The best beds for babies are full-sized cribs, so consider bassinets, cradles, and bedside sleepers with caution. Bassinet and cradle manufacturers can voluntarily comply with the ASTM standard for these products (indicated by a JPMA seal on the package)—and certification can provide a layer of protection—but at present aren’t required to.
If you decide to buy or use a bassinet or cradle, you can’t be too careful. Here are more safety considerations to keep in mind when you’re looking at these baby beds:
Buy certified and buy new. Although it’s not a complete guarantee of safety, buying a certified product adds a layer of protection. Certified products must meet the ASTM standard requirements such as correct spacing of side slats or bars. In 2008, for example, 900,000 Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible close sleeper/bedside sleeper bassinets (200,000 of which also carried the Graco logo or a Disney Winnie-the-Pooh motif) were recalled because the bassinet has metal bars that can be exposed when the Velcro flap that covers them is not properly secured—and the bar spacing exceeded the maximum 2 3/8 inches allowed under the federal crib standard, forming a strangulation hazard. Beware: Some of those bassinets could still be in circulation online and at tag sales and secondhand shops. (See two more babies die in Simplicity bassinets.) Always buy new—the maker is required to put the date of manufacture on the product. Send in the registration so you can be notified of a recall. (See our Guide to a safe, healthy pregnancy and infancy.)
Say no to an heirloom cradle or bassinet. It’s a quaint idea to use one that’s been in the family for generations, but chances are it isn’t up to today’s safety standards. Some possible hazards are an overly thick mattress or puffy sides, both suffocation risks, and legs with an old-style latching mechanism that can unexpectedly release.
Don’t leave your baby unattended in a rocking cradle. Use the hardware to stop the rocking motion before your baby’s bed- and naptime if you’re going to leave the room, and around pets and toddlers.
Don’t use a bassinet or cradle with wheels unlocked around stairs or other children. Lock the wheels as soon as you finish moving the bassinet from one room to another–and keep them locked.
Don’t carry or move a bassinet or cradle with your child in it.
Use only the mattress/pad provided by the manufacturer and only the fitted sheet made for the bassinet, or one specifically designed to fit the dimensions of the mattress/pad. Buy at least three fitted sheets so you have one to use, one for the wash, and one as a backup. Don’t use a pillowcase or different sized sheet as a substitute.
Don’t add stuffed animals or any bedding, such as a pillow, comforter, or blanket, or extra padding like an additional mattress/pad, or a sleep positioner to your baby’s bassinet or cradle; they’re suffocation hazards. Put your baby to sleep in a wearable blanket (swaddle sack) instead of covering her with a blanket. (See more safe sleep tips.)
Don’t let strings, toys suspended from a mobile, or window blind or curtain cords hang into the bassinet. Don’t place a cradle or bassinet near window blind or drape cords (a strangulation hazard). Shorten window blind cords by cutting the looped cords in half and keep them out of your baby’s reach. Position the mobile so your baby can’t reach it. And don’t add any suspended toys on your own. Use only those provided with the mobile.
Place your baby on his back in a cradle or bassinet, just as you would in a full-sized crib. Ninety percent of SIDS cases occur during the first six months of a baby’s life, which is prime bassinet time.
Have you used a bassinet or cradle? Why or why not? Tell us about your experiences in comments.