Everything You Should Know about Co-sleeper Cots

We know that deciding on your baby’s sleeping arrangement is a stressful task. With so much conflicting advice concerning safety on the one hand, and fulfilling your baby’s emotional needs on the other, it is hard to know what to do.  

Parents are put under pressure to put their child to sleep in a separate room, when this is in fact detrimental to your baby’s development. It causes distress to parents, who lose sleep trying to be alert to the baby’s breathing and cries through a monitor, and to the baby, who craves constant contact and instant feeding.  

There is one solution agreed upon by all experts; the secret to safe, restful sleeping for parents and babies: co-sleeper cots 

 

What is a co-sleeper cot you ask?

These three-walled cots, which attach directly to the side of the parents’ bed, fully secure the baby from rolling out and provide seamless reach between beds. The baby sleeps on a separate, baby-safe surface, while being in arm’s reach of mum and dad.  

The best part? Both parent and baby get the best quality sleep knowing that the other is just centimetres away. They enjoy a whole host of other physiological benefits that we will explain later.  

In this guide, we’ll provide a run-down of every argument associated with co-sleeping, and why co-sleeper cots are the answer to every new parent’s problem: how to keep your baby both safe and content while sleeping. 

 

What is Co-Sleeping? 

Co-sleeping is the practice of sleeping in close proximity to your baby, whether they are in your bed or their own cot.  

The benefits and dangers of co-sleeping are in debate between opposition groups and supporters, with both sides having valid points about the balance between an infant’s physical safety and emotional security.  

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released guidelines which state that although SIDS is rare, it is more likely to occur when the parent or carer sleeps with the baby – whether this be in bed, on a chair, lying down or sitting up.  

The vast majority of other childcare experts and charities echo these views, including the NHS and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The official recommendation is that you should sleep in the same room as your infant, but never in the same bed. 

Bed-sharing is a natural temptation for new parents, who want to easily breastfeed, with quick and easy reach for comforting an unsettled baby when you are exhausted in the middle of the night. It seems an attractive prospect to keep your baby so close all the time: but bed-sharing is a confirmed risk factor of SIDS. 

We know that SIDS is a terrifying prospect among parents. We understand why many put the avoidance of all risk above their natural instinct, which is to keep their baby close. We know parents are constantly reminded of the dangers of SIDS: warnings are printed on all baby bedding packaging, cribs, and other sleeping equipment.  

But this is why we are passionate about parents knowing there is a middle ground 

Here’s the answer: Co-sleeper cots. They attach to the side of the parents’ bed, allowing seamless reach between parent and baby, while maintaining separate sleeping surfaces. And what’s better? They’ve been developed to the utmost safety standards.  

In fact, they are designed to adhere to NHS guidelines, and are endorsed by childcare experts, like director of the Mother-Baby Behavioural Sleep Laboratory, Dr James J. McKenna. 

 

Why We Need Co-Sleeping 

While some terrible cases of SIDS have been attributed to bed-sharing – because the infant was overheated, suffocated, or rolled on – there are plenty of scientific studies that show how co-sleeping safely actually saves infant lives.  

Here, we will list why co-sleeping is vital to healthy baby development.  

  • In his research published in the Sleep and Paediatric Respiratory Reviews scientific journals, Dr McKenna shows that room-sharing with your infant improves the ease of breastfeeding, allows you to know instantly when your child is in difficulty, and encourages healthy sleeping patterns – your baby will learn to sleep through the night faster than isolated-sleeping babies. He goes as far to say that ‘the simplistic, scientifically inaccurate and misleading statement ‘never sleep with your baby’ needs to be rescinded, wherever and whenever it is published.’ 
  • Research by L. Davies in 1995 concluded that co-sleeping is vital for infants to form a secure attachment relationship with its parents, and skin-to-skin contact at night ensures emotional security for the baby. Sadly, it was also found that infants who slept in a different room were more likely to forge attachment relationships to objects in place of their parents.  
  • The panic surrounding SIDS has caused parents to believe solitary sleeping is best, negatively impacting infant development and bonding within families. Sarah LeVine, PhD, co-wrote a 2016 Los Angeles Times article that recommended co-sleeping, on the basis that it enabled exhausted new parents to get more sleep. She argued that placing your baby to sleep in a separate room means that parents are constantly having to get up to feed and tend to the baby; this is not the case when co-sleeping, so both parents and baby sleep much better.  

