Moses baskets, cribs and co-sleepers are designed for newborn babies to sleep in for the first few months. They provide cosy and reassuring confined space for your child.
However it’s not essential that your new baby sleep in one. It’s fine for a newborn to use a cot or cotbed from the start.
The Lullaby Trust (formerly known as the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths - FSID) says the safest place for your baby to sleep is on his back, on his own sleep surface, in the same room as you, for at least the first six months.
A Moses basket, co-sleeper or crib can take up much less space than a cot or cotbed, meaning it’s easier to fit in your bedroom, and this is one of the main reasons some parents opt to use one.
Another reason some parents buy a Moses basket or crib is because they feel their newborn looks a bit small and ‘lost’ in a cot or cotbed.
When deciding whether to buy a Moses basket, crib, co-sleeper or if to head straight for a cot/cotbed, consider where your baby will have daytime naps. Will you be happy to leave him in a bedroom on his own, or would a Moses basket that can be carried from room to room make you feel better?
Cost may also be a factor. If you plan to have more children or can sell the Moses basket/crib, the additional expenditure may be worth it.
If you’ve made the decision to buy a Moses basket or crib, you then have to choose between the two.
Moses baskets – the pro and cons
A Moses basket is recommended for a baby up to 3-4 months, though this can be longer, depending on the weight, length and mobility of your baby. Once your baby starts to pull himself upright, a Moses basket is not a safe place. Such a short lifespan can make it an expensive purchase if bought new.
Second-hand Moses baskets are relatively cheap, although it’s advisable to buy a new mattress, and the basket may not come with dressings (the fabric that covers the basket) and bedding. Separate dressings can cost more than buying a brand-new dressed basket. FSID advises that if you use a Moses basket, ensure it only has a thin lining.
Most baskets are woven from palm, though maize, cornhusk, and the more durable and expensive wicker are available, too.
Carrying handles are a useful feature, enabling you to move the basket around the house so your baby is always close by. Check that the handles are strong (particularly when buying second-hand) and meet in the middle so you can carry the basket with one hand and place the other underneath for support. Ensure that the handles will fold down the outside of the basket and won’t flop onto your baby.
A new Moses basket usually comes with a foam mattress, set of bedding and sometimes a hood, so there’s no additional costs. You may, however, want to buy a separate stand that places the basket at a more convenient level next to the bed. Rocking stands for Moses baskets are also available.
Once your baby is ready to move into a bigger bed, placing the basket into the cot/cotbed for a few days will make the transition easier.
Cribs – the pros and cons
More spacious and expensive than a Moses basket, a crib has a slightly longer lifespan, lasting to about 6 months. However, a crib shouldn’t be used once your baby becomes active. This short life span means it can be an expensive outlay, unless you plan to use it for future children or sell on.
A crib is usually made of wood, either natural or painted, and may come flat-packed. Some have rails for fabric drapes at the head end, though bedding and a mattress often have to be purchased separately, adding to the cost.
A crib can have a rocking or gliding action, to help send your baby to sleep. Some babies don’t like this motion and others can be wrigglers and cause the crib to sway, but most rocking or gliding cribs can be locked into a stationary position.
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As opposed to the solid body of a Moses basket, a crib usually has bars or slats, enabling you to see your baby more easily when you’re lying in bed. Being larger than a Moses basket but smaller than a cot, a crib may give your baby a feeling of space but also security.
The downside of a crib is that it’s not portable like a Moses basket.
Co-sleepers – the pros and cons
Co-sleeping cots are becoming increasingly popular. They allow you to keep your baby close, while following the NICE guidelines to have your baby in a separate crib or cot.
Effectively, you're lying next to your baby, as the cot-side is down, but you're not sharing bed coverings.
This means you and your baby can maximise the breastfeeding and soothing benefits that proximity brings, while minimising the increased risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) that's associated with actual bedsharing.
This is especially useful if you've had a difficult birth and find getting out of bed to feed painful. Co-sleepers attach to the side of your bed, so you can just reach over as opposed to getting up and walking anywhere. Some also double up as a moses basket, giving you more sleeping options away from the bedside.
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