Bassinets: safe and secure?
Bassinets are popular because they're smaller than a cot and can be placed beside your bed during baby's early months. Bedside sleepers are another option – these attach to the side of your bed with one side fully or partly opened, allowing you to reach over and tend to your baby in the night. Yet, despite a safe sleeping environment being crucial at this stage of your infant's life, there are still no Australian standards for bassinets or bedside sleepers. So how does CHOICE recommend models we think are safe?
With 15 years of experience, our expert testers are the bees' knees of children's product testing. They've seen all the brands and varying bassinet configurations on the market, and have put many to the test. Our experts sit on the Australian Standards committees for children's products and we report our findings to regulators and other industry stakeholders.
Most of the time, our priority is to test what you'll see in the retailers. That's why many of our bassinets come from brands you'll see in mainstream nursery or department stores. However, bedside sleepers are a relatively new trend in Australia, and we're interested in checking the safety of these products too – even if the brand isn't yet a household name.
We don't test Moses baskets because they don't tend to pass our strict breathability, depth or stability requirements.
To come up with our list we survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models and we take member feedback on board. Our buyers then purchase products as you the consumer would, either in-store or online. This is to ensure that the products we received have not been 'tweaked' in any way.
We're still waiting for an Australian standard for bassinets and bedside sleepers, but our experts know what to look for when it comes to safety and we've devised our own in-house test procedures. We've based our test methods on various existing standards for similar children's products such as cots and folding cots.
There are also overseas standards to draw upon, including a US safety standard for bedside sleepers, F2903-13, which we've tailored to meet Australian requirements.
When testing bassinets we look at:
- Small objects which could become loose and pose a choking hazard.
- Sharp corners, edges and points.
- Sufficient breathable zones: We require breathable zones on all four sides, such as mesh walls at sleeping level, and any breathable zone needs to be at least 100mm above the top surface of the mattress. This is to prevent suffocation if an infant happens to roll to the side (and some bassinets have bouncing or rocking mechanisms which could cause baby to move, too). Any non-breathable areas around the bassinet which may form part of its structure need to be less than 60mm wide.
- Sufficient depth: We require bassinets to be at least 250mm deep. This is a strict condition to prevent falls, and is based on the existing folding cot standard (bassinet mode). It's common for bassinets to fail this requirement slightly due to different international standards but we stand by our figure. Falls can occur when a baby leans or crawls over the sides. While you should stop using a bassinet (and transition to a full-sized cot) once your baby can sit up or lift themselves up, you don't want to find out the hard way that baby has learned to do that.
- Horizontal and vertical strength: We test if the bassinet will collapse when force of around 100 Newtons (approximately ten kilos) is applied at various points for ten seconds. Similarly we conduct a vertical static load test by placing a 40kg mass on the bassinet for one minute.
- Stability of construction.
- Entrapment hazards between any moving components.
- Head, limb and finger entrapments in openings.
Bedside sleepers can be used in bassinet mode, so we subject them to the same tests as bassinets (above). We also conduct two additional tests:
- Secureness: We look to the US standard for bedside sleepers for testing secureness to the side of the bed, but have adapted the test to the Australian market by using a bed more typical of Australian homes. We apply various forces to the bedside sleeper at various points in an attempt to separate the bedside sleeper from the bed. We then measure the amount of displacement.
- Height adjustability: Bedside sleepers have at least one side that can be either partly or fully opened. Suitable bed heights need to be adequately stated on the packaging. We check to make sure there are no suffocation hazards.
We rate children's products a bit differently to other tests, due to the strong interest in safety. We rate them according to whether they pass or fail major tests.
Bassinets that we recommend have passed all our safety tests. They may have some very minor failures but we don't think these are significant.
These pass all our key safety tests but may have some minor safety failures such as finger entrapment hazards in hard to reach areas, or some sharp edges.
These bassinets have not passed our key safety tests, such as having non-breathable areas or insufficient bassinet depth.
Check out our guide to buying a bassinet, and see our bassinet and bedside sleeper reviews.