The cost of convenienceSep 16, 2001 (Updated Sep 19, 2001) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line The convenience of a bassinet has a pretty high price tag. Check your budget before you add it to the list of necessities.
You've probably read the Baby Bargain book and just about every baby magazine that you can get your fingers on. The bassinets looks so pretty, but are they really necessary? Your budget is the real determining factor.
When you look at the early days of a newborn's life, the reality is that they sleep a lot. As such, a newborn needs a place to sleep. Some parents will choose to have the baby in bed with them and others will not. If you have made the decision to purchase a bed for your newborn/baby to sleep in there are a lot of choices on the market. Cribs, portacribs, and bassinets are all safe options. The difference is cost and term of use.
Most parents will end up owning a crib. Cribs come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a larger variety of features. They are quite large and are often quite expensive. Cribs have the longest term of use in the nursery--some even convert to toddler beds using the crib mattress. Portacribs can be used interchangeably with cribs in some cases. While they are not as durable, bedding is available to make it comfortable and warm for your infant. Portacribs are an ideal travel bed. Bassinets have the shortest term of use.
Bassinets are intended for the beginning months of an infants life. Models are available are hard sided made of wicker (think the old traditional style with the hard frame and bonnet), soft sides with metal or plastic frame (Graco and Century sell models of this type, some with a rocking mechanism), and as an accessory to a playpen/portacrib (Pack 'N Play has a changing pad next to the bassinet section).
(1)The old traditional style offers a fair amount of bedding accessories. You probably have seen old pictures with the filmy skirt and lots of ruffles. The base bassinet in this case is fairly inexpensive. I think JCPenney used to sell one for $40. If you want a lot of bedding accessories, the price will escalate quickly.
(2)The soft sided bassinets are really an update of the old fashioned Moses Basket. The frame usually folds out and is covered with quilted cotton material that can be spot cleaned when necessary. The bonnet folds up similar to those on a stroller. Special sheets are recommended (some people use pillow cases) and are inexpensive. These bassinets run a bit more than the hard-sided models, but do not require additional bedding beyond the sheets. The quilted cotton is the aesthetic treatment. Some models have rocker bases that can be run by batteries to soothe your baby. I purchased my Century model with a basic base for about $90. Particular to this model, the bases are not all very sturdy. At seven weeks, my 10 pound baby could make the base shake by rolling over such that she would wake up.
NOTE: Both the traditional hard-side and the soft-side are about 14 inches by 28 inches. Weight limits may vary by model, but most of these bassinets are rated for babies up to 16 pounds and should not be used once your baby can roll over.
(3)Accessory bassinets to playpen/portacribs are the latest type of bassinet. A basic playpen is shaped like an open box. The bassinet accessory attaches to the top of the box and an extra mattress fits into it or the mattress that usually sits in the bottom is used. Essential, the playpen manufacturers created a way to raise the bottom up. Some manufacturers went a step farther and added some handy features like the changing table and organizers. These bassinets have the highest base price (Graco's sells for around a $100), but are probably the most practical as they combine two items that are desirable to most parents. This bassinet style takes up more room though. A playpen bassinet is roughly two times (floor space) the size of the soft-side and hard-side bassinets. The amount of space available to the baby may be roughly the same or larger depending on the extra features. The safety recommendations are roughly the same as the previous two options.
We purchased a bassinet in preparation for the birth of our first child. Because we planned to move shortly after the baby was born, I wanted a small bed that could be transported easily in the progress of the move and for use as we were moving into our new home. We purchased a simple Century model (no rocker mechanism, but it did have a stand). I didn't realize that I would only be able to use it until she was seven weeks old. At $90, that was almost $12 a week for its use. On the other hand, it was incredibly convenient to have her close at hand, but in her own space for those beginning weeks.
The bottom line is that bassinets are all about convenience. If you have the space for a small bed in your bedroom, there is nothing like having your newborn right there (just like in the hospital if you roomed in). Convenience has cost. When you stack up the cost of a crib, a carseat, and add the potential playpen, changing table, rocking chair and the incidentals, a bassinet is not necessary (you may be able to get one with the playpen though). If you can afford the convenience, go for it. Shopping is fun and the options are lovely. If you can't, don't give it a second thought and buy your crib. Your child will never know the difference.
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