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What is a Co-Sleeper?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 16, 2024
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A co-sleeper is a cross between a baby bassinet and a folding playpen which allows a parent to sleep next to their baby in a separate bed. Whether you practice attachment parenting, or your baby simply sleeps better in your bed, a co-sleeper is a good alternative to a traditional crib. A co-sleeper is appropriate for babies under 23 pounds (10.4 kg) who cannot pull themselves up yet.

Studies have shown that cultures in which parents practice co-sleeping have the lowest rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as opposed to cultures in which the baby sleeps alone in a separate room, which have the highest rate of SIDS. Having your baby sleep with you in your bed fosters bonding, makes for easier late night breastfeeding and lets you monitor your baby's sleeping. Co-sleepers are also a big help for moms recovering from a c-section who have trouble leaning over a crib.

Opponents to babies co-sleeping in an adult bed believe that there is a higher risk of suffocation and that babies will become "spoiled" and will never sleep alone. Co-sleepers provide a safe environment and a solution to transitioning a baby from a co-sleeper to a full sized crib. Most models also have a ventilated floor to prevent heat buildup, which is thought to be a cause of SIDS.

The standard co-sleeper is constructed of a foldable metal frame upholstered in soft fabric, available in several colors and patterns. A co-sleeper resembles a playpen, with the mattress at the level of a standard bed. Newer models are available in hardwood, and are more reminiscent of a crib than a playpen. One side of the co-sleeper is lower than the other so that the parent can easily reach over to the child without having to get out of bed.

Straps are used to secure the co-sleeper to the side of the bed, and can be used with any size mattress. The standard co-sleeper fits beds that are 22" to 44" (.56 to 1.1 meters) high. If your bed has a pillow top or is taller than most, there are extensions available to raise the height. One model can convert from a co-sleeper to a freestanding bassinet, then to a toddler sized loveseat. Others can be used as changing tables or playpens.

A full sized co-sleeper's dimensions are 40"x 28"x 31," (1.02 x .7 x .79 meters), while the mini version is 20" x 34" x 31" (.5 x .86 x .79 meters). Caster wheels allow the co-sleeper to be wheeled around easily, and some models have storage compartments and pockets to stash blankets and diaper changing supplies. One available extra is an umbrella canopy cover that fully encloses the co-sleeper. Prices for co-sleepers range from 129 US dollars (USD) for the mini co-sleeper to 300 USD for hardwood models.

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Discussion Comments

By Ana1234 — On Jun 07, 2014

@Mor - Parents should really do whatever they are comfortable with. The problem with a co-sleeper instead of letting the baby have their own room is that both parents end up having to wake every time the baby cries during the night rather than being able to take turns.

And it can end up being more of a shock for a baby to have to adjust to being in their own room if they are used to sleeping with their parents, but they will have to do it eventually.

By Mor — On Jun 07, 2014

@pleonasm - If a co-sleeper is well made, it will give you the best of both worlds without putting a baby in danger. It really is much better for them to be able to sleep near their parents when they are very young. That's especially true if they are at all sickly.

And it can give an anxious mother a bit of reassurance as well.

By pleonasm — On Jun 07, 2014

I think it makes sense for a baby to sleep better when it is near its parents, but I don't think it's a good idea in general. People don't like to talk about it, but it has definitely happened that a mother or father has accidentally harmed their child by rolling on them in their sleep. An infant is just too fragile to risk it.

There are other ways to comfort your baby. I also don't really believe that they even know what's going on while they are asleep, so it doesn't really matter whether you are there or not.

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