Despite some benefits, parents and medical practitioners rightly condemn bed-sharing. Risk of suffocation and SIDS is still the main concern when allowing a baby to sleep in an adult bed.  

This is why co-sleeper cots are the best option: they were developed as a safe way to enjoy the plentiful benefits of sleeping near your baby, and to remove the risks associated with bed-sharing. Co-sleeper cots’ attachment to the parents’ bed allows for safe night-time breastfeeding and proximity to the child.  

History of Co-Sleeping 

The long history of co-sleeping formed a large basis of LeVine’s argument in her LA Times article. She found that the rest of the world had been co-sleeping safely for hundreds of years, and that it was really only the Western world who tended not to practice it, in part due to constant modern safety warnings.  

Far back in human history, leaving a baby unattended would mean that it would be killed by predators or die of cold. It’s only in the modern western world, where we have secure homes, that the practice of placing a baby to sleep in a separate room has ever occurred.  

Teaching our children to sleep alone is only around two centuries old, according to Tami E. Breazeale in The Natural Childhood Project. Davies wrote that co-sleeping was the norm in all societies until the late 1700s, and is still in most of the world today.  

These facts can arguably mean that infant solitary sleeping is unnatural. 

So, why do some parents do this? It could be down to the media. The moral panic against co-sleeping began in the early 2000s, when the media got hold of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics, containing death reports of young children in the 1980s and 90s.  

This caused a frenzy regarding the safety risks of co-sleeping – but the publications failed to disclose that the vast majority of deaths occurred when the infants were alone in cots. Instead, they chose to focus on the rare cases of unintentional strangulation, overlaying (adults rolling onto babies), or infants becoming entrapped in the structure of their parents’ bed.  

 

Science of Co-Sleeping 

The rejection of co-sleeping led to ideas about ‘sleep training’ – leaving babies to ‘cry it out’ and self-comfort, so that they eventually learn to stop crying and settle themselves. This is a dangerous and untrue notion.  

Diana Divecha, PhD, wrote: ‘Crying in babies is not a misbehaviour to be modified; it is a physiological signal that something is wrong.’ She says that ignoring a baby’s cries can lead them to develop anxious crying, rather than only crying out for natural needs to be met. This method therefore increases infant crying and failure to settle. 

Room-sharing is advised by experts on this basis. Sleep training is shown to not work and to actually cause developmental issues in babies. Practicing co-sleeping enables you to respond instantly to your baby’s natural demands, ensuring babies feel safe and know their needs will be met. 

Dr McKenna’s observations in his mother-baby sleep laboratory show the following benefits of separate surface co-sleeping:  

  • Ease of breastfeeding, good for the baby’s brain growth and health;  
  • Maintains a stable body temperature in the baby;  
  • Frequent rousing, which interrupts pauses in the baby’s breathing and increases their oxygen level and heart rate.  

He also found that babies spend 100% of their sleep facing their mother – showing how much reassurance the baby gains from having their parent nearby.  

Babies put to sleep in a separate room fall into deeper sleep, increasing the risk of apnoea (pauses in breathing) which can be deadly, and increases risk of SIDS. In cultures that practice co-sleeping as the norm, SIDS is unheard of, or rates are very low.  

Scientific evidence gained from these studies reinforce the need for close-proximity sleeping, for which co-sleeper cots are a parent’s best option.  

 

SIDS: What to Know About SIDS and Co-Sleeping 

A 2017 report by Unicef UK says that the SIDS risk for all babies in England and Wales is 1 in 3,650.  

This risk is increased to 1 in 199 when co-sleeping on a sofa; and the same for co-sleeping after consuming drugs or alcohol. Obviously, you should never lay your baby to sleep on a soft surface like a sofa, and never sleep on the same surface, especially when intoxicated. 

