What should my newborn baby sleep in?
February 5, 2014 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Complication: moving transatlantically soon.

Please help me figure out what kind of sleeping arrangement we should get for our kid! (Baby not born yet, but will be soon, so really need to figure this out!)

Details are that we live in an apartment, and the baby will sleep in our room (though not in our bed.) We are also almost definitely moving across the ocean when the kid will be about 4 months (more mefi questions about this to follow, I'm sure.) Before we even move, we anticipate traveling to visit our families.

Oh, and we will likely have a budget to move some furniture, so although we are generally very minimalist, I'm not worried about say, buying a crib and having to get rid of it immediately. That said, we are cheap, and try to buy as much stuff on sale or on craigslist as possible.

Here are the options -- which one seems best to you experienced parents out there?

1. Pack n play or mini pack n play. Pros of this seem obvious -- it can go with us on travel and it's inexpensive. Downsides: I find the Graco one really ugly -- I don't know why, but I see it and it makes me a little sad. Also, I see there are some weird flame retardants in the mattress? Or is this just an annoying new parent thing to worry about?

2. Arms Reach Cosleeper. This seems like a good option (and people like them). We can't do the in bed sleeping, but this seems quite safe. (Is it? I did see one Amazon comment about a baby getting stuck between the bed and the cosleeper.) Also portable? Cons are that it seems expensive for something you only get a little use out of (unless it's okay to buy these on craigslist -- is that okay?)

3. Crib. We'll want a crib eventually, so why not buy one now? (The country we're moving to is very expensive, so I might even buy one and use our moving expenses to ship it anyway.) Cons to this are that for some reason I'm really nervous about putting together a crib, taking it apart, and shipping it transatlantically. We are not handy, and I'm not sure I want that hassle. Also, we will need some kind of bed for travel anyway, though I suppose we can also buy something else.

4. Travel crib like Lotus's or Baby Bjorn. Not the Graco pack and play, quite nice-looking and extremely portable. Cons: I don't think I can just put my newborn on the floor like that, esp. since we have the occasional mouse.

5. Bassinet. Yeah, but it doesn't last and isn't portable.

Any thoughts on these options? The options are driving me mad!! Also, any thoughts on whether it's okay to get this stuff from craigslist or is a baby bed just something I just have to suck up and buy?

Thanks so much!
posted by EtTuHealy to Shopping (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Babies in Finland sleep in cardboard boxes.

I would get something cheap and sturdy for now, and invest in a nice crib when you reach your final destination.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:11 AM on February 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Why not just a Moses basket at first? Extremely portable and cozy! Newborns don't really care where they sleep (well, some do care, and won't sleep if they're not in physical contact with a parent, hopefully since bedsharing isn't an option for you you won't get one of those) and can be used anywhere, so baby will have a consistent sleep experience during the travel.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:11 AM on February 5, 2014

Response by poster: Love that box idea, actually! And we've thought of the Moses basket (though I'm nervous about putting it on the floor because of the occasional mouse . . .)

Slight clarification is that we'll need to use whatever we have for about 4 months -- so I imagine the baby would outgrow something like a Moses basket by then?
posted by EtTuHealy at 7:15 AM on February 5, 2014

The kid will sleep anywhere you put them down, so any firm mattress with a fitted sheet will do, as sparklemotion notes. Always, always lie your children down belly-up, always.

The Pack N Play cribs are strictly for containment in a strange and non-kidproofed environment, not for anything like convenience or sanity in your own home; you have to lean over to get into them, so they'll destroy your back if you have to use them for any length of time.
posted by mhoye at 7:20 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have been researching this for the past week or so, as we are currently expecting our first while living in a 1br apartment.

I have pretty well decided on the Fisher Price Portable Bassinet. It is inexpensive, has mesh sides for safety and a flat bottom, and will hold a baby weighing up to 25lbs. Target has a version in a tan that's more attractive but also a bit more expensive.

Second choice will be an Arms Reach Mini Co-sleeper, but only if I can pick up a used one from Craigslist. Too expensive for such limited use.

I was first thinking of the Pack n Play, but we looked at them in a store last weekend, and they're too big for our bedroom. Also, overkill for you since you won't get use of it after 4 months.

