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How Safe Are Bassinets for Babies?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
Updated
Every baby bed has risks and advantages — bassinets are no different.

You probably already know that your baby’s sleep surface is an important factor in protecting your little one from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But some of the conversations around bassinet safety can be confusing.

So, how can you keep your baby safe in a bassinet?

We’ve dug deep into this subject to determine whether bassinets are safe and what you can do to prevent risks. We’ll share our findings with you in this bassinet safety guide so you can make an educated decision about what’s best for your baby.


Bassinet Safety Rules

Bassinet safety is pretty simple. But it’s important to observe these rules as strictly as possible to avoid potential hazards.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — also known as SIDS — is when a child passes away with no apparent cause before 12 months of age. One of the things experts agree increases the chances of SIDS is unsafe sleeping practices.

These three crucial bassinet sleeping safety rules are essential to your baby’s health.

1. Stand by the standard

As lovely as an antique bassinet can be, chances are it doesn’t meet current safety requirements. This means that yard-sale treasure or family heirloom actually poses more risks to your baby than a newer model. Having a certified product is the best way to ensure safe baby sleep.

If you want to use a hand-me-down bassinet, check the safety requirements. Beware of mattresses that are too soft, have overly puffy sides, or lack overall stability. You can find the full list of required safety features for bassinets and cribs here.

Another way to ensure your bassinet is safe is to buy it from a trusted source. Always check for recalls before making any major baby item purchases. You can view all recalls here.

2. Invest in mesh

Having mesh bassinet sides can be a literal lifesaver as they provide more airflow.

Think about what would happen if your baby somehow managed to roll over into the side of their bassinet. Which fabric would you prefer to be there? Breathable mesh or thick cloth?

Mesh-walled bassinets also offer improved visual monitoring, making it much easier to keep an eye on your baby. Fortunately, most modern bassinets feature mesh walls.

3. Lock the wheels

Like most parents, we love the portability of a bassinet. However, just because they can move doesn’t mean they always should. Unless your bassinet is designed to be a carrier, don’t attempt to move it around with your baby still inside.

If your bassinet has wheels, check them frequently to ensure they’re locked when it’s stationary. Be especially cautious if your bassinet is by stairs, other children, or pets.

What To Do When There’s a Recall

In 2013, bassinet requirements drastically changed after research showed that over 100 babies died in six years due to poor bassinet construction.

Experts implemented these new requirements to improve bassinet safety and reduce the number of infant injuries and deaths caused by unsafe sleeping practices (1).

An investigation is launched after any bassinet safety incidents to review the safety of that particular bassinet. If it fails to meet current standards, the product will be recalled. If you own a recalled bassinet, you should get rid of it immediately.

Return the product to the place you brought it from, with receipts if possible.

Safety Tip

Some parenting websites have email lists you can sign up for to alert you whenever a baby product is recalled, ensuring your knowledge base is up to date at all times.

Why Bare Bassinets Are Best

Any extra objects in the crib or bassinet with your baby can pose a significant risk of suffocation and choking. This includes toys, pillows, blankets, and even bottles.

By eliminating extra items from the sleep space, you drastically reduce the risk of SIDS. Reports show that 70% of infants who died from SIDS were sleeping with additional sleep aids like pillows or blankets (2).

If your baby is cold, you can get a thick, warm sleep sack and swaddle them inside. Swaddling is an excellent trick for encouraging healthy sleeping habits, just like pacifiers, so don’t be afraid to use these as often as needed.

Can I Use Fitted Sheets?

Fitted sheets are great for bassinets because they offer comfort and make for easy cleaning. The soft, smooth surface and removable sheet help make accidents like a leaky diaper or spit up easier to clean and could improve sleep quality.

If you’re using a fitted sheet, only use what comes with your bassinet or one that fits its dimensions perfectly. Any extra fabric poses a risk. Always pull the fitted sheet taut across the mattress.

We recommend that you purchase extra fitted sheets so you have one at all times, even during laundry days. Take note of your bassinet mattress’s exact size so you can find sheets that fit perfectly.

Can I Use Softer Mattresses?

The short answer? No.

Parents are often a little surprised by the rigidity of bassinet mattresses and grow concerned for their baby’s comfort. This is when extra soft mattresses and plush pads start appearing in babies’ beds — and when tragedy is more likely to strike.

Firm surfaces are best for your baby during the first few months of life. Soft surfaces may indent when your baby lays on them and could cause suffocation or entrapment.

If you’re worried that your baby isn’t comfortable enough, remember that newborns don’t need four pillows and a slew of blankets to get comfortable. As long as they feel warm and secure, they will be happy. It’s always best for your baby to sleep flat on their back on a firm surface (3).

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Can I Use Bumper Pads?

Just like mattresses, bumper pads are both unsafe and unnecessary in your baby’s sleeping space. People once believed that thin bumper pads were a great addition to their baby’s crib, but after many studies, we now know that bumper pads are too often related to SIDS (4).

Most bassinets don’t need bumper pads anyway since the walls are usually soft and breathable.

A great thing about bassinets is the absence of slats and hard surfaces, which are the main reason bumper pads seem so appealing. If you’re using a bassinet, your baby is already as comfortable and safe as can be — no add-ons required.

As your baby grows and moves to their own bed, you can consider getting rails or bumpers to help prevent them from falling out of the bed.

When to Switch to a Crib

One of the drawbacks of bassinets is that they’re only intended for the first four to six months of your baby’s life. After that time, a bassinet can become unsafe, so you don’t want to wait too long to move your baby to a crib.

Bassinets are typically very shallow, so once your baby learns to roll around and even stand, they’re no longer a safe option. The risk of bassinet injury increases as your baby’s mobility does, so at the first sign of them being able to gain some mileage, it’s time to look into cribs (5).

Keeping a close eye on your baby as they learn to move can help you decide when to introduce a crib.


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Headshot of Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett is a veteran licensed pediatrician with three decades of experience, including 19 years of direct patient clinical care. She currently serves as a medical consultant, where she works with multiple projects and clients in the area of pediatrics, with an emphasis on children and adolescents with special needs.