Bassinets, bedside sleepers, cradles, and Moses baskets--a basket with handles, a bottom pad and puffy fabric sides, designed so you can tote your baby from room to room--seem to offer a cozy nest near a parent's bed. And you might think that a newborn or young infant would be more at home in a compact space than in a large, airy crib. But full-sized cribs have long been subject to mandatory federal safety standards and could be recalled from the market if they fail to meet them. In addition, some manufacturers have their cribs certified by an independent testing lab in order to meet a voluntary industry standard set by the guidelines developer ASTM International. Certification is indicated by a seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is likely to adopt the ASTM standard for all cribs sold in the U.S., whether manufactured here or imported. A full-sized crib (with a fitted sheet only, no quilts, blankets, bumpers, or pillows) is the safest place for a baby. Your baby should be placed on his back to sleep, and a sleepsack-type pajama garment will help keep him warm without the need for any loose fabric. Stationary-side cribs are a better choice than a drop-side model; the latter have been banned but might still be sold in some stores. Go with a stationary side model; most recalls for drop-side models have been due to problems with the drop-side mechanism.
Currently, there are no federally mandated standards specifically for bassinets, cradles, Moses baskets, or bedside sleepers, beyond those for such items as small parts and rough edges, and the spacing of any rails. (The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will place mandatory regulations on many baby and infant products.) ASTM does have a standard for bassinets and cradles and has agreed to work on one for bedside sleepers. But we don't recommend using a bedside sleeper or a Moses basket, ever. Bedside sleepers are not necessary; if you want your baby close by, keep the crib or bassinet close to your bed. Moses baskets often have a lot of puffy/quilted fabric in and around them, never a good idea with a baby who still lacks the ability to control his head and neck movements. We don't recommend them, ever.
Bassinet and cradle manufacturers can voluntarily comply with the ASTM standard for those products (again, indicated by a JPMA seal on the package)--and certification can provide a layer of protection--but at present aren't required to. Ultimately all durable nursery products will require certification.
There have been recent safety concerns with cradles and similar products. One involved a rocking cradle in which the infant was rolled against the side of the crib and suffocated. Another involved a "motion bed/hammock," or hammock cradle, in which the side-to-side shifting or tilting of the hammock caused the infant to roll and become entrapped or wedged against the hammock's fabric and/or mattress pad, resulting in suffocation hazard.
First, decide whether you truly need a bassinet or cradle. If the crib you've selected fits in your bedroom, have your baby sleep in that from day one, then shift the crib into the nursery when your baby reaches 6 months or so. That's the safest route. If you want to use a bassinet or cradle, consider how you'll use it and how portable you'll need it to be. If you just want a place for your baby to sleep nearby at night, buy a basic model, preferably one that's JPMA certified. View other bassinets and cradles with caution. As we mentioned, all durable nursery products, including bassinets, will require certification in the future.
When buying and using a bassinet or cradle, follow our Shopping tips and Safety strategies. Be sure to abide by the manufacturer's weight and size specifications and stop using the product when your baby can roll over, push up on his hands and knees, or sit up by himself. There are usually warnings on the product, sometimes a lot of them. A note about assembly: Some bassinets have as many as 23 parts, and you may need a Phillips screwdriver and a good half-hour to put it together. Follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly. If you need any parts, get them from the same company that made the cradle or bassinet. To order, check the instruction manual.
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