Small baby asleep in her vibrating bassinet

Though it might not seem like it some days, newborn babies can sleep up to 19 hours a day.[1] And creating a safe, cozy sleep space is crucial for maximizing the hours they snooze out of your arms. Enter: the bassinet.

The best baby bassinet will give your child an independent sleep area that’s still easy for you to access (even if you’re recovering from a C-section). There are also a bunch of other factors—like size, rocking ability and material—that you might want to take into consideration. Here, we break down what you need (and what you don’t!) when picking a bassinet for your newborn.

Questions to ask when buying a baby bassinet

plus icon

1Is a bassinet really necessary?

When it comes to your baby’s sleep space, think about your needs, too: “Create the environment that will give you the most peace of mind,” says Alanna McGinn, Ontario-based sleep consultant and founder of goodnightsleepsite.com. According to Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, that means room-sharing—where parents and baby sleep in the same room—for the first six months of your child’s life.[2]

Not to be confused with bed-sharing (which Health Canada advises against[2]), room-sharing means your baby sleeps in a crib, cradle or bassinet that’s within arm’s reach of your own snooze spot. When a parent or caregiver sleeps in the same room as their baby, but not in the same bed, studies show the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) drops by 50 per cent.[3]

A bassinet is a great choice during these first few months for several reasons:

  • Small size: “Parents might not be able to fit a huge crib in their room,” notes McGinn. A bassinet is smaller than a crib and won’t take up as much room in your bedroom—which will more than likely be filled with dirty laundry and other baby gear! A bassinet offers the ability to room-share while still giving baby their own secure sleeping area.
  • Accessibility: Bassinets tend to be shallower than cribs, so it’s easier to lean over the sides to put your baby down or pick them up. This feature is especially important for moms who are recovering from a C-section.
  • Coziness: Recreating the feeling of being in the womb can soothe a fussy baby during the first three months of newborn life (a.k.a. the fourth trimester).[4] Providing a snug, cozy space near your bed may help to calm your child for sleep-time.
heart icon
Safety Tip
Most bassinets are suitable to use up to four to six months of age, but there are other factors that may require an earlier move-out. You’ll know it’s time to transition to a crib once your baby can roll on their own, push up on their hands and knees or reaches the maximum weight and/or height recommendations as outlined by the bassinet’s manufacturer.[5]

2What safety features should a bassinet have?

Bassinets sold in Canada must meet the following Health Canada requirements:[6]

  • Clearly labelled age or weight limits
  • Mesh sides (so that there’s still air flow if your baby is on their side, explains McGinn)
  • Stationary sides or access sides (which have a stationary bottom and an adjustable top) that are at least 230 millimetres higher than the top of the mattress support
  • A sturdy bottom with a wide base (to help ensure the bassinet won’t tip over)
  • Smooth surfaces with no hardware sticking out
  • A firm mattress no thicker than 38 millimetres
  • A snug mattress that, when pushed to one side, leaves no more than a 30-millimetre gap between the mattress and any other side
  • Wheels that lock (if it has wheels)
Mother lying in bed caressing her baby, who sleeps in a bassinet pulled up to the bed The Halo Bassinest Glide Sleeper’s space-saving design has a base that tucks under your bed

McGinn also recommends parents refer to the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • A = alone (no blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals in with them)
  • B = on their backs (even after they learn to roll, place them on their backs to start)
  • C = in a crib or bassinet[7]
heart icon
Safety Tip
It’s important to only use baby gear as specifically intended by the manufacturer. For example, a rocking seat or swing might look like a cozy spot for your infant to snooze, but it’s likely not approved for sleeping.

3Are incline sleepers safe?

Incline bassinets or sleepers, where the head of the sleeping space is elevated, are not approved by Health Canada.[6] Any incline steeper than seven degrees could cause the infant to slide to the foot of the sleeper or bassinet into a position that could affect their ability to breathe.[8]

Mother sits on bed and looks down on her baby in a bassinet The Delta Children By the Bed Deluxe Bassinet has four distinct sides while still pulling nice and close to mom

4Should I try a bedside bassinet (A.K.A. co-sleeper)?

Bedside bassinets, sometimes called co-sleeper bassinets, are designed to pull up to your bed. If you’re interested in this feature, look for a bassinet with four distinct sides made of mesh so you can see your baby from bed. Also look for a model with a stand that can pull under your bed (to bring the mattress of the bassinet even closer to you) as with the Delta Children By the Bed Deluxe Bassinet and the Halo Bassinest Glide Sleeper pictured above.

