The Best Baby Bassinet for Newborn Sleeping Arrangements
Picking out the best baby bassinet is an emotional thing for most expecting parents. It’s also a bit of a process.
The first thing to do is figure out what you want your bassinet sitch to be… and no matter which sleeping method you choose, your little lamb needs a safe sleeping venue.
Yes, we still recommend a crib for the long-term, BUT… don’t be surprised one bit if you don’t use it at all during the first few months. In fact, most parents end up with their baby in their bedroom for the first few months, which we highly recommend (as do virtually all modern-day pediatricians).
You certainly can, by all means, use the crib right away if you choose, but most parents find putting their tiny, helpless newborns into giant, spacious, jail-like (yet well-appointed!) cribs just doesn’t feel right: it’s a bit overkill for a newborn.
Having your baby close by usually feels more reassuring than having her off in a separate room. In addition, practically speaking, middle-of-the-night feedings – whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding – and diaper changes are WAY easier if your baby is right in the same room, nearby, versus having to schlep all over the house. Therefore, I highly recommend a temporary newborn sleeping venue that can go in your room.
Keep in mind that even the best baby bassinet (by definition, a small baby bed with low walls) can only be used until 6 months or so; once your baby can sit up (around 6 months, give or take), she’ll have to go into something with higher walls, such as a Pack ‘n Play or a real crib.
So, what should you use? We’ve broken down your rooming-in options into 5 basic categories:
- Portable Bassinets are, well, portable. We’ve zeroed in on the most portable options, though, and put a lot of emphasis on pricing for this category. This group of sleepers is the “quick and dirty” route to securing a place for your baby to sleep in your room (that you can also move around your home quickly and easily). These are essentially our budget/economy picks.
- Play Yards are the pack ‘n plays and similar products. Your mom probably calls them play pens, lol. These are also economical, but more cumbersome to move around frequently. Whether you use one for everyday overnight sleep or not, you’ll want one anyway (for travel). Trust me on that.
- Co-Sleepers are bassinet-like, but they are distinct because they’re designed to be right with you, i.e., immediately adjacent to, if not attached to, your own bed.
- Bed-sharing doesn’t require anything (and in many ways using nothing is ideal), but there are a few products that tend to make bed-sharing families feel more secure and comfortable.
- Bassinets are your classic, old fashioned in-room sleepers. This category is a little more costly, and less portable, but because they are more “permanent,” you might get a little more use out of them. Plus, they’re pretty – haha.
Given that families use so many different sleeping arrangements, there isn’t a single best baby bassinet for everyone. Instead, finding your best baby bassinet entails planning where you’d like baby to (not) sleep (hah!), deciding what features are most important to you (portability, proximity to your bed, size, etc.), and determining your ideal price range. Ready to dig in? Let’s go.
Option 1: A Portable Baby Bassinet
Our Top Economy Picks:
$ — Chicco LullaGo ~ $99
The Chicco LullaGo can be used in your room and is also great for car travel. It has partial mesh siding, assembles and disassembles quickly and easily, and comes with a handy travel bag. Also available in the “Nest” version ($129), which has a canopy.
The siding for the bassinet is machine washable (air dry), but there are no sheets available for the mattress pad, which is a frequent complaint you’ll hear about the LullaGo. (Some users have “hacked” this issue with mini-crib sheets or even a king pillow case, tucked under the mattress snug.)
Although it’s technically a travel product, this is definitely worth a look, if you can afford it. The bassinet is super portable, and the beauty is in its simplicity: it’s safe, sleek, and minimalist. It’s easy to set up, low-profile, and lightweight (13 pounds), and can transition into the Lotus Travel Crib, which is our top pick for a travel crib. Parents are loving it so far for its ease-of-use and versatility.
Option 2: A Play Yard
You might hear a play yard called a “care station” or in-room nursery station – one that’s equipped to handle newborns.
In my opinion, the play yard solution is seriously in the running as the overall best baby bassinet because you can use it for years to come, and it’s a must-have for travel. In fact, I don’t know a single parent that doesn’t own one.
By comparison, you will use a bassinet or cradle for 5-6 months (max), and then what? Store it away, sell it… use it as a planter?
In the economy category, our favorite brand is: the Graco Pack ‘n Play:
Moving into the next price category, the 4moms Breeze play yard is a top pick, too:
$$ — Chicco Lullaby Baby Play Yard ~ $199
Another favorite play yard of mine. It’s a durable, well-made (and well-liked) play yard that assembles quickly and easily. It comes with room for storage, a changer, and a bassinet… but it does run very heavy (weighing in at about 41 pounds), so it might not be the best pick if portability is your top priority.
[More about travel-specific cribs.]
Option 3: A Sidecar Co-Sleeper
There are two main brands in the U.S. duking it out for first place in the “best baby bassinet, co-sleeper edition”: Arm’s Reach and HALO. Both offer great products with some differences in performance. In truth, you can’t go wrong with either one. If you’re planning to room-share and want your baby right at your bedside, check these out:
A Third Option
$$$ — Babybay Bedside Sleeper ~ $365
Looking to stretch your dollars beyond the first 6 months? Made in Germany, the Babybay Bedside Sleeper is a sidecar sleeper that later converts into a crib as you transition your baby out of your room. (The conversion kits are ~$85.) Made of 100% Beechwood, these bedside sleepers are sustainable and naturally antibacterial. (Although it isn’t formally approved in the U.S. for this, in Europe the Babybay bedside sleeper has been tested with up to 300 pounds weight… as an adult bench. Wow. Needless to say, even though technically it’s only sanctioned for up to 6 months here, many parents abroad use it for their child’s full first year. You probably could too, just saying.)
