Bassinet vs Cradle (Differences & safety explained)

Bassinet vs cradle differences
Left by Ert/Flickr and Right by Only_point_five/Flickr

Getting ready to bring your new baby home?

Congratulations!

Now… where are they going to sleep?

You’ve probably heard that there are some definite advantages to holding off on putting baby to sleep in a full-sized crib.

So how do you choose between pack ‘n plays, cradles, bassinets, and more?

In this article, we’ll talk about the differences and similarities between a bassinet vs a cradle, and if one is safer or better than the other.

The quick version:

A bassinet is a small, cozy sleeping space meant for a newborn or baby, usually younger than 6 months old. It’s often oval shaped and may have a hood, handle, or wheels to roll around the house. 

A cradle is very, very similar to a bassinet, but the distinguishing feature is that cradles usually rock from side to side (often manually). Traditionally, they’re made with wooden slats (like a crib), but nowadays can be made of other materials, as well.

But let’s dive a little deeper into some of the ways bassinets and cradles are different and similar.


Bassinets explained

What is a bassinet

When you’re shopping for a bassinet, you’ll see lots of options that look something like the above.

They come in all shapes and sizes, with different features as well, but really any soft, cozy, sleeping space that’s just big enough for a newborn can be considered a bassinet.

The sleeping area is usually somewhere around 1.5 to 2.5 long, usually oval-shaped, though those dimensions can vary.

Bassinets frequently have a handle or wheels to make them even more portable. And they’re already pretty portable, given how small they are.

They’re best used for babies under 6-months-old, and usually get most of their use when parents want baby to sleep in the same room with them right after coming home from the hospital.

Pros

There’s a lot to like about bassinets.

Cozy: The bedding area of a bassinet is usually really soft and cushioned, though free of any loose material or blankets that might be a suffocation risk.

Portable: Bassinets are designed to go from room to room. At first, you might want it only a foot or two away from your own bed at night. Later, you may decide to place it elsewhere in the house.

Cons

Often doesn’t rock: There are some rocking or vibrating models of bassinet, but most of them don’t have these features. And come to think of it, if a bassinet rocks front to back or side to side, you might actually consider it a cradle! (Is your head spinning, yet?)

Outgrown quickly: This is a drawback of both cradles and bassinets, but it’s worth mentioning. These sleepers will only last your baby 6 months at best and may not be super cost-effective (even 6 months is being generous in most cases).

Looking for a good baby bassinet?

The Halo Bassinest (Amazon link) is a massive bestseller and has a really brilliant design. Its legs can slide partially under your bed, and then the sleep area can swivel toward or away from you as needed. It’s great for keeping an eye on a newborn.


Cradles explained

What is a cradle

Depending on what kind of cradle you buy, cradles and bassinets can almost be indistinguishable.

(A lot of people use the two words almost interchangeably.)

But the key feature that’s usually unique to cradles is that they often rock from side to side, either on a curved wooden arch (like in the photo above) or with another mechanism.

They usually rock manually, with the parent providing the pushing or gently swaying with baby’s natural movements. They’re not typically motorized.

Traditional cradles, like the one above, are a bit bigger than bassinets. They’re closer in size to mini cribs, with a sleeping area of around 3 feet by 1.5 feet or so (as a rough estimate).

Traditionally, cradles are made of wood and feature slats on the side, a lot like a crib, but modern cradles will use a breathable mesh or other kinds of polyester instead.

The old-style rocking wooden cradle isn’t used as much today as it was years ago, but some people love them for their classic look.

Pros

Beautiful: Old-fashioned looking cradles really are gorgeous and have an antique, classic look to them. They look great in any nursery or your bedroom.

Rocking motion soothes babies: The swaying motion of a cradle is great for calming babies and helping them sleep without the motorized noise of a baby swing.

Cons

Less portable than bassinets: Most cradles aren’t on wheels and/or don’t fold up into a small package. They’re light and easy to move, but their shape and size make them a bit more of a hassle to transport.

Outgrown quickly: Depending on which model and brand you go with, your cradle may last a little bit longer than a bassinet (some go up to 25 pounds or so), but typically you won’t need to have baby sleeping in a cradle beyond the first few months of life.

May need to buy separate bedding: If you go with a model of cradle that looks like a crib and has a detechable mattress, you may need to factor in the cost of buying sheets for it separately.

Looking for a recommendation for a good cradle?

People absolutely rave about the Baby Bjorn cradle (Amazon link). It’s a beautiful and modern-styled cradle that soothes babies to sleep with ease.

Take a look over on Amazon!


Which is safer, a cradle or a bassinet?

If you buy something new that’s been manufactured in the past couples of years, all of this stuff is 100% safe.

(Baby safety guidelines are extremely strict in the United States. Some products like crib wedges are controversial to some degree, but most experts agree that pack ‘n plays, mini cribs, cradles, and bassinets are safe.)

The key is to always follow safe baby sleeping guidelines as laid out by pediatric experts:

  • Nothing in the crib! No blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or toys.
  • No bringing baby to bed. It’s too dangerous.
  • Baby should always sleep on her back unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

If you follow those rules, bassinets and cradles are both perfectly safe for newborns.

And always, always check the age and weight requirements of a baby sleeper before you buy it.


Wrapping Up

Baby bassinets and cradles really serve a similar purpose, it all just depends on what specific features you’re looking for.

If you want a classic look and the ability to manually rock baby back and forth, you should go for a cradle.

If you want something that you can easily carry or wheel to different rooms in the house, you may prefer a bassinet.

You can’t really go wrong! Just shop around and find something that suits your style and has great reviews.

In the meantime, you might always want to check out my other comparisons:

Hope this helps, parents!

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