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Bassinet Basics

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 most pediatricians).

Co-sleeping with a sidecar

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.

The Best Baby Bassinet for Newborn Sleeping Arrangements

So, what should you use? We’ve broken down your rooming-in options into 5 basic categories:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Anywhere ~ $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 ($149), which has a canopy.

The siding for the bassinet is machine washable (air dry), and the set comes with one sheet (which is nice, because a frequent complaint with the previous version was the lack of sheets).

$$$ — Lotus Bassinet Bundle ~ MSRP $359/$299 on sale

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 love it for its ease-of-use and versatility.

Speaking of versatility, if you happen to have an UPPAbaby stroller, you might want to consider the UPPAbaby Bassinet ($199), which you can use with a separate stand ($149).

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 option is: the Graco Pack ‘n Play:

Moving into the next price category, the 4moms Breeze play yard is a top pick, too:

$$ — Chicco Lullaby Playard ~ $289-329

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 ~40 pounds), so it might not be the best pick if portability is your top priority.

Chicco Lullaby

[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:

Please note — re: the HALO^^: A number of readers and reviewers have expressed safety concerns about the newer version of the HALO Bassinest, for being slightly tilted when it’s swiveled all the way out. We’re working on connecting up with HALO to see what’s going on with the new design, but wanted to alert you to this in the meantime–

$$$ – Chicco 3-in-1 Bedside Bassinet ~ $299

A new alternative to the HALO or the Arm’s Reach is the Chicco 3-in-1 beside bassinet, which multi-tasks as a bedside sleeper (it’s functionally similar to the competition in this department — it has mesh sides, mediocre extra features, and you can pull it up *right next to you), a changing table, and a portable bassinet. We don’t think it actually qualifies as a portable bassinet — it weighs 33 pounds, has a large X-shaped footprint and doesn’t break down quickly — but it does have lockable wheels at the base, so it’s certainly more mobile than the HALO, say.

So far, parents are really liking this option, though please note the VERY frequent complaint that there are no sheets available for the mattress pad, so it’s hard to clean… this strikes us as a major oversight so hopefully Chicco will come out with fitted sheets to remedy the issue.

$$$ — Babybay Bedside Sleeper ~ $225

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. (You do need to purchase a separate conversion kit for this, though.) 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.)

Babybay Bedside Sleeper

Option 4: Bed-Sharing

If you’re sleeping with baby in your bed, as many people do, you may feel more comfortable with a shielded area for baby. 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 used to be a few options, but there’s been less available over time. (Note: in-bed sleepers 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!) At this point, the leading contender is:

$ — Pip & Grow Baby Box Smitten 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.

Pip & Grow Sleeper

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.

Also out there: The Dock-A-Tot ($$$) ~ $175+

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?

**BTW, Health Canada banned the Dock-A-Tot (and other similar products) for safety reasons, and in late 2019 two infant deaths were associated with the product.

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-ish 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 sides are all mesh, so it’s breathable and see-through. Parents specifically note that the bassinet is super-easy to set up and sturdy.

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 a slightly higher price category, we also recommend the more reliable Arm’s Reach Concepts Mini Ezee 2-in-1 ($189).

$$$ — 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 ~ $1495 whaaaat?!

Last and perhaps least, Harvey Karp’s SNOO bassinet has gotten a ton of buzz since it came out. It’s going for $1495, 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.

An alternative smart crib: 4moms mamaRoo Bassinet ~ $349

The 4moms bassinet has gotten a ton of hype since it came out last winter (2020), and thus far parents are loving it. From the control app on your smart phone (or the touch screen control panel on the bassinet itself), you can choose between five different soothing motions (each one has five speeds) and four white noise options (adjustable volume). It basically “works” roughly the same as the 4moms infant seat, except it lies flat, so it’s safe for sleeping.

A couple of other notes — one big difference between the 4moms smart bassinet and the SNOO is that the SNOO is cry activated, while the mamaRoo relies on you, the parent, to control it. Also, FYI: the 4moms bassinet features automatically power off after 4 hours (or you can set a turn-off timer for a shorter duration if you prefer), and, you obviously need to be able to plug this in!

*Comes with a water-resistant mattress and one machine-washable sheet.

And now, on to cribs…

Comments

  1. I read your great article about organic crib mattresses, but what about mattresses for the bassinet or co-sleeper? Are there organic mattresses for those? I didn’t see any listed in your recommended products, but it seems that during that newborn phase, it would be the most important time to have organic. Can you suggest any organic newborn options?

    1. Hi, Rebecca — thanks for asking! We haven’t been able to cover those in-depth yet (and sadly I haven’t seen very much of this) but in the meantime I night suggest calling the organic crib mattress manufacturers you prefer to ask if they offer anything specifically for a bassinet, or if they’d be willing to make a custom-size mattress. (Sometimes outfits will do this, other times not.) Sorry for the delay in getting back to you!

  2. Hoping to see this updated soon with 2 new entrants to give the SNOO some healthy competition — the 4moms mammaroo sleep bassinet vs the graco sense2snooze!

  3. What would you recommend for twins? We plan on room sharing but our cribs are too large and rather would like to purchase bassinets.

    Thank you!

  4. The SNOO does offer a rental option now! I considered it (baby #3 on the way), but I couldn’t justify paying the startup cost just for the rental. It was equivalent to a full bassinet from other brands, and I’d OWN those. To each his own

  5. For those considering the SNOO, I spoke to two pediatricians about it when considering it for my own baby boy because I was concerned about creating a sleep crutch but I had friends who swore by the SNOO. Based on their experiences, both pediatricians independently said they wanted to hate the SNOO but statistically speaking the success their patients have had with it must be attributable to the device and not the child/routine as the percentages of success were statistically imposible otherwise. With this in mind I went ahead and got one, and within three days of using the SNOO as instructed, my son was a good sleeper. He is now 20 months old and apart from a two week sleep regression at 4-months old, he has been sleeping 12 hours straight since around 6 weeks old. We 100-percent credit the SNOO with this feat. We also had no problems transitioning to a pack and play when traveling and/or to a crib at around 5-1/2 months.

    For those concerned with the price (yes, it’s expensive!), there are regularly discounts for the SNOO. I think I got mine on National Sleep Day (or some other random holiday) and was able to use my Amazon registry completion discount to buy it, so the total price was significantly less than renting it for six months (especially since I will be using it for baby number two in a few months!).

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