once a baby is old enough to sit up.

Difference Between Cradles and Bassinets

A baby cradle and bassinet share more similarities than a crib and bassinet do, but there are still some key differences when deciding between bassinets vs cradles.

Both of these items are small and can fit next to the parents’ bed.  This is important when trying to prevent SIDS.  However, bassinets are generally lighter and more portable than cradles.  Another key difference between cradles and bassinets is that cradles are designed to rock or sway, while most bassinets are more stationary.

Cradles

Cradles have been used for centuries.

They were originally made from hollowed out tree trunks.  A rocking device was added to allow the cradle to calm a baby with a soothing rocking motion.  Today, many cradles are still made using wood, like traditional cradles for babies were, but you can also find options that are made from other materials, such as plastic with fabric and mesh sides.

When comparing bassinet vs crib vs cradle, cradles are typically a little bigger than a bassinet, but smaller than a crib.  They are small enough to fit in the bedroom of most parents, providing a safe sleeping environment for babies who are younger than six months.

Here are a few different cradles you may want to consider:

Is a Cradle Safe for a Newborn?

Like everything for babies, proper use is essential for safety.  Regardless of whether you are using a cradle vs crib, babies should not have any loose blankets, toys, or anything else in with them when they are sleeping.

The only thing that should be in a cradle, crib, or bassinet is the mattress/pad, a tight-fitting sheet, and the baby.  Adding anything else can increase the risk of suffocation or SIDS.

Since many cradles don’t come with any bedding or an included mattress, you will want to look around to make sure you can find something that will fit securely in the cradle and won’t pose a risk to your newborn.

How Long Can a Baby Stay in a Cradle?

One benefit of a cradle vs bassinet is that most babies won’t outgrow a cradle as quickly as they will a bassinet.

Many babies will outgrow their bassinet by the time they are around four months old, but cradles can typically be used until a baby is between six and eight months old.  This would make it easier for you to keep your baby in your room the full six months without having to purchase another sleep solution before your baby is ready to have their own room.

Cribs

Cribs are designed to grow with a child.  They can be used with babies and toddlers, so this one purchase could last until your child is around three years old.  Many cribs on the market can even convert to a toddler bed and then a full-sized bed, allowing you to get even more use out of a single purchase.  Cribs are almost always made using wood.  They have wooden slats around the sides that prevent babies from rolling onto the floor while also allowing plenty of air to flow into the crib.

When you purchase a crib for your newborn, you will also need to purchase a crib mattress.  Crib mattresses are designed to fit snugly inside the crib to reduce the risk of a baby getting caught between the mattress and the side of the crib.  Many crib mattresses are also double-sided with a firmer side for infants and a softer side for toddlers.

As a baby gets older, you can lower the base of the crib to move the mattress down.  This can help prevent a baby from pulling themselves up in the crib and falling over the edge.  Being able to lower the mattress is also a good feature once you have a toddler who may be inclined to try to climb out of the crib.

What is a Mini Crib?

You may also have heard about mini cribs.  When comparing mini crib vs crib, there are a few important differences to note.  As the name implies, a mini crib is a smaller version of a crib, and there are some pros and cons of mini crib that you will want to think about before making a purchase.  Some mini cribs may have wheels to make them more portable.  Mini cribs can be a good solution if your nursery is smaller or if you are having twins and need to fit two cribs in the same room.  Mini cribs are also less expensive, so they are a more budget-friendly option than a standard-sized crib.

However, one big downside of a mini crib is it can be more challenging to find bedding that will safely work in the crib.  As we mentioned above, making sure there are no gaps between the mattress and crib and that the sheet fits snugly around the mattress is essential when creating a safe sleep environment for a baby.  This is not always as easy to do with mini cribs.  Because they don’t come in one standard size, it can be more of a challenge to find bedding that will fit correctly and safely.

If you’re deciding between mini crib vs bassinet, there are a few key points to consider.

  • A bassinet will be more portable than a mini crib and may fit better in your room
  • A bassinet may also have a canopy to cover your baby’s eyes when they’re taking a nap during the daytime
  • A mini crib can be used longer than a bassinet
  • Babies will grow out of the bassinet around four months, but may be able to use the mini crib through toddler-hood

Here are a few examples to show you the differences between the different types of cribs:

Bassinet vs Crib vs Cradle: Which is better?

So, now that you have all the information about bassinet vs crib vs cradle, it is time for you to decide which item is the best solution for your baby.

You may still be wondering “Is a crib or bassinet better for a newborn?” or “Do you need a cradle and a crib?”

Honestly, the best sleep solution for your baby is going to be what will work best for you and your family.

Many parents do opt to purchase a crib for their baby’s nursery and a bassinet or cradle for the first few months so the new baby can stay in their room.  You may find that this will also be the best solution for you.  Having a safe space where your child can sleep in your bedroom for the first six months is very important in reducing the risk of SIDS.

You may also want to prepare yourself for your baby to decide they don’t like sleeping in the crib, cradle, or bassinet you worked so hard to pick out for them.  Many babies seem to prefer being held by one of their parents when they are sleeping.  Obviously, this is less than ideal for allowing you to get any sleep or anything done around the house.  If you encounter this problem when your little one arrives, be sure to check out our post Tips to Get Your Child to Sleep Alone.

Closing Thoughts

Cradle vs crib, crib vs cot, mini crib vs bassinet, bassinet vs cradle; there certainly are a lot of products designed for baby sleep.  Hopefully, this article helped you learn the key differences of each of these products and what each option is best suited for.

Still aren’t sure whether you want a crib, a bassinet, or a cradle for your new baby? Take a few minutes and read through the article again.  Think about what is most important to you when creating a sleep environment for your little one. Select a product that will help you achieve those goals.

Before you know it, your new baby will be here and will be sleeping peacefully in the crib, cradle, or bassinet that you picked out for them.  Be sure to dress your baby correctly at night to keep them both safe and warm while they sleep.

After you have made the big decision about which type of bed to buy for your little one, you will also need to start thinking about some of the other items you will need for your baby.  One essential item to keep with you so you’ll always be prepared to care for your baby is our baby healthcare and grooming kit.

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