When I asked my mom if there was any sort of heirloom bassinet, she informed me that for the first few months of my life, I slept in a lovingly arranged nest of blankets in a dresser drawer. Upon researching, I found the drawer turned bassinet is a thing. After thirty minutes of attempted internet research, I gave up and called my grandma.
My grandma reports that she and her sister had their babies in a wicker bassinet that they would share back and forth. This would be dated in the 1950’s. It had wheels and she would keep it in the bedroom when the babies were real little. It probably looked something like this:
I asked Grandma how GG Loney put her and her sister to sleep and Grandma wasn’t sure but she recalled a story about a dresser drawer! (Aha! It was a thing!)
I’d be willing to bet that the dresser drawer custom was common among my great grandmas. GG Irene seems a likely candidate given that she was homesteading when her first baby arrived.
And yet I cannot seem to find any historical sources about infant sleep trends, especially among everyday people in the 1920’s. I’ve come across a few (maybe 2) articles that mention the dresser drawer idea, but with a thousand disclaimers, ranging from “The sides were high enough, don’t freak out” to “Now I love my baby and would give him anything…” And these sources are modern – not historical. Given the Finnish baby box trend that has popped up, I’m struggling to see the difference between a cardboard box and a deep dresser drawer. Fact is, not all families can afford to buy a crib, bassinet, pack ‘n’ play, rock ‘n’ play, and the countless other accouterments that the Baby Industrial Complex insists that you need. As for us, my husband and I have been planning a couple different sleeping accommodations for our baby, none of which you can buy in a store.
I saw this on a neighborhood Facebook group last winter and immediately signed up and watched all the videos to get my certificate. It took me a month or two to get out to Minneapolis and pick up the box, but I love this thing. Nothing to it really. It’s a cardboard box with a little foam mattress in it. How could anything bad happen in an empty cardboard box?
When TR comes home, the plan is to have him sleep primarily in the baby box, arranged aside the bed in our room. This will be his primary sleeping location until he’s ready for the crib.
2. The Moses Basket
A friend of mine from work has an awesome connection with a woman who handcrafts baskets in Ghana. She met B while student teaching in Ghana and learned how to weave baskets from her. B supports her family with her basket-weaving skills and once or twice a year, my friend receives a big shipment of baskets that she sells among her friends and coworkers for a very affordable price. The best part is that 100% of the proceeds go straight back to B and help pay tuition for her children’s schooling.
About a year ago, I had a half-joking conversation with my friend where I asked her if B made baby baskets (you know, baskets for babies!) and she said probably yes. When I got pregnant, I thought back to that conversation and said to myself, “Actually, yes, my baby needs an awesome basket.” I texted my friend and she said B would make one specifically for me. I was stunned at the quick turnaround. From the day I asked my friend about it to the day she said it had arrived, only 2.5 months had passed. And that includes all the time it took to ship from Ghana. B is a miracle-worker.
Sometimes I look at the basket and think about how dedicated and fast a weaver B must be. Then I feel bad about how my knitted baby blanket is still less than halfway done.
After picking up the basket, I developed plans to make a baby nest for inside it, providing support and comfort for little TR. I picked up some foam for the base and started drafting plans based on a pattern I found on Pinterest.
But then I got lazy. And by lazy, I mean I’ve entered my third trimester. I am a petite woman to begin with and my torso is weirdly short. (I wear petite tops but standard length pants – I’m disproportionate, ‘kay?) This individual difference has made the expansion of my ribs very uncomfortable and often painful for the past four months (if you’ve spent any time with me in a restaurant, I’m sure you heard way more about it than could possibly be interesting). Everyone’s got something that makes pregnancy Extra Special.
To compensate for my utter disinterest in getting up and doing things (especially things like sewing, which requires me to hunch over a machine and compress my ribs further), I reasoned that it would probably be safest to make the base for the basket without the nesting sides. After all, if crib-padding is discouraged then why do I need to make a nest with cushions at the sides? Since it’s going inside the basket, which has sufficient walls on its own, I don’t need to make something with additional side padding.
Given a logical reason to avoid work that requires a sewing machine, I revised my plan. I got out our electric carving knife and carved up the foam in the right shape for the basket. Then, I covered the foam with a pillow case. Having cut the pad slightly larger than the space it was to occupy, it fits very snug and secure. Bonus: it’s scarcely added any weight at all!
The plan is to use the basket for napping while hanging out in rooms other than the bedroom and for hanging out at the homes of friends and family during prolonged visits. The basket has lower sides than I’m comfortable with to have this be a dedicated sleep location. It will do well as a place to chill under supervision, though. And it’s BEAUTIFUL.
3. The Crib
($150 when all is said and done; not including mattress)
The crib has been an enormous labor of love on the part of my husband. He has been developing the plan for months, buying up better tools, purchasing plans, extensively researching safety guidelines on both construction and finishing, and adapting to set-backs with creative solutions.
On the day he assembled the front side of the crib, he realized his slats were slightly too far apart. (3 inches instead of 2 3/8 inches – By the way, who settled on 2 3/8 inches? I mean really, 2 1/4 was too narrow but 2 1/2 is too wide? What a seemingly arbitrary number…I’d like to know what made them settle on that precise measurement.) After coping with his frustration by eating one of the many fresh-baked treats I have been making, he was back to it with a new design incorporating a solid headboard at the back, allowing him to move the slats to the proper spacing without having to buy or rip new slat boards.
He got that headboard put together in four hours, I do not exaggerate. If I had known he could do that, I would have had him build us a headboard years ago. And it’s solid. SOLID.
Currently, my husband is in the throes of a sanding ordeal. He is sanding every piece 4 times at different grits. The other day, he walked in and said triumphantly, “I am officially one eighth of the way done!” I’m not sure how that is assuring but I have a feeling that the number of hours he spent on this crib will become a family legend. Like the size of the fish my cousin caught on her plastic Mickey Mouse fishing pole or the number of days my father got lost in the Boundary Waters.
You can bet there will be a post of the finished product, looking majestic in all its glory in our (almost finished!) nursery. We hope this crib will be an heirloom for years to come. When our boy becomes old enough for a toddler bed, off come the front slats. Then, the solid back of the crib will provide him with a headboard that will take him all the way through a single bed to a full mattress. When he wants a queen size bed (something my husband and I didn’t get until 3 years ago), he can build his own headboard.