Research has found that bed-sharing is associated with a baby experiencing an increased chance of SIDS or accidental death in particular circumstances.
These are a) If you smoke (or smoked in pregnancy), b) have recently drunk alcohol, or taken drugs or medications that make you sleepy or sleep more heavily than normal, and c) your baby was born prematurely or with low birth-weight.
In these circumstances, bed-side cots (also known as side-car cots/cribs) may provide a safer alternative to bed-sharing, and provide easy access for comforting and feeding your baby during the night.
What should I think about?
If your baby falls into one of the increased risk categories, you need to be careful not to bring your baby into bed and accidentally fall asleep.
Breastfeeders need to be especially aware of this, as breastfeeding makes both mums and babies sleepy.
Also, if you would prefer to avoid bed-sharing for any reason, but want to keep your baby close at night, a bed-side cot may be a suitable option.
Bed-side/side-car cots (also known in the US as 'co-sleepers' are 3-sided cots or bassinets that are positioned next to the parents' bed, providing easy access to and contact with the baby while maintaining a separate sleep surface. A safe bed-side cot should fasten to the parents’ bed, or have locking wheels that prevent it from being accidentally moved away from the bed while the baby is inside. There should be no gap between the cot/crib and the bed. It should also include a detachable or move-able 4th wall that can be secured in place if the baby is left to sleep in the crib alone.
Sometimes parents make their own side-car cribs by removing the side-wall of a standard cot and somehow fastening the cot to the adult bed, but with the 4th side permanently removed from the cot it is not safe to leave a baby in it unattended.
There is no research that has explored whether one type of cot helps with feeding, sleep or safety more than another in the home. All of the research conducted on 3-sided cribs so far has examined their use in hospital postnatal wards only.