Rocking Bassinet Buying Guide: What To Know Before You Shop

Mom rocking baby to sleep

Rocking bassinets are grabbing the attention of many parents. This twist on a traditional bassinet takes inspiration from rocking cradles to help you soothe your fussy baby to sleep with less work on your part.

If you’re considering buying a rocking, moving, or “smart” bassinet, there’s an increasing number of options available. Here’s what you need to know before you shop.

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Why Does Rocking Work?

Mom holding baby before putting him down into a rocking bassinet

Moms and dads throughout history have known that when it comes to soothing a fussy baby to sleep, motion can make all the difference. But why does rocking, bouncing, swaying, or even the vibration and momentum of a moving car have a lulling effect on little ones?

The fact is that despite some research on the subject, there is no single, certain explanation for why motion is such a successful soothing strategy for many babies.

Some people theorize that rocking or bouncing motions remind babies of the rhythmic jostling they grew accustomed to in the womb. Other researchers believe the movement triggers an innate calming reflex in the infant brain.

Interestingly, there’s evidence to show that the calming, drowsiness-inducing effects of rocking or gentle rhythmic motion don’t only work on babies.

One experiment showed that even young adults also fell asleep quicker in beds that gently rock. And of course, many of us may have noticed that we tend to fall asleep as passengers on road trips.

Whatever the scientific reason for why rocking babies works, parents since ancient times would attest that it does work, and when you’re desperate to get a restless baby to fall asleep so you can get some much-needed rest yourself, you’re probably not going to worry about the “why”!

What Is A Rocking Bassinet?

A rocking bassinet is a type of bassinet designed to allow for motion to lull your baby to sleep instead of being completely fixed in place.

In theory, a rocking bassinet allows you to maintain the soothing motion that your baby finds comforting without the fatigue of having to actually hold and rock them, and without the risk of startling them awake again when you put them down after they finally fall asleep.

Types Of Rocking Bassinets

Within the category of moving bassinets, there’s a broad range of options designed to offer different types of motion, from traditional cradle-like side-to-side rocking to head-to-toe gliding to bouncing and even settings to replicate the feel of a moving car.

Some models offer multiple motion options. Also, while some moving bassinets are “parent-powered” — meaning you need to push or pull them to create the motion — many are motorized so they can move on their own.

Be aware of this before you start shopping or you may be overwhelmed by the variety of options available. But should you buy a rocking bassinet? Let’s consider the ups and downs of these bedtime baby-bobbers.

Rocking Bassinet Pros And Cons

baby yawning and ready to be put down into a moving bassinet

Pro: They Work! (For Some)

Researchers might not be able to pinpoint the link between gentle, rhythmic motion and your baby drifting off to sleep, but many parents can attest that it definitely exists, at least for their little ones.

The wide variety of different motion options available in moving bassinets means that you can look for one that produces the specific type of motion that seems to work best for your baby.

Con: Motion Might Not Be What Your Baby Needs

It’s possible, however, that the motion when you rock your baby to sleep isn’t actually what’s helping them drift off.

When you’re rocking your baby, you’re holding them close to you. It might be the sensory aspects of being held that’s making your baby relax enough to fall asleep.

If that’s the case, then a rocking bassinet won’t be an adequate substitute for the comfort and security mom or dad’s loving arms provide.

Pro: Clever Features

Rocking bassinets can do more than just rock. Many “smart” rocking bassinets come with sound or music machines, functions to set timers, different movement options, and detachable mobiles or canopies.

All of these features can potentially make the bassinet more useful to you not just at bedtime but throughout the day and on the go.

Con: Complication

Not all of the “bonus features” on smart bassinets will be helpful to every parent, and sometimes more features can result in less convenience.

Features like motorized rocking and sound mean that you either have to remember to replace batteries or plug the bassinet in, potentially limiting where you can position it.

Attachments like shades or mobiles mean more things you have to decide whether to take with you if you want a bassinet you can travel with.

Extra features on a rocking bassinet aren’t a bad thing, but make sure the bassinet you choose gets the fundamentals right first and foremost.

Pro: More Rest For You

mom taking a nap while baby naps

Of course, being able to get your baby to sleep more quickly at night means that you’re able to get to bed quicker yourself. But the benefits of a rocking bassinet don’t end when you first put your baby down for the night.

More feature-rich rocking bassinets can automatically swing into motion when your little one stirs during the night, helping them self-soothe and fall back asleep without you having to get up so that you can catch more uninterrupted Z’s.

Con: A Tougher Crib Transition (Maybe)

One concern that’s sometimes raised about rocking bassinets is that your baby might get too used to being rocked to sleep.

In theory, this could mean that you’ll have more difficulty getting them to go down at bedtime or for a nap when the time comes to transition them from a bassinet to a non-rocking crib.

Is there validity to this concern? It’s tough to say. Some researchers believe that babies outgrow the infant reflex that causes rocking to lull them to sleep by the time they’re big enough for a crib anyway.

Parents who are desperate to get their newborns to go to sleep might simply choose to take a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” attitude toward the crib transition several months down the line.

What To Look For In A Rocking Bassinet

 rocking bassinet in a nursery


A bassinet is safer and more useful to you if you can move it around to put it where you need it and allow your baby to sleep close by, and a rocking bassinet is no exception. You don’t want a lot of advanced features to make the bassinet bulky.

Wheels give your bassinet a basic capability to be moved from room to room. If you think you’d benefit from being able to take your rocking bassinet with you on trips, consider one that can fold up for transport. And of course, less weight always helps.


Stability is one of the most important criteria to look for in picking a bassinet that’s safe for your little one. This is even more important for bassinets that are designed to rock, bounce, sway, or glide.

It’s critical that your rocking bassinet stays where you put it without any risk of it shifting or toppling, even while moving on its own. Legs that fold need to lock in place and be even, without any incline. Wheels should have a locking feature.

Breathable Sides

To ensure your little one’s safety while they’re in the bassinet, look for a model with breathable sides. This means either wooden slats or mesh material.

Mattress Fit

A properly fitting mattress is another factor that’s essential for making sure your baby is safe while sleeping in a rocking bassinet.

The mattress should be sized to fit the bassinet exactly. If there’s enough of a gap around the sides for any part of your baby’s body to get stuck in or if the mattress can shift enough to create a gap, cross that bassinet off your list.

The Right Type Of Motion

As we’ve mentioned, the term “rocking bassinet” or “moving bassinet” covers models that offer many different types of motion for soothing your baby to sleep.

If it seems to you like a certain type of rocking, swaying, bobbing, or other movement produces better results when you’re trying to soothe your baby to sleep than others, trust your instincts and look for a moving bassinet that comes as close to replicating it as possible.

Rock On, Mom And Dad!

Parents snuggling with newborn

Rocking bassinets can make a big difference in helping parents and their babies get better rest by applying modern technology to something parents have known for all of history: the power of lulling little ones to sleep with gentle, rhythmic movement.

If you’re interested in buying a rocking bassinet, focus on essential criteria like a safe, stable design, and thoroughly familiarize yourself with any “smart” features so you can get the most out of them.

We hope this guide will help you make an informed decision on whether a rocking bassinet is right for you and your baby. Check our blog often for more tips, and when it’s time to transition out of a bassinet, consider the Newton Baby line of crib products.