I ruled out the Moses basket because I am a paranoid first time parent and I really want something with breathable sides. And there are safety/health concerns with using a Rock n Play as the primary sleep spot.
posted by Kriesa at 7:24 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

We used our arm's reach co-sleeper as a bassinet (i.e. not open on the side) for about four months; probably could have used it a little longer if the baby was smaller. What exactly do you mean by "portable"? The thing folds up but it's not the easiest process to get it all stuffed into the bag; you could definitely do it once or twice, but I wouldn't want to do it on a daily basis. I don't know that I'd pay to buy one new; we got one free from a friend.

Cribs really aren't too difficult to take apart; our IKEA crib came apart for our move pretty easily and reassembled with no problems. So I would vote crib, unless you can get something smaller for free.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:26 AM on February 5, 2014

Re. suitability of a Moses basket - my large baby (just short of 10lb at birth, and long) was fine in a Moses basket till 4 months, but I couldn't have used it for much longer than that, I don't think.
posted by kumonoi at 7:26 AM on February 5, 2014

I agree with mhoye that a pack-and-play is too low to use as your only crib.

We used a bassinet until the baby was able to roll over, then inherited my sister's Arm's Reach co-sleeper and set it up as a crib (not connected to our bed). The mattress is the same size as a pack-and-play (so buying sheets for it is easy) but high enough that it's easy to get the baby in and out. It is a cinch to set up or take down, and it has its own bag for travel. It's big enough that the baby will fit in it for a long time (our baby is seven months and still sleeps in it), although not quite sturdy enough for me to be comfortable with her in it after she can pull up. Definitely get one used.
posted by SeedStitch at 7:29 AM on February 5, 2014

Bassinet would be perfect. Attractive, inexpensive and can probably be purchased at a consignment store, or if you prefer new, Babies R Us has quite the selection online. I'm seeing some as low as $49.

Mazel Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:32 AM on February 5, 2014

we've thought of the Moses basket (though I'm nervous about putting it on the floor because of the occasional mouse . . .)

You can get stands for Moses baskets.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:33 AM on February 5, 2014

Whatever you buy, your child will prefer to sleep somewhere else for some stage of his/her infancy, so you should just buy something secondhand that will fit in your space. You can definitely get all this stuff used, just check online for recalls first (no drop-side cribs or older Peapods, for example).

I've known people to successfully use Pack n Plays for everyday (such as when the older child is still in the crib for a few months but they don't want to buy a second one). I agree that it seems hard on the back although some newer ones have a place for newborn napping. However, ANY place with a firm mattress where there's no way to fall out or get wedged between the mattress and the side (and no loose covers) is probably fine.

Honestly I'd probably just try to source a cheap or free secondhand crib (IKEA makes a perfectly fine crib for $79, so lots of people just give them away when they're done) in order to have a sturdy option and then make a decision about taking it with you when you know your baby's sleep habits.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:36 AM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone -- this is so helpful!

Kriesa, I had thought about the Rock n Play too, but then a friend told me she worried that it had given her child a flat head. I also came across this saying the same thing which made me a little nervous (but everything makes me nervous . . .)
posted by EtTuHealy at 7:41 AM on February 5, 2014

Have not tested it yet as our baby is due in early April, but we decided on a mini pack and play for bedroom for the first couple of months. We got the Nuna Sena Mini because we have limited space and it looks nice and sturdy. Very convenient for traveling too, because it's smaller than a regular, bulky PNP.

I would buy the crib too and not unpack it (if you can get away with that) and use your moving budget to get it to your new home. Four months and change is probably the perfect time to transition baby to crib anyway.

Also, depending on which stroller/combo you pick, you can use its bassinet for the baby to sleep in. I know Uppababy makes stands for the bassinet which then turn into laundry hampers.
posted by lydhre at 7:41 AM on February 5, 2014

Please do not stress about the Rock n Play flat head thing. Our daughter slept in hers til she was waaaaaay too old officially. My pediatrician was fine with it. It is important to do your tummy time, etc, but my sense is that some kids tend to always sleep in a certain position and thus, flat head. The Rock n Play is a great option, and you'd be aging out of it around 4 months anyhow. Really, anything you choose for those newborn months, you'd want to move on from it and sell on Craigslist, so the international move is almost irrelevant.
posted by chocotaco at 7:48 AM on February 5, 2014

Re: the Rock n Play. The flat head issue occurs with the type that is more like a seat.

