Red Nose recommends that baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first 6-12 months because research shows that this can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death by 50 percent.
The safest place for baby to sleep is usually in baby’s own safe cot, however, bassinets are increasing in popularity because a safe cot can take up a lot of space, especially for families living in apartments or smaller houses.
But unlike cots, there are no Australian safety standards for bassinets, so it’s important for parents to know what to look out for when choosing and using a bassinet.
What to look for in a bassinet
- A sturdy bottom and wide stable base so it can’t tip over
- Make sure all four sides of the bassinet are at least 300mm higher than the top of the mattress base to stop baby falling out.
- Firm, flat mattress that’s the correct size for your chosen bassinet – the mattress should be no thicker than 75mm in thickness
- Good breathability zones on all four sides to reduce the risk of suffocation and to provide good ventilation for baby.
What to avoid
- No decorative trims, ribbons, or thick padded sides – these increase the risk of overheating and suffocation.
- Bassinets made of cardboard – these are not suitable for the Australian climate as humidity and dampness can lead to accidental breakage when in use.
- Once baby is showing signs of being able to roll, it’s time to move baby to a safe cot – this is usually around four months, but it will depend on your baby.
How to make up your bassinet
Make up the bassinet in the same way that would make up baby’s safe cot:
- Ensure the mattress is firm and flat, and the correct size for your chosen bassinet
- Use only safe bedding – choose either lightweight sheets or blanket, firmly tucked in and only pulled up to the level of baby’s chest, or a safe sleeping bag – one that’s well fitted across the neck and chest, with baby’s arm out, and no hood.
- Keep baby’s face and head uncovered, and don’t leave any loose items in the cot such as soft toys, comforters, doonas or thick underlays such as lambswool.
- Dress baby to the temperature of the room making sure they are comfortably warm, but not hot – remove all beanies and hats for sleep.
- Keep baby’s smoke free, before and after birth – never smoke where baby sleeps.
What are the risks with using a bassinet?
Babies have been seriously injured when their bassinet has tipped over, the bottom has broken, or the folding legs have collapsed.
Falls, injuries and suffocation are the most common risks associated with bassinet use if the:
- construction and design of the bassinet does not provide sufficient clear space around the baby’s head to avoid overheating and suffocation.
- mattress does not fit the bassinet, is too soft/thick or if pillows or folded blankets are used instead of a mattress
- bassinet tips over because the base is not sturdy
- folding legs collapse
- sides are not high enough
- bassinet no longer suits the size or developmental needs of the child – once baby is showing signs of being able to roll, it’s time to move to a safe cot.
Things to consider when using a bassinet
- Always remember that a bassinet is for short-term use only – you should move baby to a safe cot when they shows signs of being able to rolling.
- Ensure adjustable side panels are always kept in the upright position for sleep
- Ensure folding legs are locked and cannot collapse when in use
- Position safely, away from curtains, blinds, heaters or power points
- All screws and bolts are tight to avoid accidental collapse
- Consider the use of a safe sleeping bag to help prevent an infant overheating or bedding covering baby’s face or head
- Remember there is no Australian safety standard for bassinets, so not all products on the market are safe. Follow this guide to help make a safer choice for your baby.
For more tips and advice, visit the Red Nose Safe Sleep Advice Hub or call our Safe Sleep Advice Line on 1300 998 698.
Last modified: 15/9/22