A bassinet or bassinette is a bed specifically for babies from birth to about four months. A bassinet is also the term for a baby bouncing device used to relax a baby when it is going to sleep. After four months, when the baby has begun to start to turn, an infant bed is recommended (known as a cot in the United Kingdom and a crib in the States). A cot or a crib is a small bed specifically for infants and very young children, generally up to 3 years old. It should have a firm mattress to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and should not have pillows, bolsters or soft toys. Pillows, bolsters or soft toys in the bassinet or cot increase the risk of the baby suffocating on them.
In Asia, the sarong is a piece of cloth that is used to wrap around the body as an item of dressing for both men and women. The sarong can be used as a baby hammock. It is cheap and simple to set up. Sometimes it is attached to a spring which moves the hammock up and down providing a rocking movement which is soothing to the young infant. Usually used for babies from one to six months, I have seen it being used for children up to six years! These kids enjoy the rocking movement and the ‘cocooning’ effect of the hammock.
The question I have always been asked about the sarong hammock is whether it is safe for use for babies. I believe that it is safe for use in older infants but not in newborns. It should be safe for infants above one to two months depending on their maturity (not premature babies) and size. Always place the baby on his or her back, not the front. Pillows and soft toys should not be used in the sarong hammock. Even if the baby turns and get stuck, the thin sarong fabric should not suffocate the baby.
Another common question is whether it will cause curvature of the backbone. It is unlikely as there are many specific causes of curvature of the backbone and a bend posture is not one of them.
One danger of the sarong hammock is that of babies falling out of them. Though there have been many such patients seen at the Emergency Department of hospitals, no serious injuries have been recorded. A step parents can take to prevent injuries is to place a pillow or mattress below the sarong hammock and adjust the hammock so that it is not too high above the ground. Some doctors also caution that the rocking movement may cause bleeding in the brain. This is unlikely as it require very vigorous rocking of the head to cause such injuries, not the gentle rocking of the sarong hammock.
There has been a recent report of two babies suffocated in baby hammock (more here). We need to take note that in the American baby hammock, the designers have introduced some mattress at the bottom and the sides. These are different from sarong hammock.
The sarong hammock should be introduced to the rest of the world as an Asian innovation for safe parenting.