Many professionals contest the link between SIDS and co-sleeping. Dr LeVine pointed out that Japan, a large, rich and modern country, practices high levels of co-sleeping, while enjoying an infant mortality rate that is among the lowest in the world. It’s not really known why – but it shows that there ARE safe ways to do it. 

A shocking review published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics stated that infants required to sleep in a separate room in their first few weeks of life had increased risk of SIDS – a conclusion shown by all scientific studies into the effects of isolated sleeping in babies.  

The studies, like the NHS and AAP guidelines, show that in fact, isolated sleeping AND bed-sharing carry increased risk of SIDS.  

So, what can parents do about this? 

The science shows that babies should sleep in the same room, but a on different surface from their parents. The only way to sensibly observe the risks of SIDS while reaping the benefits of co-sleeping is to use a co-sleeping cot.  

The revolutionary cots maintain separate bed surfaces but keep your baby within close reach for feeding and comforting, so that exhausted parents don’t need to leave bed to tend to their infant.  

 

Is Co-Sleeping Natural? 

Short answer: YES!  

Sleeping close to babies is as natural as the Earth. In the days of hunter-gatherer tribes, co-sleeping was necessary to protect infants against predators, and to stop their cries from attracting predators. A hungry infant could be immediately nursed when it cried out for food; preventing the attraction of predators, therefore protecting the entire tribe.  

From an emotional security perspective, we have seen how forming a close bond is linked with as much skin-to-skin contact as possible and instant consoling.  

It is certainly UNNATURAL in terms of human history to leave a baby unattended to sleep alone and console itself.  

It’s also important to understand that babies physically cannot console themselves – the sole purpose of baby crying is because they have needs they cannot fulfil on their own, like their mother’s comfort, or they are hungry. 

 

Safety Concerns and Dangers of Co-Sleeping 

Co-sleeping has become the subject of safety concerns over time due to modern sleeping habits. In the past, we did not sleep with soft mattresses, pillows piled high, thick duvets, and bedframes which could entrap small children.  

These are all found to be causes of death by SIDS and suffocation. Other factors, like overlaying and entrapment, are to blame in some infant death cases.  

Co-sleeper cots were developed for these reasons: as a safe middle ground between bed-sharing and laying your child in a separate cot.  

The baby has its own space – firm mattress, no pillow or covers – away from harmful features of the parents’ bed. It also removes risk of overlaying.  

As discussed, these cots are shown to decrease the risk of SIDS, by removing risk-factors associated with isolated sleeping AND bed-sharing.  

 

4 Ways to Make Co-Sleeping and Bed-Sharing Safer  

  1. The first thing to ensure your baby sleeps safely is knowing how to lay them. The NHS says the correct way to lay your baby while sleeping is on their back.
     
  2. Babies should be laid to sleep on a firm mattress for support – never soft. (This means you should check that mattresses fixed into carrycots and Moses baskets are safe for sleeping.)
  3. Nothing else should be in the crib – no toys, blankets or crib bumpers, which all pose suffocation risks.
  4. The safest way to co-sleep is with a specialised co-sleeper cot, which has all the benefits of bed-sharing without any of the risks. This way, the baby is as good as in bed with you, but has their own sleep surface, observing the utmost safety standards. The cots are by far the best option for co-sleeping, as opposed to completely separate stand-alone walled cots, and cumbersome bassinets which take up the majority of a double bed.  

When to NOT Co-Sleep 

Safe co-sleeping is the best choice for babies’ development and parents’ peace of mind. However, there are instances in which you should NOT co-sleep, even with the aid of a co-sleeping cot. 

These are: 

  • If one or both parents is a smoker. A Unicef UK report states that the risk of SIDS is increased from the base-rate of 1 in 3,650 to 1 in 900 when the baby co-sleeps with a regular smoker. 
  • If any alcohol or drugs are consumed. Even small amounts, or when using prescription drugs which cause drowsiness. This can mean you are not alerted to crying and you risk overlaying. 
  • If you are extremely exhausted. This may cause a deep sleep in which you aren’t alerted to the baby’s presence. 

