sleeping baby

Deciding what to buy for your nursery can quickly get overwhelming. Do you really need a changing table? How important is a rocking chair? Is a swing worth the space it takes up?

But one of the most important decisions you’ll make about nursery furniture is choosing where your baby will sleep.

Newborns sleep a lot, so your baby will be spending a lot of time in their sleeping space! In addition, keeping your baby safe while they’re sleeping is an important consideration with a newborn. Is a crib or a bassinet a better choice for those first few crucial months?

Here’s how they stack up and how you can decide which is best for you.

What’s the Difference?

bassinet versus crib

Both cribs and bassinets can be safe sleep choices for a newborn. However, they have several important differences.

The most obvious one is size — a crib takes up a lot more space than a bassinet, so a bassinet can be easier in a smaller house. Their smaller size also makes bassinets more portable. In addition, many bassinets have a hood or cover that you can pull over while baby is sleeping. Bassinets are also easier to use for many parents. Their sides are lower, so you don’t have to lean over the rail to place baby inside.

Cribs, on the other hand, can be used for much longer — some even convert to toddler beds and can last for years. Bassinets have weight limits and usually can only be used for the first few months of baby’s life. Cribs are typically more expensive than bassinets as well, but since they last longer, the total investment is lower if you go straight to a crib.

TypeProsCons
CribLonger lifespan, can be converted to a toddler bedTakes up more space, can be expensive
BassinetSmaller, easier to lean over, and portableHas weight limits, and only good for baby’s first few months

What Should You Consider?

When choosing whether to buy a crib or a bassinet, the first thing you should consider is where in your house you want your baby to sleep.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that newborns sleep in the same room as the parents, but in a separate sleeping space. If your master bedroom isn’t very big, then it might be difficult to fit a crib in along with your bed. A bassinet could be a good investment for the first few months. Even if you have a big house, you might consider a bassinet for its portability. That way, you can move the bassinet around the house to keep your baby close to you during naps and nighttime sleep.

Another factor is price. If you don’t have a lot of money to invest right away, a bassinet costs less. Since the bassinet will only last for a few months, you’ll still need to buy a crib later, but that does allow you to spread out the cost of nursery furniture over time, instead of buying it all before your baby arrives.

Ease of use is something else to consider. The sides of a crib are much higher than a bassinet, so putting your baby down and picking him up can be difficult, especially if you’re recovering from a difficult birth or a cesarean delivery. The sides of a bassinet are shorter than your arms, so you can lay your baby down easily without having to bend over.

Finally, some parents simply prefer a bassinet for aesthetic reasons. Although cribs are safe for newborns, they can look bare and uncomfortable, especially if you follow the recommended guidelines and avoid using any pillows or blankets. A bassinet is smaller and cozier, so it doesn’t look as sparse and big for a newborn.

What’s Important?

No matter whether you choose a crib or a bassinet, make sure that your baby’s bed meets the most recent safety standards. Your baby’s mattress should be firm, flat, and bare, and there should be no more than two fingers’ width of space between the mattress and the edge of the bed. If your baby’s bed has slats, they should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, so your baby’s head can’t fit between them.

You should never place your baby’s bed near hanging cords or drapes, since those can be strangulation hazards. You should also never use extra padding or sleep positioners, and you should always place your baby on her back to sleep. And if you buy a used crib, make sure it conforms to the safety standards outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

You should always check the condition of your baby’s bed before you use it, even if you bought it new. Make sure you follow all instructions for proper assembly, and check that all the hardware is tightened. If you buy a used bed, make sure there isn’t any damage to the bed that could allow it to break.

The Takeaway

Although it feels like a big decision right now, the differences between cribs and bassinets are mostly ones of personal preference. And even a crib will only last your baby a few short years. Before you know it, you’ll be shopping again for a big kid bed!