There are quite a few options to consider when deciding where your baby will sleep.
Your decision may be based on what you think is the safest option for your baby, convenience, how much space you have in your home, what you or your partner is most comfortable with or just personal preference.
Many parents combine options as their baby gets older or if something isn't working for them – you can change at any time, but it's great to know there are a few choices.
No matter what choice you make, safe sleeping guidelines apply to each option.
According to Sids and Kids, the 6 major points for safe sleeping in order to avoid SIDS are:
#1: Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side
#2: Sleep baby with head and face uncovered
#3: Keep baby smoke free before birth and after
#4: Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day
#5: Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to twelve months
#6: Breastfeed baby
These things make for the safest sleeping possible for your baby.
As for the most developmentally beneficial way to sleep with your baby, research tells us that's its best being as close as you can to your baby.
In a recent paper the University of Notre Dame reaffirmed the importance of closeness and responsiveness in their study – even addressing how modern methods of parenting could be harmful to a baby's development:
“Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become commonplace in our culture, such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil' it,” Narvaez says.
This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices – the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies – to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood, and has many experts rethinking some of our modern, cultural child-rearing “norms.”
“Breastfeeding infants, responsiveness to crying, almost constant touch and having multiple adult caregivers are some of the nurturing ancestral parenting practices that are shown to positively impact the developing brain, which not only shapes personality, but also helps physical health and moral development,” says Narvaez.
With that said, let's look at what options you can choose from.
Baby Sleep Option #1 – Cot
The most popular option in Australia that we're most familiar with – baby being in a cot. Sids and Kids make the following recommendations for cot sleeping:
- Use a safe cot that meets the current Australian Standard AS2172
- Use a safe mattress: firm, clean, flat (not tilted or elevated), right size for the cot
- Sleep baby on back
- Keep head and face uncovered
- Position baby's feet at the bottom of the cot
- Tuck blankets in firmly or use a safe baby sleeping bag
- Use pillows, doonas, soft toys, cot bumpers or lambswools anywhere in the cot
- Put your baby to sleep on a water bed or bean bag
They also recommend that baby sleep in a cot in their parents room for the first 6-12 months of life.
“My daughter sleeps in my room in her cot, she's 8 months old and still wakes, so she will stay in there until she stops waking through the night!” — Zoey Perry, BB Fan
Baby Sleep Option #2 – Co-Sleeper
A co-sleeper is a brilliant option for people who want to sleep as close as possible to their babies, without actually being in the same bed. It combines all the other methods to get the best of everything!
Obviously the same safe sleeping guidelines would apply as per the cot sleeping guidelines. The difference the co-sleeper has is that it can sit right up against your bed, at the bed's height, so you can reach over and grab your baby. It's brilliant for those night time feeds and helpful if you've had a caesarean.
Co-sleepers wont last as long as a cot, as they have an infant weight limit of 10.4 kgs. Yet I am a huge fan of them, as they are portable, easy to set up and dissemble and great for travelling or nights away from home – baby will have the familiar smells of his own bed.
Baby Sleep Option #3 – Co-Sleeping
More mothers are choosing to cosleep with their babies, which is the norm for numerous cultures who have never even heard of SIDS. Many western parents are fearful of cosleeping and rolling onto their baby, but having coslept with all three of my babies, you really do feel in tune with one another and we've not had one scary incident. Its my most favourite way to sleep a baby.
Just like cot sleeping, there are safe and unsafe cosleeping practices – sadly we've seen deaths in the media where babies have suffocated where a parent fell asleep on the couch with their baby and the baby had fallen between the couch and the parent. This sounds scary but this is NOT safe cosleeping, nor is it recommended to sleep this way by any person or organisation.
SIDS and Kids state that ‘sharing a sleep surface with a baby increases the risk of sudden infant death and fatal sleeping accidents in some circumstances'.
There are some absolute no-no's for co-sleeping which must be followed in order to reduce risk. According to SIDS and Kids, you should not share a sleep surface with a baby if:
- You are a smoker
- You are under the influence of alcohol or drugs that cause sedation
- You are excessively tired
- Other children are sharing the bed with a baby
- The baby could slip under bedding e.g. pillows and duvets or doonas
Never fall asleep with baby lying on its tummy on your chest, or sleep baby on a soft mattress, sofa, beanbag, or waterbed with or without a parent as there is a very high risk of a sleep accident.
All seriousness aside, cosleeping is a beautiful, most rewarding thing to do for many parents who cosleep, and studies have shown that cosleeping parents are both more likely to be breastfeeding and are actually getting more sleep at night than their non-cosleeping counterparts.
Since lack of sleep is a major contributor to postnatal depression, if practiced safely, cosleeping just may help you get enough sleep which in turn may help you avoid depression. I highly recommend reading the book, Sleeping With Your Baby by Professor James McKenna.
For more information on cosleeping and safety, please see our other articles:
- Sleeping With Baby: Safe Cosleeping Tips
- Is It Safe To Sleep With My Baby?
- Rolling Onto Baby While Cosleeping
“We went in with the idea of a bassinet for the first 6 months then in his own cot/room after that. But after 5 weeks on getting up hourly through the night, and me turning into a banshee, we brought him into bed with us and haven't looked back! We all get more sleep and I am a much happier mummy, resulting in a happier family! Cosleeping is perfectly safe when all the risk factors are removed.” – Amy Rushbrook, BB Member
“Our 29 month old sleeps with us and will till she decides not to! As adults we don't like to sleep by ourselves so why would our baby? Helps with the breastfeeding too!” — Susan Bhadury, BB Fan
Baby Sleep Option #4 – Hammock
Hammocks are used around the world by cultures near and far. They are used in baby sleep clinics and offer babies a beautiful, warm, swaddled environment that helps soothe them in a similar way as they would be in the womb.
Babies tend to sleep for a longer duration in hammocks and it helps prevent flathead which has become more common since parents changed to safe cot sleeping recommendations – on baby's back on a firm mattress. Just like the cosleeper, a hammock is portable so you can take it with you when travelling or staying somewhere overnight.
A baby will last longer in a hammock than a cosleeper, with one BellyBelly member saying that her son still enjoyed bouncing himself off to sleep at 24 months. And don't they look fabulous – I am waiting for the adult version to be released!
Baby hammocks are great for special needs and restless babies. It is especially soothing for premmies, babies with colic, infant reflux, restless sleepers and short nappers.
It's important to do your research and choose a well designed hammock which has plenty of airflow through the hammock. It's also important that the hammock isn't overly curved – you want your baby's airways to be as straight as possible. Some hammocks change the angle of the baby's airways. Some parents prefer to use hammocks for day sleeps only.
For more information on baby hammocks, check out the Amby website.
Baby Sleep Option #5 – Bassinet
Bassinets are another sleep option and are designed for shorter term use – many mothers who use bassinets tend to find they get around 6 months use from them. They are portable enough to move from room to room and allow you to sleep close to your baby.
Just like with cots, avoid putting any potential suffocation risks in the bassinet, for example stuffed toys, pillows etc.
Still Confused Or Unsure What To Choose?
If you're still undecided or unsure, check out our article Sleeping With Your Baby – What Should You Do? by Professor James McKenna.
What Sleeping Arrangement Did You Choose?
If you've decided what you're doing with your bub, please let us know! Leave a comment below and tell us what you chose and why.