Crib vs Bassinet (Differences, Safety & Which One to Use)

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Crib vs bassinet explained

So you’re getting ready to bring your new baby home.

(Or maybe you’re just planning way ahead. Good for you!)

A common question I see all the time from new parents is:

Do I need a crib AND a bassinet? What’s the difference?

When it comes to a crib vs a bassinet, most parents start newborns off in a small, portable bassinet they can keep by their bedside for the first few weeks or so. After that, they’ll transition the baby to a full-sized crib in his or her nursery.

Here’s the birdseye view:

  • A crib is big and usually can’t be moved. It goes in the nursery and pretty much stays there forever, or until you’re ready to convert it into a toddler bed
  • A bassinet is a lot smaller and portable. It’s a sleeping device meant to go next to your bed or wherever you are in the house, and baby will probably outgrow it within 6 months.
  • There’s no difference in safety, as long as you’re following safe sleeping guidelines.
  • The only difference between a crib and a bassinet is their function, and you’ll likely want both before baby arrives.

Now let’s take a little bit more of a detailed look at these two pieces of furniture.

(If you haven’t picked out a bassinet yet, I love the simple design of the Delta Children Sweet Beginnings bassinet (Amazon link). It’s the best one you can get at this price!)

What is a crib?

Cribs explained

Seems obvious, right?

OK, maybe it is. But it’s still worth a brief review.

A crib is a large and usually non-portable sleeping space for a baby or a young toddler.

The important thing to know about cribs is that they have to conform not only to rigorous safety standards, but sizing standards as well.

A full-sized crib’s sleeping surface is 28 x 52 inches, give or take a small margin of error.

(Not to be confused with mini-cribs, which can vary in size. Shockingly, mini cribs are usually just smaller versions of full cribs.)

The crib you choose will, and should, last your baby for years to come.

A majority of cribs these days will convert into toddler beds when your child gets big enough, and may even convert into a twin or full-sized bed after that.

Since they’re a fixture of the nursery, you’ll want to think pretty carefully about the style and aesthetic of the crib you choose, not to mention its functionality.

Expect to pay around $125 for a budget-friendly starter crib, all the way up to $1000 or more for higher-end designer models.

What is a bassinet?

Bassinet explained

Bassinets are another popular sleeping option for baby.

Generally, they’re smaller, more portable, and temporary.

A bassinet is usually elevated on a stand, legs, or even wheels, and features a sleeping surface somewhere between 1.5-2.5 feet long. They’ll often be oval-shaped, but not always.

Bassinets are designed with a pretty specific purpose in mind.

Usually, you’ll start a newborn baby off sleeping in a bassinet for the first few weeks or months of life. The idea is to keep the bassinet close to your bedside so you can get up and soothe, feed, or change the baby.

(Spoiler: You’ll be doing that a lot early on!)

By the time your baby is six months old or so, it will outgrow the bassinet completely and should be sleeping in something bigger (like a full crib or a pack ‘n play).

Bassinets will typically start around $40-50 for budget-friendly options and go up to about $200-300 for high-end, feature-rich models.

(My favorite budget pick is the Delta Children Sweet Beginnings on Amazon.)

What are the main differences between a crib vs a bassinet?

If you’re trying to decide between a crib and a bassinet, you’re asking the wrong question.

Most likely, you’re going to want both at some point if your budget allows.

Babies can sleep in a full-size crib from day one, but it’s highly recommended that they sleep in the same room as you for a few months at least.

With that in mind:

Cribs are permanent, bassinets are temporary

You can buy a crib that’s only a crib, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one.

Most of the options these days are convertible cribs, meaning they start off as cribs that can accommodate newborns, adjust in height as your baby grows, and eventually turn into toddler beds or full beds (usually with sold-separately conversion kits).

My daughter is still using her original “crib” and she’s 5-years-old at the time of this writing. Her crib transformed all the way into a full-sized bed so I expect it to last until she moves out of the house… at least!

A bassinet, on the other hand, only accommodates newborns and smaller babies. You’ll be done with it after 6 months.

Cribs are fixed, bassinets are movable

The beauty of a bassinet is that it allows the baby to be near you at all times.

Baby can sleep right next to your bed in his or her first days home, and you can move the bassinet all over the house as you need to. It’s a great place for night-time sleep and naps throughout the day.

The crib, however, once assembled, won’t move.

It goes in the nursery and there it stays.

Some cribs have wheels, but you’ll most likely find you don’t want to move them around much once they’re in place.

Both cribs and bassinets are perfectly safe for babies

The safety and testing standards for baby furniture in the United States are extremely tough.

Very few things make it to the market with obvious deficiencies when it comes to baby safety.

As long as you’re following sleeping best practices for newborns, cribs and bassinets are equally safe.

That means:

  • Nothing in the crib with the baby
  • A tight swaddle, but NO loose blankets
  • No crib bumpers, rail guards, etc
  • Sleeping on their back unless otherwise guided by a doctor

You can read more on safe sleeping practices from the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Wrapping Up

So, will it be a crib, or a bassinet?

Here’s what I suggest you do:

Get a high-quality but not outrageously expensive bassinet. It’ll be a lifesaver in those first weeks and months after baby comes home from the hospital.

You’ll want him or her in the room with you so you can spring into action quickly! And being nearby will calm your anxious, new-parent mind.

For the nursery, invest in a crib you want to keep forever. One that has a nice, but flexible, aesthetic, and ideally one that will convert into a twin bed or bigger eventually.

(Get a crib from a major or well-known brand so they don’t go out of business before you can buy the conversion kit!)

That should get you started. From there, you might find you need a few extras like a pack ‘n play or a cradle, so be sure to check out my guides on:

Hope this helps, parents, and good luck!