Fisher Price also makes a flat, traditional, portable bassinet (which confusingly has Rock n Play in the name)... No safety issues I've discovered with that one.
posted by Kriesa at 7:48 AM on February 5, 2014

The boy occasionally slept in his Moses basket, which puts it head and shoulders above everything else we tried. However, he loved playing in it, practicing sitting up when he was very small, and it was a handy place to pop him so he didn't roll himself out the door if you turned your back for ten seconds. They're cheap (I think ours was £10 from M&S), and very lightweight, so I think it's worth picking one up even as a secondary option. You will really appreciate being able to put them somewhere it will take a minute or two to escape from!
posted by danteGideon at 7:52 AM on February 5, 2014

We found a used Arms Reach Cosleeper (the full size, not the mini) on Craigslist. It was extremely convenient for nighttime feedings, and we kept statsbaby in it until he was about 5 months old. (He was a bit on the small side so it worked for us).

Technically the full size cosleeper is portable. It's a bit cumbersome both in terms of weight and what you actually have to do to put it back together, so we've never traveled with it.
posted by statsgirl at 8:03 AM on February 5, 2014

Our baby isn't yet here, but we bought the Arm's reach mini arc co-sleeper. It's got (locking) wheels on it, so it's a little more portable within the house if you want it to be, and it's got airflow around all sides. If you're in a larger city, you should definitely be able to find used cosleepers for under $100. We bought new, just because we aren't in an area where there were used ones, and I found that if I went with an unusual color (ours is brown/green), the amazon price was much cheaper - $119 vs 145. We plan to sell it after we no longer use it.
posted by bizzyb at 8:10 AM on February 5, 2014

We used the Rock n Play sleeper every night until she was way too old with our second since she was so happy in it and slept so well. No flat head issues. I remember her shifting her head side to side a lot as she slept - facing left or right alternately. It was about 10x better than either the pack and play or regular crib we used with our first. If I was doing it all over again I'd skip everything else and just buy that, with a basic pack n play for after the first few months.
posted by pekala at 8:17 AM on February 5, 2014

If I had it to do over again, I would probably do a crib and adult mattress, both on the floor, until the baby was able to roll. We had an Arm's Reach and it sounded like a drum every time he flailed in his sleep and woke him up (often), so we never used it much. We moved when my son was 6 months old and then we had a crib with one side removed and pushed firmly against our bed which worked much better. But the floor would have been better than that, plus the space concerns would be pretty minimal.

Would you consider an in-bed cosleeper like this? It might be something to consider, depending on your particular concerns about bedsharing. It would take up very little packing room and would make any bed into the baby's space.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2014

You know who cares what a baby sleeps in? Grownups. (i.e. not the baby).

Put your kid in a dresser drawer, all tucked in with blankets and towels. Pull the drawer out of the cabinet, if you like. The first time I saw my mother in law do this, I definitely raised an eyebrow, but it's brilliant. They don't roll off, they can't get hurt, and when they're not sleeping the drawer goes back.

We did our own transatlantic move when my daughter was 6 months old. Between a Baby Bjorn and a $100 crib we got from Ikea, she was just dandy wherever we put her. I might, were I to do it now, buy the crib and leave it boxed until we reached our current location.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:26 AM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

We used an Arm's Reach full-size cosleeper and were extremely happy with it. Two things about it make it less good for your situation: one, it is quite large and blocks off a significant portion of the bed on that side, and two, it is "portable" in the same sense that, say, a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is portable, or a folding lawn chair -- you can move it, it isn't nailed down, but it's kind of a chore.