These few items are just about all you’re going to find on the market in the U.S. when it comes to side-sleepers, mainly due to the fact that manufacturers are terrified of making baby sleeping venues due to the litigiousness (is that a word?) of our society. You could find a better variety in Europe.
Option 4: Bed-Sharing
If you’re sleeping with baby in your bed, as many people do, you may be better off with a shielded area for baby, in my humble opinion. This will protect your baby from pillows, duvets, and other bulky bedding items that are known to be a risk factor for SIDS. While “rollover” accidents are actually quite rare (a parent accidentally squishing baby in their sleep), I promise you will sleep better knowing your baby is protected. That said, these products are super controversial, even polarizing, among parents. If you choose to use any of them, make sure you use them safely.
Note that we have virtually no comprehensive data on these kinds of products, as the AAP specifies in its safe sleep guidelines: “There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of devices promoted to make bed-sharing ‘safe.’ There is no evidence that these devices reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation or are safe. Some products designed for in-bed use (in-bed sleepers) are currently under study but results are not yet available.” As per the CPSC, there have been a number of fatalities with infant sleep positioners, though, and the CPSC, the AAP, and the FDA all warn against them, so we don’t recommend any positioners at all. If you want more information on safe bed-sharing, you might be interested in reading James McKenna’s suggestions, and you should absolutely talk to your pediatrician.
For an in-bed sleeper, there are a few options; they’re all pretty straightforward. Note: these all take up more space than you might imagine, so they’ll be tight in queen sized beds — you’re better off if you have a king!
$ — Pip & Grow Baby Box Sleeper ~ $45
Pip & Grow, one of the baby box producers in the US, just introduced a baby box specifically designed for bed-sharing: the Baby Box Sleeper. It’s similar in nature to other in-bed sleepers (below), but… it’s a box.
The Pip & Grow in-bed sleeper is unique for coming standard with a fitted certi-PUR infant mattress; and, sleep researchers at two universities in Michigan weighed in on its development. So that’s cool.
$ — SwaddleMe “By Your Side” Sleeper ~ $49
It’s super-portable. A similar choice is the Munchkin Brica Fold N’ Go Bassinet (~$35).
Also out there: The Dock-A-Tot ($$$) ~ $185+
A related, very contentious cult-favorite item. The Dock-A-Tot is a pillow-like structure designed to keep babies from rolling over and is marketed as a “baby lounger.”
There are a number of safety concerns associated with the Dock-A-Tot (not least of which is that it’s a pillow), but some people—ahem, Kim Kardashian [puke]—swear by it. **Please note that the Dock-A-Tot cannot be used safely in a crib, and the manufacturer recommends it for use only with adult supervision. Some parents love it, but at the end of the day we’re left wondering why a pillow that’s unsafe for use in a crib would be any safer in an adult bed?
Option 5: A Bassinet
Last but not least, you can buy a regular, single-trick bassinet. Some of these last for less than 6 months, then you’d transition your baby into a crib (in his own room) or a regular Pack ‘n Play with taller walls if he’s going to stay in your room.
(Some parents are also opting to use mini-cribs in this same way, which is a nice option with a little more longevity than a traditional newborn bassinet…)
$$$ — Fisher Price Soothing Motions Bassinet ~ $149
This new bedside bassinet by Fisher Price has become a quick hit. It’s simple, cheap, looks nice, and has some fun bells and whistles (a nightlight, a music player, ceiling star lights, a mobile, etc.).
The downsides: the big complaint is that it’s very difficult to find sheets for this (and there’s no good way to wash the mattress pad); another common complaint is that baby can wake him/herself by her own movements (which jostle them awake). FYI, it runs on C batteries (three of them), so stock up. (Some parents complain that the features turn off automatically after 30 minutes… others love this because it prevents them tearing through batteries.)
In this same price category, we also recommend the more reliable Arm’s Reach Concepts Mini Ezee 2-in-1 ($169).
$$$ — Baby Bjorn Cradle ~ $349
Another solid option. It has mesh sides and is really well-built (for being just 13 pounds, it’s surprisingly solid). The Bjorn Cradle is simple, stylish, and safe; parents really love it. It also sways a little (manually), and you can run the mattress through the washing machine.
$$$$ — Harvey Karp’s SNOO Bassinet ~ $1295 whaaaat?!
Last and perhaps least, Harvey Karp’s new SNOO bassinet is getting a ton of buzz right now. It’s going for $1295, pretty steep!! The contraption is meant to mirror Karp’s famous 5 S’s.
If you have no clue what this is, it’s Karp’s five ways to soothe babies by mimicking conditions in the womb: swaddle, hold them on their side/stomach (DON’T lay them to sleep like that, though), shush (white noise), swing (move them), and suck (give them something to suck on).
The five S’s were made famous in Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block, but I think the Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep is a more worthwhile resource.
Anyway, the SNOO is designed to apply (some of) these strategies to help babies sleep better. It has built in vibrations (more like jiggling), sounds, and a matching swaddle (the SNOO sack). The noises and jiggling elevate through progressive stages to calm fussy babies to sleep (the latter ones are apparently pretty intense), and it’s all “smart” – you can control everything from your phone.
It’s supposed to be like a nanny stand-in… it claims to do everything short of feedings and diapers when it comes to bedtime. Thus, if it doesn’t “work” to get the baby to sleep, that means the baby needs something besides comfort and soothing (spoiler alert: when babies cry at night, 97% of the time, it’s because they need to be fed… and this thing is not going to feed them…). I also hate to imagine what kind of sleep crutches are being established here.
So far, some parents are raving about it and swear the SNOO really is the best baby bassinet — or even the best baby purchase they made — but others don’t think it’s worth the price tag. Shocker. Karp’s website offers a 30-day trial/guarantee, though, so if you can swallow the expense and want to check it out, go for it! But don’t expect any miracles.
And on that note, on to cribs…