When you have a newborn you are going to have to deal with their needs in the middle of the night no matter what. Your sleeping setup will be one of the most important choices you will make for the quality of your own sleep through this testing time.
For a breastfeeding mom, bed-sharing can be the most convenient option – but it does come with risks in those early months. Bedside bassinets can be the next best option for convenience but require separation and effort to attend to your baby.
In this blog post, we will compare co-sleepers and bassinets, so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for your baby!
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We can summarize the difference between a bassinet and a co-sleeper as follows:
- Choose a bassinet if you want a clear separation between you and your baby when sleeping.
- Choose a co-sleeper if you are a breastfeeding mom and want to keep your baby close and accessible, while also mitigating as much risk as possible.
Bassinet vs Co-Sleeper Comparison
In this post, we will be referring to both standalone bassinets and bedside bassinets as the same as they can be used for the same purposes and usually have some flexibility built into the design.
For co-sleepers, we are referring to in-bed co-sleepers and loungers. Anything that can facilitate safer bed-sharing for an infant sleeping in the same bed as mom or dad.
Here are five key points of comparison that will help you decide what is best for your situation. We have provided a subjective score for each item, but we encourage you to read through and do your own scoring before purchasing.
Proximity to Baby Sleeping
As we mentioned earlier, breastfeeding moms have a more pressing need to have their baby within reach. This is often out of necessity rather than any proactive planning as nursing a baby is exhausting!!
Your day will be full and every bit of sleep helps. In-bed co-sleepers will keep your baby close while also mitigating some of the risks associated with bed-sharing with an infant.
Bassinets are always going to be further away from the parents sleeping in the bed. Some models can be placed right next to your bed and have removable side panels for easy access to your baby.
However, this is always going to be more effort when the midnight feeding comes around.
A bedside sleeper is always going to be a safer option. They have solid walls on all sides and usually come with a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet.
Importantly, a clear separation from the adult bed.Co-sleeping has typically been discouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics but they have softened their advice on this in recent years in recognition of the fact that the sleeping practice of sharing beds is common (and there are benefits to doing so).
There are specific references to a mom falling asleep while breastfeeding a child and that this is a safer place to do so than on a couch or armchair.
However, the primary hazard identified is the bedding rather than the parent itself and the risk of something obstructing the baby’s airways.
For the purpose of this comparison, the bassinet is the clear winner over a co-sleeper.
On size and weight, a bassinet will be bigger every time due to the frame required for it to be self-supporting.
However, for the purpose of this comparison, we will focus on the recommended weight and developmental stage limits. These will vary from product to product but as a general guide:
- Bassinets – 30-35 lbs, or when they are able to push up onto hands and knees.
- Co-sleepers – 30″ in bed space, developmental stage less important.
This is a bit of a non-issue as you will stop using both a co-sleeper or a bassinet long before they outgrow them.
The co-sleeper will become unnecessary if you wish to continue to co-sleep, and the larger bassinet becomes unsafe when your child is able to crawl over the barriers – at which point they should transition to a crib.
A strange contradiction when comparing a bassinet and a co-sleeper is that the safety issues with each have an inverse relationship as your child grows.
The bassinet becomes unsafe as they grow as they could crawl over the non-bed facing side and fall to the floor.
Whereas the risks associated with co-sleeping diminish the older your baby gets. While the co-sleeper may become less necessary, it doesn’t become unsafe and you could use it for as long as you want to.
Bassinets are typically more expensive than co-sleepers. Co-sleepers can range in price from around $30 up to $200 depending on the brand and style you go for.
Most loungers are at the lower end of this range if you are looking for a cheap solution.
The sturdy frame, removable panels, and swivel features that a bassinet may have all contribute to the higher cost.
Anywhere from $100 to $300 will buy you a bassinet of varying quality. But in general this is a big step up from a co-sleeper as a stand-alone product.
Why Choose a Bassinet
While the bassinet, or bedside sleeper, lost on points vs the co-sleeper, it entirely depends on what you are comfortable with as a parent.
A bedside bassinet is a clever piece of baby gear and provides excellent convenience and levels of safety. If you are prepared to spend a little extra then I think you will find that it is a superior option for most parents who are not breastfeeding consistently.
Two features to look for is the removable wall on one side so that you can slide your baby straight out of the bed onto yours, and a swivel that allows you to move the bassinet bed anywhere you like.
Adjustable height is also very important but is generally a standard feature. This allows you to align the level of the sleep surface with that of your bed.
There are also very portable and you can easily move them to different parts of the house when your baby is napping. This can be important in the first 6 months when many parents want to be close at all times.
Limitations of the Bassinet
The biggest issue with a bassinet is that you will only ever be able to use it for those first few months until they get strong enough to crawl out.
They are unsuitable for toddlers and it may not be worth spending hundreds of dollars on a bassinet before having to upgrade to a crib anyway.
If you are on a budget then you could then explore either the co-sleeper options or look at cribs that are suitable for infants.
Another consideration is that bassinets usually come with a built-in mattress. So you are unable to swap this out for a more supportive type of mattress.
Why Choose a Co-Sleeper
Co-sleeping in that first year can be another opportunity to bond with your baby. It is a great feeling having your baby snuggled up close each night and co-sleepers can help remove some of that anxiety that may come from having your baby sleeping flat on the bed.
When they inevitably wake up, cry, or are generally unsettled you do not have to get up to soothe them. Which in turn will help you get back to sleep faster and with less disruption.
A co-sleeper is smaller, cheaper, and is just a more convenient way to get your baby to sleep. This can be such a big help for new parents who are trying to adjust to their new lifestyle or a working mom who needs every bit of sleep possible!
Newborns will sleep regularly throughout the day also. These are more portable and lightweight compared to the bassinet which allows you to easily move it around the house.
Limitations of a Co-Sleeper
Bed-sharing can lead to sleep associations that will be hard to break in the future when it is time to swap to a crib. This is manageable, but it will be a challenge to get your baby sleeping without you there when you make the change.
There is also a catch 22 with in-bed co-sleepers where the more protection your baby has from rolling out of the bed the less convenient it is to actually have them in bed with you.
Loungers are more like a big cushion. It provides some separation but no walls as such so it is easier to roll out. Whereas a proper co-sleeper will have mesh walls to separate baby from parents and will also keep your little one contained in the bed area.
Now that you understand the differences in how these products function you will be better placed to set up your baby’s sleep environment the way you prefer.
They must be in your room for the first six months so you can attend to them quickly, and so you have that soothing presence whenever they wake up.
You can achieve this and ensure safe sleep, while also maximizing your own quality of sleep while using these products.