Parents looking for alternatives to expensive baby stuff might wonder what a laundry basket bassinet is and whether or not they are safe for their baby. Although I didn’t learn about these inexpensive makeshift crib beds until after my third child was born, I am interested in the possibility of using one for my fourth child.
Laundry basket bassinets are makeshift cribs or beds made from a common rectangular or square laundry basket and bedding. Many parents use them to let their newborn sleep in the same room as them or save money, but most of them are likely unsafe for a baby to sleep in.
My biggest concern with making a bed for a baby out of a laundry basket is that it wouldn’t be safe because it might not comply with the AAP’s sleep recommendations for babies. Let’s explore how laundry basket bassinets are made, other makeshift baby beds, and why it’s probably cheaper and easier to buy a bassinet than to try and make a safe one at home.
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What is a laundry basket bassinet?
Before we get into the whole laundry basket part, I need to explain precisely what a bassinet is first.
Bassinets are meant to be small, semi-portable baby beds that newborns can use until they are about four months old. They are typically held up on legs or roll on casters so that they can be pulled up right next to the bed where mommy is sleeping. This is great because it allows the baby to sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed. This arrangement has been shown to help reduce the risk of SIDS-related deaths in infants and is recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics until the baby is at least six months old, preferably one year old.
The idea behind a laundry basket bassinet is that parents can save money on buying a bassinet by making one from items that they already have around the house. Most examples feature your standard white plastic rectangular laundry basket with some simple bedding added to the bottom. Compared to a real bassinet that could cost upwards of hundreds of dollars, this is indeed a bargain! They are also incredibly portable – you can move your sleeping baby all around the house with ease while you go about your day. There are also endless opportunities to make them cute by decorating them.
Unlike standard bassinets, however, these laundry basket versions won’t have legs or rollers under them and, instead, you’ll have to set them on the floor beside the bed or wherever you want your baby to sleep. This makes them more similar to a Moses basket or carrycot than a bassinet, but I guess that name wasn’t as catchy! Standard bassinets also normally feature built-in padding that is impossible for babies to pull up or smother themselves with under normal circumstances.
Laundry basket bassinet safety
Although they are cheap and easy to put together and use, most laundry baskets are probably not safe for your baby.
Unfortunately, adding soft bedding, pillows, and blankets to the bottom of a laundry basket goes against the AAP’s specific recommendations for where a baby should sleep and can make them incredibly dangerous.
According to the AAP, babies should sleep:
- On their backs
- On a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet
- Using only a tight-fitted sheet
- While avoiding soft bedding, crib bumpers, blankets, soft toys, and pillows.
Essentially, the experts just want you using a bare crib or bed for your sleeping newborn.
Store-bought bassinets will usually come with a small mattress-like pad and tight-fitting sheet that can be replaced as needed. They also normally feature mesh sides that help prevent suffocation if your baby happens to roll over towards the side of the bassinet.
If you choose to use a homemade laundry basket bassinet you should keep these things in mind:
- Avoid soft bedding and pillows inside the basket
- Keep the bassinet on the ground instead of placing it on the bed or a table. The basket could accidentally tip over and the baby could fall out.
- Do not carry your sleeping baby in the basket because there are no seatbelts or other methods to keep your baby safely inside.
- Most bassinets and baskets can only hold a baby safely until around the age of 4 months. Once the baby is rolling over it is no longer safe to leave them in a bassinet.
How to make a safe DIY baby bassinet laundry basket
At this point, I’ve been pretty hard on the laundry basket bassinet because they are clearly a potentially dangerous environment for your baby to sleep in unattended. I think it is possible, however, to make a DIY bassinet that could combine all of the benefits of the typical laundry basket version (cheap, easy, and portable) with the safety recommendations of the AAP (flat, firm surface with only a fitted sheet on the bottom).
All we would have to do is figure out how to firmly attach a small pad or mattress to the bottom of the basket that is comfortable enough for the baby to sleep on but safe enough so that the baby can’t get smothered by it.
The potential problems here are that:
- There won’t be any mattress pads that will come ready to fit inside a laundry basket. You will have to cut your own foam pad to fit.
- You will need to create your own fitted sheet with fabric. If you don’t happen to be a fantastic seamstress, then you’ll have better luck just covering the whole pad in fabric and stapling it together somehow.
- It will be difficult to attach the pad to the bottom of the laundry basket in such a way that the pad stays in place.
- If you are able to attach the pad, you won’t be able to easily take the fabric cover out to wash it in case of any spills or diaper leaks.
Is a laundry basket bassinet even worth it?
Honestly, I would say no.
If you didn’t care about safety and just threw a blanket into a basket, then it would make total sense to take this approach. Since we do care about safety, I just don’t think there is a cheaper or easier way to make your own DIY baby bassinet compared to buying a budget option from the store.
Although I haven’t used this particular bassinet myself, you can pick up a very highly-rated and cheap bassinet on Amazon right here. It might not have all of the bells and whistles that some of the more expensive bassinets offer, but it is just as portable and easy to use as a laundry basket bassinet without having to worry about the safety concerns.
As a parent myself, I love saving money at any opportunity because raising babies isn’t cheap. I do not, however, want to risk the life of my baby just to save a few bucks. Do yourself a favor and pick up the cheap bassinet I recommended above or one like it so you won’t have to worry while your newborn sleeps.