Choosing where your baby sleeps is one of the first decisions you will probably have to make as a parent.
There are three options which allow parents to share their bedroom with their baby: a separate cot in the room, sharing your bed (co-sleeping) with your baby and sleeping alongside your baby (bedside sleeping). This has been made easier by a recent innovation in cot design called a ‘bedside cot’.
What is a bedside cot?
The bedside cot is designed to provide parents with a way of sleeping close to their baby without having to share the same bed. So far there is limited formal research evidence on the benefits of this. One study though suggests that bedside cots can help women to establish breastfeeding and have no negative side effects when used on a postnatal ward.
A bedside cot is a cot that usually attaches securely to the adult bed level with the mattress. However, it is not a traditional cot because it is designed to operate with three sides. The open side allows you to reach out and touch or feed your baby at night without moving from your own bed while providing separate sleeping space for everyone.
Benefits of bedside sleeping
- Sleeping alongside your baby in the same room can help you and your baby get more rest.
- It can support breastfeeding at night, and the position of the cot means it can be done without having to get out of bed.
- Sleeping close by helps to develop bonding between mum, dad and baby.
- If your baby stirs or cries during the night you can easily settle them back to sleep.
- The positioning of a bedside cot means that you can comfort your baby easily even if your movements are restricted, for example, following a caesarean.
Bedside sleeping also means you have the benefits that bed-sharing parents have but a separate space for you all to sleep in as well. The same health and safety guidelines which have been published for bed sharing, see below, still apply if you choose to adopt the bedside cot as, you may also at times move your baby into bed with you.
The Department of Health advises that sharing a bed with your baby should be avoided if one or both parents:
- Is a smoker.
- Has consumed alcohol.
- Has taken any drugs that affect perception, cause drowsiness or affect depth of sleep.
- Is excessively tired to the extent that this might affect being able to respond to the baby.
The risks of co-sleeping are also increased if your baby:
- Was born premature (37 weeks or less).
- Had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb).
- Has a fever or any signs of illness.
If you do decide to co-sleep, you need to:
- Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed.
- Keep your baby cool by using sheets and blankets rather than a duvet.
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back rather than their front.
- Avoid letting your baby come near a pillow – babies don’t need a pillow until they are at least a year old.
- Never risk falling asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, including sleeping arrangements for your baby: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
For more information and examples of alongside sleeping cots for babies please visit NCT shop where you can buy a range of alongside sleepers or take a look at our NCT Bednest rental option.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.
The Department of Health has published a pamphlet outlining the measures you can take to reduce the risk of cot death.