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Differences in Cradles & Bassinets

by Sharon Perkins , studioD

Many new parents hesitate to place their tiny newborn in the center of a large crib, preferring a cozier environment more reminiscent of the womb for their infant. Both bassinets and cradles have high parent appeal, both for their size and portability as well as for their charm. Both can also have drawbacks; 61 infants died due to problems with bassinets and cradles between 2006 and 2010, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Design and Materals

Bassinets are typically enclosed environments consisting of a basket that sits on top of legs with wheels attached. Cradles come in many styles; they may have solid wood sides or slats that make it easy to see your baby. Bassinets generally keep your baby higher off the ground than cradles do. Both cradles and bassinets can have a hood that blocks out light. Most cradles are made of wood; many bassinets are made from wicker, although newer models might resemble small cribs.

Size and Portabililty

Bassinets and cradles are both much smaller than a crib; neither should be used by an infant old enough to pull himself up. The Consumer Products Safety Commission states that most bassinets or cradles should not be used by infants older than 5 months. Bassinets move more easily from room to room because they have wheels. Cradles, especially if they're made from solid wood, can be quite heavy. Older wicker bassinets or wooden cradles could be painted with lead paint, which presents a poisoning hazard if your baby ingests small paint chips.

Pros and Cons of Bassinets

Bassinets are usually more portable than cradles. If your baby falls asleep in the bassinet, you can wheel him in the bassinet to another room easily without waking him. However, the wheels that give the bassinet portability also make it possible for a child or pet to push or shove the bassinet. Because the sides are solid and the bassinets sits high off the ground, a small child could also tip the bassinet by pulling on the side trying to get a look at the baby.

Risks of Cradles

Older homemade cradles might have more than 2 3/8 inches of space between the slats. Wider spaces could allow your baby to fall through the slats and strangulate, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don't use a cradle that doesn't meet current safety standards. Cradles also present a suffocation threat if you can't lock the cradle in place or if it becomes unlocked. The baby could fall to one side of the cradle when it swings and suffocate against the mattress or between the mattress and the wall of the cradle. Soft bedding in the cradle can increase the risk of suffocation. Mattresses may not fit older handmade cradles well. You should be able to fit no more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the cradle.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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