What you should avoid? A bedside bassinet with three closed static sides, plus a fourth side that is open or retractable so you can leave it open while the baby sleeps next to you. While this design traditionally made it easier to reach over and soothe the baby, it’s no longer recommended by Health Canada. If the space between the bed and this style of bedside bassinet is too wide or if a parent creates a gap when they lie down, the baby could roll into that space or even fall through to the floor.[2]

Health Canada also doesn’t recommend stand-free co-sleepers that that lie directly on the parents’ bed.[9] And those popular cushioned baby loungers? They’re not approved for safe sleep, either.[10]

5Do I need a rocking bassinet?

Some parents opt for a rocking bassinet in the hopes that the gentle motion will lull their baby to sleep—a trick that works well for some little ones and less for others.

If your child is soothed by movement and you want to try a rocking bassinet, keep in mind that older rocking bassinets can potentially lead to the baby rolling over, which could put them at risk for suffocation. To help prevent this scenario, Health Canada mandates that a bassinet must not rock or swing beyond a 20-degree angle.[6]

Instead of a rocker, you might want to try a bassinet with vibrations (like the Fisher-Price Stow ‘n Go Bassinet). Vibrations are gentle enough that they won’t move the baby into an unsafe sleeping position.[11]

Small baby asleep in his vibrating bassinet The Fisher-Price Stow ‘n Go Bassinet gently vibrates to help soothe baby

6How important is portability?

It all depends on your lifestyle and the layout of your home. You may want a portable travel bassinet if:

  • You live in a multi-level home and don’t want to put your baby down for a nap alone in the bedroom.
  • You frequently travel to visit family or spend weekends at the cottage.

Being able to bring a bassinet wherever you go can also help to maintain consistency with your baby’s sleep space—something that becomes even more crucial around the two-month mark when sleep times become more defined. “The only way a baby is going to get used to their bassinet or crib is by being in it and being in it always,” says McGinn. “When we have consistency, they will be more comfortable and content—even when awake in their sleep space,” she says.

Keep in mind that travel bassinets tend to be smaller, so your baby may reach the weight limit quicker.

7Do bassinets expire?

Unlike car seats, which have a firm expiration date,[12] bassinets don’t expire. That being said, be cautious if you buy used. You’ll want to make sure the bassinet meets current safety standards set by Health Canada and that there aren’t any recalls for the particular model you’re considering. (You can check online using the Government of Canada’s recall and safety alert database.)

Look for the product label on the bassinet and make sure it clearly states:

  • the manufacturer
  • model number
  • date of manufacture

Health Canada also recommends asking the following questions before borrowing or buying second-hand:

  • How old is it?
  • How much use has it had?
  • Has it been repaired?
  • Has it been damaged or in an accident?[13]

And while they look cute, an old wicker bassinet is unlikely to pass today’s safety standards. “You don’t want to be using the same bassinet that your parents used when you were little,” says McGinn. “I would go more for practicality and safety rather than looks,” she says.

8What features make cleaning a bassinet or bassinet mattress easier?

Babies are messy, period. Spit-up happens and diaper blow-outs are common in those first few months. These features will make clean-ups easier:

  • Bassinet construction: A bassinet that can be disassembled may be helpful when doing a thorough clean.
  • Upholstery or fabric: The frame of the bassinet is easiest to wipe down if it’s smooth and free of a fabric bassinet cover. If it does have a cover, check that you can remove it and throw it in the washing machine.
  • Removable, waterproof mattress: If your bassinet mattress is waterproof (and most are), then all you’ll need to do is wipe it down after removing the fitted sheet. If the mattress isn’t waterproof, you’ll want a snug-fitting waterproof mattress protector.
timer icon
TIME-SAVING TIP
Most bassinet mattresses are reversible. Put two fitted sheets on the mattress, on opposite sides. When your baby has a poopy blowout in the middle of the night (which they inevitably will), remove the soiled sheet and flip the mattress to the clean side to make the clean-up a little quicker.

9What additional supplies do I need to buy?

The only baby bedding you’ll need is a few fitted bassinet sheets that wrap the mattress snuggly so there’s no loose material. Baby blankets are adorable (especially ones hand-knit by your Great Aunt Edna!), but you should never leave them in the bassinet with your child. If you think your wee one needs extra warmth, try a sleep sack or swaddle.

You may find these other items helpful for a good night’s sleep:

heart icon
Safety Tip
“Only use accessories that actually come with the bassinet,” says McGinn. “When we start incorporating other things into the sleep space that haven’t been certified with the same safety standards, we get into unsafe sleep spaces.”

Bassinets and Baby Gear