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Side-Car Cribs, Bedside Cots, and Co-Sleepers

Side-Car Cribs, Bedside Cots, and Co-Sleepers

Bedside cots and co-sleepers used in the home

Having your baby sleep in a cot or moses basket in the same room as a care-giver, for all day-time and night-time sleeps, until they are six months old, is a key piece of the advice given to new parents for reducing the risk of sudden infant death. Click here for more information about room-sharing.

There are different types of furniture available that parents may use for keeping their babies close at night. Some parents place their baby to sleep in a standard cot, cradle or moses basket, located next to their bed or elsewhere in their bedroom. Other parents place their baby to sleep in a three-sided cot which is joined to the parents’ bed. This provides easy access to, and contact with, the baby, as well as a separate sleep surface. These are often known as side-car cribs or bed-side cots, and are sometimes known as ‘co-sleepers’ (especially in the US). In the UK side-car cribs are relatively new to the market for home use, and are becoming increasingly popular. There are now several different types of bed-side cot available for parents to purchase in a variety of sizes.

Different bed-side cots incorporate various features, but all have the facility to keep the baby close to a parent with no barrier to hinder night-time contact. A safe bed-side cot should fasten to the parents’ bed or have locking wheels to prevent it from being accidentally moved away from the bed while the baby is in the cot. There should be no gap between the cot/crib and the bed. It should also include a detachable or moveable 4th wall that can be secured in place if the baby is left to sleep in the crib alone. It is desirable if the height of the cot/crib can be adjusted to match the height of the adult bed.

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. With the 4th side permanently removed from the cot it is not safe to leave babies unattended, and it can be difficult to adjust the height of the cot to match the height of the bed, leaving the potential for gaps in which a baby might get trapped.

To date, no research has investigated whether one type of cot helps with feeding, sleep or safety more than another in the home. Marketing information and parents’ reviews indicate that 3-sided cribs are popular with breastfeeding mothers, especially when they are recovering from c-section deliveries, or when their babies are small and feeding frequently at night. All of the research conducted on 3-sided cribs so far has examined their use in hospital post-natal wards only.

Side-car (or clip-on) cribs used in hospitals

In UK hospitals, it is standard practice for babies to ‘room-in’ with their mothers on the postnatal ward. Typically babies sleep in a standard bassinette (a four-sided plastic box that sits in a metal frame with wheels, see Image below left). Some hospitals now also use side-car cribs (a three-sided bassinette that securely clamps onto the side of the mother’s hospital bed, see Image below right). In other countries different versions of side-car cribs are used in hospitals (see image of Belgian hospital side-car crib above left).

Research done in UK hospitals has found that :

  • Side-car/clip-on cribs are very popular with mothers following delivery (Postnatal Unit Bassinet Types When Rooming-In After Cesarean Section Birth: Implications for Breastfeeding and Infant Safety. Tully & Ball, 2012; Breastfeeding after a caesarean section: mother-infant health trade-offs. Klingaman, 2009) as they are more easily able to see, touch, and pick up their babies from this location. Mothers recovering from episiotomies and caesarean incisions, who have limited mobility, find them particularly beneficial.
  • After a normal (vaginal), unmedicated delivery, using a side-car crib on the postnatal ward helps mothers and babies to breastfeed more frequently, which contributes to increasing the overall duration of breastfeeding.

Evolutionary Paediatrics: a case study in applying Darwinian medicine. Ball, 2008; The impact of birth intervention and mother-infant postnatal proximity on breastfeeding outcomes. Robinson, 2012.

  • There is no difference in the total amount of sleep both mothers and babies get based on the type of cot they have on the postnatal ward.

Randomised trial of infant sleep location on the postnatal ward. Ball et al., 2006; Postnatal Unit Bassinet Types When Rooming-In After Cesarean Section Birth: Implications for Breastfeeding and Infant Safety. Tully & Ball, 2012.

  • A large randomised trial examining the general use of side-car cribs for all mothers and babies, regardless of delivery type, did not find an increase in long-term breastfeeding duration.

Randomised trial of sidecar crib use on breastfeeding duration. Ball et al 2011.

See our Health Practitioners pages for more information about side-car cribs.