Written By: Paulo da Silva upsidedad.com
Sleep safety is of the utmost importance and as parents, we should be reminded of it often. It is our duty to provide our little ones with the safest possible environment to sleep, yet I still see so many parents making avoidable mistakes. So let’s talk about sleep safety for a little bit, and more specifically bassinet sleep safety.
Bassinets are not new. Humans have been using variations of the bassinet for centuries because they are portable, cozy and most importantly safe; that is if we follow some basic sleep safety guidelines.
As a general rule, the sleep safety guidelines don’t change whether you are using a bassinet, crib, cot, pack n’ play or anything else. But for some reason, parents today still ask and wonder whether or not a bassinet is safe for sleep.
Let’s dig in further.
Sleep Safety Guidelines
Infant sleep safety guidelines have evolved a lot in recent years with increasing research into causes of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and how to avoid it. The exact cause of SIDS is still unknown but there are some proven contributing factors that we as parents need to be aware of and avoid at all costs.
This is where the guidelines come in.
There are many different acronyms and catchy ways to remember what constitutes safe sleep but I like to go directly to the scientific sources. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recently put out an updated set of Safe Sleep Recommendations that pretty much covers what you need to know about keeping your baby safe during naps and sleep.
Here is a summary (please refer to this link for the full details):
- Back to Sleep for every sleep - Place your baby on his back for every sleep for at least the first 12 months.
- Use a firm sleep surface - Avoid any kind of soft sleeping surfaces
- Breastfeeding is recommended - Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS
- Room share without bed sharing - Room share with your baby for at least 6 months but preferably 12 months and do NOT share the same sleeping surface (bed share)
- Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the infant’s sleep area - There should be nothing loose inside your baby’s sleeping area
- Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime once breastfeeding has been firmly established - The use of pacifiers has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS
- Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth - Alcohol can pose risks to the baby during pregnancy and after birth
- Avoid overheating and head covering in infants - Dress your baby appropriately
- Avoid the use of commercial devices that are inconsistent with safe sleep recommendations - Ensure to only use products that are safety tested and approved. In-bed sleepers are NOT safety approved.
The different types of bassinets and their impact on sleep safety
Now that we understand the sleep safety standards, let's take a look at how the bassinets play into these rules and the safety of our babies.
Stand alone bassinet
Stand alone bassinets are the standard type of bassinet you think of when you picture a bassinet. It’s pretty much a basket on a stand. They can come in many different shapes and sizes and many come equipped with pretty neat features such as vibration, rocking and soothing sounds to name a few.
Most big name brand stand alone bassinets in the market today are all safety approved but always make sure to verify on the manufacturer’s website before choosing one.
My favorite standalone bassinet is the Fisher Price Soothing Motions bassinet because it’s affordable and comes loaded with great features. For more info, check out our detailed review of the Fisher Price Soothing Motions bassinet.
Bedside or Co-sleeper bassinet
Bedside bassinets are my favorites because they really changed the way we interacted with our son at night. These nifty bassinets attach to your bedside and they usually have one side that opens half way down so you can see and reach your baby right from bed. The simple action of touching you baby can help calm and soothe him when he starts crying in the middle of the night.
What’s more? These co-sleeper bassinets are also safety approved by the CPSC when they follow these regulations, so make sure to check if the one you choose is CPSC approved.
My choice of bedside sleepers is the Baby Delight Beside Me Dreamer bassinet and bedside sleeper (I know, it’s a mouth full). There are however a ton of other choices in the market today that weren’t available when I was looking.
Portable bassinets come in two types: folding (stand alone) and bed sharing. As mentioned earlier in the safe sleep guidelines, the bed sharing bassinets are NOT approved by the AAP or the CDC so they should be avoided at all costs.
On the other hand, folding bassinets can be great for the travelling family. Most can be used as a stand alone bassinet at home and they fold up in a second if you need to go somewhere. This allows you to have a bed for you little one no matter where you end up.
My choice of portable bassinets is the MiClassic because it’s big enough to be used as a regular bassinet and it’s a breeze to fold and take with you
Smart bassinets are all the rage now. These magical accessories will do things like sense your baby’s movement and start rocking them back to sleep. Sounds really cool right?
There aren’t many of these in the market today but the big one is the SNOO. The SNOO is fully safety approved and has been proven to extend your baby’s sleep when compared to a regular bassinet.
A more affordable option is the new Mamaroo Sleep bassinet which does pretty much everything the SNOO does but for one third of the price.
Is it safe for your baby to be swaddled in a bassinet?
This is a question I get asked often by new parents and my answer is always the same.
“If you follow the safe sleep guideline, you have nothing to worry about”
Are bassinets safe? YES, if they are safety approved and certified.
Is swaddling safe” YES, if done correctly with the right swaddle.
Here is the thing about swaddles; they are not all made the same. A “swaddling blanket” is NOT a swaddle.
Why not, you ask? Because you will quickly find that it breaks one of the main rules of safe sleeping.
A swaddling blanket will almost inevitably come loose at a certain point in the night which means you now have loose material in the bassinet with you baby; a big no-no.
Six weeks after our son was born and we hadn’t slept more than 2-3 hours per night, we decided to take a sleep training class and immediately decided to start swaddling properly. I ordered 5 different swaddles from amazon but they all felt flimsy and just not good enough, until we found the Ollie swaddle.
The Ollie has everything you need in a swaddle. It’s stretchy, breathable, has a really strong velcro and above all it’s safe!
Bottom line, get a swaddle with a good velcro that will stay closed tightly and you have nothing to worry about.
When should you transition from the bassinet to the crib?
There comes a point in your baby’s life when the bassinet just won’t do anymore and may actually become unsafe.
Bassinets are made for babies that lie down. If your baby is now pulling himself up, rolling over or moving alot, it’s time to graduate to the crib.
Bassinets also come with a weight limit. Most bassinets are safe for babies up to 20-30 lbs but it can vary. Make sure to check the weight limit of your bassinet and start transitioning to the crib before your baby gets too big.
What may also happen is that your baby gets too long for the bassinet. If you start seeing that you have two inches or less of space at the top and bottom of the bassinet, you may want to start moving the little one to the crib.
For more detail on this subject check out my post on “When is baby too big for bassinet”.
Sleep safety is important and every parent should take the time to check with their local authorities about the rules and guidelines on safe sleep for infants and newborns. The guidelines may change slightly from country to country but the idea remains the same.
- Baby should be in the crib or bassinet all alone. No loose blankets or modifications to the sleep area.
- Baby should always be placed on his/her back for naps and sleep.
- Baby should be placed on a firm sleep surface, in a safe sleep environment such as a crib or bassinet.
As a bonus, if you want to actually get some sleep, wrap your baby in a good swaddle and put some white noise in the background and you are good to go ;)