Many parents choose to have their newborn baby sleep in a bassinet for the first few months of life. It offers a small, comfortable place that enables a newborn baby to sleep safely in the same room as the parents.
However, many parents don’t understand when it’s time to graduate from a bassinet to a crib. Most parents rely on the manual that comes with their bassinet, or they simply wait until the baby has outgrown the bassinet.
Often, parents of growing little ones ask, ‘how long can a baby sleep in a bassinet?’ And while that manual that comes with a bassinet may have an age limit or other guidelines, there are several signs to watch for that will help you determine when your baby needs to move up to a crib sleeping arrangement.
Baby’s Weight and Bassinet Weight Limit
Each bassinet has a weight limit. Finding this is as easy as looking at the box in which the bassinet came in or the manual. If you have a used, borrowed, or hand-me-down bassinet, you can look online for the specific model bassinet that you have to obtain this information.
When your child gets close to meeting the weight limits of the bassinet, or the bassinet age limit, you need to start the transition to a crib. Even if your baby sleeps comfortably and appears to have plenty of room, sleeping in a bassinet needs to end once the weight limit is approached, regardless of the baby’s length.
Age Limit and Sudden Infant death Syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a fatal affliction of unknown specific causes that affect babies worldwide. It is most prevalent in the first six months of life, and many doctors and researchers say that it is strongly correlated with sleeping habits and sleeping areas.
While there is no known definitive cause or way to safeguard a baby from SIDS, babies sleep a lot, and babies sleeping safely and abiding by all of the safe sleep guidelines have been shown time and time again to cut the level of risk of SIDS down.
It is strongly recommended that babies sleep in their parent’s room rather than their own room until six months. Beginning the sleep transition by three or four months, starting with just naps, so that your child, who is used to sleeping in a bassinet, can acclimate to a new bed by six months, is recommended.
When babies start sleeping in one place and are then moved to another, there is often a period when the baby may experience some stress and sleep disturbances. Waiting until a child is six months old to avoid this puts them at unnecessary risk. Start the transition earlier than six months to allow your baby sleep that is safe and comfortable.
When Baby Starts Rolling
When you notice your baby starts rolling during tummy time, in the bassinet, or while playing, it’s time to transition to sleeping in a crib. When your baby rolls, the movement can make the bassinet unstable, which is dangerous. There is also a risk that the baby could roll out of the bassinet and get hurt.
Regardless of your baby’s age when they start rolling, it’s time to move up to the crib once your baby reaches this milestone. Another huge risk that causes many infant deaths every year is suffocation in a bassinet due to a rolling baby.
Most babies start rolling by moving onto their sides, but because bassinets are so small, they can get stuck up against the side of the bassinet and are unable to pivot over onto their back or belly. This means that baby could end up with a face smashed into the side of the bassinet, restricting breathing.
A rolling baby needs its own bed that is large enough to accommodate such movement.
Most bassinets are relatively small so that a busy mom can move baby from room to room, and room sharing is an option for even the tiniest living quarters. While research indicates that bed-sharing is a no-no, you can put a bassinet next to the bed you sleep in so that your child is right there.
It can be easy to overlook your own baby’s comfort in their bassinet with all of this convenience. However, paying close attention to this is one of the best parenting tips to answer how long you can safely keep your baby in a bassinet.
Many babies will show discomfort once the baby’s size renders a bassinet a little too tight. Babies should always have room to move around, with some open area. Sleeping in an area that is too snug can overheat a baby and increase the chances of suffocation.
Other Signs that It’s Time to Transition
The following are other signs that your infant is ready to move from sleeping in a bassinet to sleeping in a crib.
- Your baby is taking two naps a day
- Your baby can sit up without help
- Your baby enjoys spending time in its sleep area
How to get baby to sleep in a bassinet
If you have decided that the best sleeping area for your newborn baby is a bassinet, you may wonder how you can get your child to sleep in a bassinet with as little stress as possible. A baby can sleep in a bassinet all night without a fuss, making for better days for both mom and the newborns.
The following are some tips so that baby can sleep in the space you prefer.
1. Use a Sleep Sack
A ‘sleep sack’ is a method of swaddling an infant that limits their movement and will also offer warmth. Loose bedding such as blankets are dangerous for small babies and should never be in a crib or bassinet.
However, a cold baby is a baby who doesn’t sleep well through the night. A sack or swaddle will give your newborn less range of movement and the warmth they need.
2. White Noise
Infants aren’t accustomed to silence. They spent nearly a year in utero listening to their mother’s heartbeat, talking, outside noises, and whatever music was played while mom was pregnant.
A machine that plays quiet static, nature sounds, classical music, or lullabies can help a baby sleep faster, sleep better, and stay asleep longer.
3. Share a Room
Bassinets are small and provide the option, no matter how little space your bedroom may have, to have your baby sleep in the same room. This is an excellent way for your baby to sleep better, knowing that the parents are right there in the room, and the AAP recommends room-sharing until six months of age to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Safe Crib Sleeping
Cribs offer a bigger space for your baby to sleep in and added safety once your baby is able to sit up, roll, and pull their own weight up to a kneeling or standing position. Some parents prefer to put their newborns in a crib from birth, while others make the switch when the baby is a few months old.
Regardless of whether your child starts life sleeping in a crib or waits to move up, there are still practices you need to put into place for crib sleeping to ensure your child’s safety.
1. A Firm Mattress with a Fitted Sheet Only
A crib is a much larger area for a baby to sleep in, and it can be tempting to fill that space with pillows, blankets, toys, and stuffed animals.
However, these things are all suffocation hazards and should never be in the crib with a small infant. All you need for your little one is a mattress that is not too soft and a tight sheet.
If your little one is cold, consider turning up your home’s thermostat, and dressing your child in snug, warm pajamas. Never place quilts or other bedding into cribs, bassinets, or any sleeping space with a small infant. Your baby on the mattress is all you need.
2. A Baby Monitor
Cribs require more space than bassinets do, so they are often put in separate rooms, away from the parents. Having a monitor in the nursery will allow you to check on your little one frequently to ensure your baby is not in any distress.
3. Measure the Slats
It’s sweet if your mom wants to give you the crib she saved from when you were a baby; however, it’s an offer you should decline graciously.
Using an old crib, a drop-side crib or a crib with slats too large is unsafe.
The slats or bars of the crib need to be close together to keep your little one from getting an arm or leg stuck between them, risking broken bones and other injuries.
The Soda Can Slat Test
One easy parent hack for measuring the space between the bars of a crib is to take a standard-size soda can and try to pass it between the gaps of the crib. If you can pass the can through the opening, the space is too large, and the crib should not be used.
No Crib Bumpers
It used to be common practice to place bumpers in the crib so that a baby could not get an arm or leg stuck. It was an easy remedy for cribs with bars set wide apart.
In recent years, it has been found that these bumpers increase the risk of suffocation, and they are no longer safe to place in the beds of little ones.
No DIY Modifications
Everyone likes to save some money, but you should never do so at the risk of your baby’s safety. While there are “hacks” out there and advice that you can simply screw the sides of an old drop-side crib so that it can no longer drop, you should never attempt to modify any baby furniture, toys, or bedding.
If you have a crib that is old, unsafe, or questionable, it’s best to get a different one.