In your case, I'd get a Mini cosleeper. The kid will be fine in it up to four months. They are crazy safe -- the only way the baby can get stuck is if you install it badly. Having the baby *right there* during the note saved my sanity with both kids; my daughter wouldn't sleep out of my arms, but having the cosleeper there made me much more comfortable about her sleeping on the outside of me when my husband was flaily in his sleep or when I needed to be in my left side. And my son took to it like a duck to water until he was ready to move to his own room at, yep, just about four months. Also, you can totally get those on Craigslist, and re-sell them there too; they hold their value very well. I sold my full sized one after five years and two children for $85, and I had a buyer within hours.
posted by KathrynT at 8:27 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had one of those in-bed co-sleepers that tchemgrrl linked to. I loved it. It was especially useful for when he was napping and I just wanted to hang out on the couch, so I could bring it along with me.
posted by chiababe at 8:32 AM on February 5, 2014

I use a pack 'n play when travelling, and don't recommend using it full time - it's very low as others have mentioned, plus it seems uncomfortable, though my son sleeps in it okay. I transitioned my son from a bassinet in our room to his crib around 3 or 4 months, so maybe you could pick up a bassinet at a consignment store or from Craigslist, and ditch it when you move. Otherwise I would do a mini crib or an in-bed co-sleeper if you can find one that will accommodate a larger baby. We ended up doing some part-time unplanned co-sleeping and I wish I had one of those.
posted by Safiya at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2014

We used a Pack N' Play with bassinet insert. Kid slept in it just fine, and once she outgrew it we started using the Pack N' Play as intended.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Loved the Arm's Reach co-sleeper. With each of our two children, we bought the co-sleeper second-hand on Craigslist and sold it again for roughly the same amount of money. Heck, if you bring it to Europe you might even be able to re-sell it for more.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 8:49 AM on February 5, 2014

I would not get the Bjorn travel crib for a baby that young. The mattress is pretty soft, and I feel like with a delicate little newborn getting them all the way in and out would just be nerve wracking.

Mine slept in a Rock n Play for the first six weeks - she was a little refluxy and uncomfortable when lying flat on her back. She actually did get a touch of the dreaded Flat Head but once we moved her to a bassinet we propped her to sleep so she wasn't lying on the flat spot and got a little religious about tummy time and her head rounded out within a few weeks. If you catch it early enough it's pretty easy to remedy. So if you end up using the Rock n Play just keep an eye on whether the baby always sleep with its head in the same position and, if so, dial up the tummy time asap to get those neck muscles a bit stronger and try to improve kiddo's range of motion.
posted by town of cats at 8:57 AM on February 5, 2014

My sister was facing a similar quandary and settled on the Baby Bjorn Cradle. It's not the cheapest option but it has many advantages:
- lightweight, so you can move it around the house easily.
- raised off the floor, which is nice for your back and occasional mouse problems
- can pull it close to the bed, as the legs fit under the bedframe
- mesh sides, so you can easily see the baby if you're sitting nearby
- not ugly
- holds its value well for resale

It's only good until 17lbs or 6 months, but for her, it was a great solution and she's very happy with it.
posted by barnone at 8:59 AM on February 5, 2014

I bought the basinette that went with my stroller (A Britax B-Ready--which I love!, but not cheap), and although we had a basinette on a frame at home, she slept in it many, many, many nights as we were travelling a lot when she was teeny. She could safely sleep in it till she was nearly 6 months old (she was wee for her age). It had the advantage of it would pack down to flat and fit in the bottom of a hockey bag for travelling if needed. From there she went into an Ikea crib, which broke down and moved with us more than once...super easy to deal with and nicely reasonable cost. Congrats on your impending baby!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2014

Mother of a month-old baby here. We have the Arms Reach, bought it used off Craigslist, it's great. During the first weeks our baby was jaundiced, so we just wheeled it to wherever there was the most sunlight in the apartment. Now we keep it attached to the bed (our mattress is higher than the bassinet mattress - there's not really anywhere for him to get stuck) and three times each and every night when he wakes up, I'm so so glad we have it so I can just reach over and scoop him out without getting out of bed or bending over, or put him back into bed after nursing without getting out from under the covers. All the lifting out of bed and tucking back in really adds up in the aggregate.

As others have mentioned, it's "portable" in that it can be folded and moved from one location to another but it is definitely far from easy to transport - bulky, unwieldy, not meant for constant setup and tear down.