If in doubt, always attach the fourth wall to your co-sleeper cot, and move it a safe distance away from your bed – but always keep it in your bedroom. 

 

Crib-Sleeping Vs. Co-Sleeping 

Crib vs. Co-sleeping arguments depend on what is meant by co-sleeping. As we now know, the correct definition of co-sleeping is sleeping with your baby in close proximity – this can be sharing a bed or just sharing a bedroom. Therefore, crib-sleeping IS co-sleeping when the crib is in the parents’ bedroom.  

We have also heard the scientific evidence linking isolated crib-sleeping in a separate bedroom with SIDS and a host of other detrimental development issues in babies.  

Separate cribs in the parents’ bedroom is still considered a form of safe co-sleeping, but of course, the closer the better. Co-sleeper cots attached to the parents’ bed is the best form of co-sleeping, for all the reasons discussed.  

Another risk removed by co-sleeper cots is exhausted parents waking to take baby out of its crib and nurse in the parents’ bed, then falling asleep with the baby in the bed. The parent falls asleep before checking that the baby is in a safe sleeping position – a huge danger.  

Co-sleeper cots allow instant breastfeeding on separate surfaces. Remember, separate surfaces are the key factor to maintaining safe co-sleeping practices.  

 

Truths and Myths About Co-Sleeping  

The biggest myth about co-sleeping is that it is always dangerous – this is the misconception that Dr McKenna highly refutes. When people refer to co-sleeping being dangerous, they often mistakenly mean bed-sharing, which we know is not a good idea.  

Safe co-sleeping – room-sharing, with a co-sleeper cot – is the best happy medium, where you can enjoy all the benefits and none of the risks.  

The truth is that many, many parents practice co-sleeping. It’s the norm in the majority of the world, and even closer to home.  

survey by parenting.com, an American parenting website, showed that while only 11% of respondents planned to co-sleep before their baby arrived, 42% ended up doing it, due to convenience and what they saw was the best, most effective sleep method for all parties.   

The second important truth is that safe co-sleeping is the best thing for your baby’s development. Babies who sleep in close proximity to their mother or caregiver experience safer sleep and fulfilled needs.  

Another huge factor in the co-sleeping argument that we’ve not yet discussed is parental intimacy. Many are worried that sharing a bedroom with their infant will have a negative impact on sex life, though Dr McKenna says this is NOT true.  

He believes lack of intimacy is due to other factors at play, and that it just requires imagination for parents to find new ways of intimacy when a new baby is present.  

 

General Pros and Cons  

To conclude, here’s a quick pros and cons run-down of arguments surrounding co-sleeping, to help you in your decision about your baby’s sleeping arrangements.  

Cons: 

  • Co-sleeping in the form of bed-sharing is not advised due to links to rare SIDS cases and other sleep-related infant death risks. 

Pros: 

  • Co-sleeping is advocated by the NHS, AAP, doctors and experts due to showing great advantages in infant development, in the form of room-sharing only and NOT bed-sharing.  
  • Safely co-sleeping by room-sharing with a co-sleeper cot is shown to DECREASE the risk of SIDS or other sleep-related infant deaths.  
  • Parents and baby sleep better. Parents do not have to get up and go to another room when baby cries, fully interrupting their sleep.  
  • Baby is not subjected to ‘sleep training’, a detrimental practice to their well-being which is scientifically shown to have adverse effects on development.  
  • Babies are able to easily breastfeed when sleeping in close proximity, ensuring they get adequate nutrition and the mother is not disturbed from her sleep too much.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, safe, separate-surface co-sleeping has pros which far outweigh the cons. Co-sleeper cots are highly recommended for safe, beneficial sleeping for all parties.  

We suggest browsing our site and researching which co-sleeper cot is going to work best for you. They all come with a fourth attachable wall, so can be turned into separate secure cots when the three-walled system is not appropriate – like when a parent is ill, too tired, or has smoked, etcetera. Having this choice gives parents perfect peace of mind.  

Now you are aware of all the benefits of safe co-sleeping, the only thing left to do is pick out your co-sleeper cot. We hope we’ve equipped you with all the information you need to make a great choice!