When our first born arrived, my mother dropped off my old bassinet from the early 80's. It was a big wicker basket lined with an old yellowed cotton sheet, with a 1-inch thick vinyl covered mattress with a big gap between the sides of the bassinet and its edge. It was up on folding wooden legs with plastic spinner wheels. It tipped easily, the legs accidentally folded if they bumped something, there was little to no air circulation for the baby, and the mattress was ill fitted. Not to mention it was nearly impossible to find the right size sheet.
Needless to say, I kindly declined using the dated bassinet for overnight sleeps. Instead we put it in the dining room so we'd only use it while we were within reach and could keep a close eye on our baby. Mom was a little offended that I didn't want to use it ("it was good enough for you! and you turned out OK!"), but then caved and bought us a new one for overnight use. The newer one was dramatically better: safer, more comfortable, more versatile, lighter weight, and overall had a smaller footprint. It's #3 on our list.
Bassinets have come a long way since the 80's. Some are still quite bad, most are "OK" and only a small number are really excellent. We found some of the best rated bassinets, got a group of 8 moms together to review them, and rank ordered the best ones we found. They are below.
1. HALO Bassinet Swivel Sleeper Bassinet, Premiere. This bassinet is at the top of our list, but it's also the most expensive. It really does it all: bassinet, co-sleeper, adjustable base to fit all bed heights, nightlight, sleep sounds, soothing vibrations, feeding timer, rotates and swivels to bring you closer to your baby, has mesh ventilating sides, and has excellent build quality. In our testing, we all really loved this bassinet. It looks great, feels very sturdy, and adjusted to a great height for both our tall bed and our living room sofa! One mom commented about how great it was after a C-section so she could lie down on the couch or bed and it would adjust to fit both perfectly, and she didn't need to get up in order to access the baby. The sidewall lowers down to make your baby lie down right at the same level as you. And it doesn't take a C-section for mom to want to relax a bit after birthing a baby! We loved how the feet fit right under the side of our bed or sofa. The CJ Foundation certified this bassinet as the safest alternative to bed-sharing for reducing SIDS risk. The only negative we found was the comfort level of the mattress, which is somewhat thin relative to some of the competition. However, we do note that firm mattresses are recommended for newborn babies to reduce the risk of SIDS. We also had a hard time getting the bed perfectly level, but got it figured out after a few minutes of adjustment. The Premiere version is about $250. There is a less expensive Essentia version for about $200-215 but it doesn't include the music, timer, vibrations, nightlight, or nature sounds. Most people will be satisfied with the Essentia unless you have a real need for the fancy features.
2. Summer Infant Bentwood Bassinet with Motion. This is an awesome and super comfortable bassinet with a lot of great features. It is not quite as versatile as the HALO, mostly because it does not feature the great drop-side feature. But it is about the same height as our testing bed, and is really cute and well built, and the bent wood is a nice stylish addition. The big advantage of this bassinet is it has the typical music and vibrations, but also a slow and silent rocking motion (with adjustable speed) that you can turn on to lull your baby to sleep. We tried it out with one of our reviewers' 4-month old baby and within 3 minutes he was sound asleep. That was convincing! There is also a nice adjustable canopy, a huge lower storage basket, and it has a nice sleek design with a small footprint. In fact, the primary negative about this bassinet is exactly that: it is a bit small and two of our reviewers' babies couldn't fit comfortably in it - one was 5 months, and the other was about 4 months old. They were relatively tall for their age, but it did seem like babies grow out of this unit quickly compared to the other ones on our list. Note that it is rated up to 15 pounds, but if your baby is tall and skinny they'll grow out of it before then. Also note that this thing goes through batteries somewhat quickly - it takes 4 C size batteries and one of our reviewers noted having to change them after about 2 months of use. I guess this is not entirely surprising given the motorized motion feature. We think that even with these small negatives (size is a bit small, and battery use), this is an excellent bassinet that is well deserving of the #2 spot on our list! Goes for about $140-150 on Amazon.
3. BabyBjorn Gentle Rocking Cradle. In our opinion, and in the opinions of our mom and dad testers, this is the most beautiful and stylish bassinet on the list. This is a great looking bassinet that's like a sleek new piece of furniture for your home. It doesn't operate like a co-sleeper (like the Halo or Arm's Reach), and it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles like music, vibrations, motorized rocking, or anything fancy like that. Instead, BabyBjorn made something a bit more natural. It has a lightweight suspension system that rocks itself in response to your baby's motion (and you can rock it too!). It has great mesh breathable sides, is lightweight, and uses only safe and tested materials. In our tests, we found that the height is nice and low and it fits snugly right up to the side of a normal-height adult bed, with the legs sliding right underneath without any issues. The mattress is also very comfy and supportive, and we like how the surround is made with fabric only so there are no bars or anything to bump up against. And the breathable mesh lets you see through to easily see your baby. So what are the negatives? Well, we think it is a bit basic to be selling for nearly $300. And we like BabyBjorn's dedication to using safe materials, but the board that supports the mattress is made of MDF (just like most others), and the mattress is made of polyurethane. So some believe their safety claims are a bit exaggerated. That being said, this is a beautiful, safe, lightweight, comfortable, but very expensive bassinet! Goes for just under $300 on Amazon.
4. Arm's Reach Concepts Cambria CoSleeper Bassinet. Hard to find right now due to limited model production; we suggest trying a different bassinet. Sharing a bed with a newborn is such a beautiful intimate experience for mom and a newborn baby. But due to SIDS and suffocation risk, many pediatricians do not recommend it. Instead, some bassinets are specifically designed to make co-sleeping safer by putting the baby right up next to mom, but in its own little bassinet. The HALO (#1, above) is a great example of that, but quite a bit more expensive than this unit. Co-sleepers are generally more expensive than traditional bassinets, but moms love them especially if they have undergone a C-section and need to restrict their movement. This bassinet is basically a no-frills co-sleeper with some great basic features. It has a lot of mesh on the sides to help breathability, a thin and firm mattress (like it's supposed to), and we found it very easy to raise and lower the co-sleeper side. Basically, when you want to feed you can push down the side to access your baby, and pull it back up when you're finished. There are adjustable legs to fit shorter or taller beds, and a great strap you can put under your mattress to hold it close (you can also lock the wheels). There's also a nice storage basket on the bottom. Overall, this is an excellent no-frills bassinet with a co-sleeper option that works quite well. It's a bit on the higher end in terms of price, we found it for about $180 at Amazon, but once in a while it's out of stock and difficult to find.
5. Delta Sweet Beginnings Bassinet. This is a classic bassinet with some simple modern features. It looks like a beautiful traditional style bassinet with a subtle falling leaf design on a ruffled dust skirt, a quilted inner liner, and an adjustable canopy. It really looks quite nice and brings back memories of classic bassinet designs. It comes with a firm but decently comfortable mattress, soothing music, a nightlight, and smooth caster wheels to help you move it around. This is a really basic bassinet, and the reviewers loved it. The only downside was some reviewers thought the mattress was a bit too thin. We're seeing a trend here - all of the bassinets we reviewed had at least one reviewer mention this same issue. Some moms reported finding thicker replacement mattresses online, but most were happy with the one that came with it. We should mention that Delta recommends never using a mattress greater than 1" thick for babies to reduce the risk of SIDS. The storage basket on the bottom is a nice touch, though we thought it was a bit flimsy. For about $55 on Amazon, we thought this was an excellent deal. Not as many features or as stylish as others, but still a winner. Note that they also make a rocking version which is very well reviewed, for about $110.