We also have an Ikea crib which he now sleeps in during the day. If you're moving someplace with a high cost of living will they have an Ikea as well?

posted by sestaaak at 9:49 AM on February 5, 2014

I recommend the arms reach co-sleeper. I bought one used off craigslist for my second child and it was fantastic. Its perfectly safe if installed correctly. A baby could get stuck if you don't attach it to the bed properly...

For my first I tried a pack and play (ugly, and a back-destroyer), and a crib. I much prefer the co-sleeper to either of those, for the first few months. In terms of travel, depending on how far you are traveling its better to get your family to pick up a used pack and play or something locally, so you don't have to lug any baby sleep device along with you. Much as I hate the pack and play, its perfectly adequate for use during a week or two visit with my parents.
posted by Joh at 10:42 AM on February 5, 2014

As previously mentioned, you can get a Pack-n-Play with a bassinet setup (so the mattress is near the top instead of all the way down). Ours had a changing pad, too.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:03 AM on February 5, 2014

I recommend whichever of your options you find on Craigslist for a price that suits you.

For a data point, we used the Arms Reach mini co-sleeper, and loved it. Baby Bibbit transitioned to the crib at 3 months just because that's what happened, but he could have fit in the mini co-sleeper for quite a bit longer.
posted by bibbit at 11:06 AM on February 5, 2014

Where do you live now? Local MeFites may have surplus baby-sleeping devices available for free.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:06 AM on February 5, 2014

Response by poster: This is great -- thanks so much everyone! I like the idea of seeing what's out there on craigslist, though the arm's reach got so many votes I might zero in on that. And for the record, we're in the Boston area :).
posted by EtTuHealy at 11:18 AM on February 5, 2014

Another vote for the Pack N Play with the bassinete insert. We used it for our son now 5-year-old son, until he was 4 months and sleeping more soundly and our daughter who will be 4 months next week is currently sleeping in the same one. The insert has the child at essentially bed level so you can roll over in the night to take a peek without having to move around too much if the baby hasn't truly awakened. You can reach them easily to feed right in bed, and ours also came with a changing table attachment that works well in the hazy newborn days, so you don't have to go traipsing away to change a diaper in the wee hours of the morning. When the boy got older we also used it as a travel crib when visiting far away relatives until he just got too big. In your case, I think the benefit would be they're pretty inexpensive, they're portable, and they're easily bought or sold second-hand.

All that being said, our daughter also had problems with reflux so also slept semi-upright in an infant seat with me sleeping on the sofa next to her in the early weeks before we got it sorted. In desparate times she also slept on our bellies while either Mr. Goggie or I slept in a chair. Whatever works for you, lets you get at least a modicum of sleep and is reasonably safe is what you want to get.

Congratulations to you! I know it's hard, but try to not stress too much. I wept over stroller choices with my first because there were just too many choices and it all seemed so fraught. In the end, babies are pretty easy going about this stuff. If find it's also helpful to remember that in past generations there were a lot fewer choices about these things, the choices available were less attractive/comfortable/safe and it all generally worked out ok.

One more plug, look for a children's consignment shop near you. They are a treasure trove for gear and clothing and are a great resource for unloading things you don't need ahead of a move!
posted by goggie at 11:29 AM on February 5, 2014

Check thy MefiMail.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:36 PM on February 5, 2014

Another vote for the Arm's reach - my daughter slept in hers until she was six months old and we both loved it. Not having to get out of bed for night feeding is such a huge bonus. Combined with a motion sensing light it meant all I had to do to check on her was roll over and wave my hand in the air.
posted by Wantok at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had both my kids in a Moses basket, but not on the floor, we put it on the bed between my husband and I, but down near out feet where there was more space. All I had to do to get baby in the middle of the night was sit up, I never even had to get out of bed. Plus, they're so portable, it was where they slept wherever we went, we would just throw it in the car. They generally grow out of them in about 4 months but by then they're ready for a cot anyway.
posted by Jubey at 6:03 PM on February 5, 2014

Yet another vote for the mini arm's reach. My son was in that until about 4 months. If the baby will be in your room anyway, might as well have them close so you can easily grab for feeding etc. I can't even imagine getting out of bed to feed the baby in this first few weeks, would've made a hard time just that much worse.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:06 PM on February 5, 2014

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