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How a Co-Sleeper Bassinet Works

By Sharon Perkins ; Updated September 26, 2017
Sleeping on his back in your room but not your bed is safest for baby.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in your room -- but not in your bed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A co-sleeper bassinet, which attaches to the side of your bed, can provide your baby with the closeness you both need without the risks of sleeping in an adult bed, but only if it meets certain safety standards. Some co-sleepers pose smothering risks; your co-sleeper should meet the same safety standards as a crib. Check to make sure your co-sleeper hasn't been recalled before using it.

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How It Works

A co-sleeper bassinet attaches to your bed or sits next to it. If it attaches, straps secure the co-sleeper to the side of the bed. If it has four sides, the side nearest your bed lowers on most co-sleepers to provide easier access to your baby. Some co-sleepers have four legs; others have two legs that support the side farthest from the bed, while rails slide out from the section closest to the bed and under the mattress to hold it secure. A co-sleeper might also have no legs, but have a wooden base that extends out from the co-sleeper and slides under the mattress.


Reaching over and picking your baby up to feed him, then putting him back to bed without ever leaving your bed makes night time feedings easier. Anything that makes breastfeeding easier increases the chance that you'll keep breastfeeding longer, which benefits your baby. Babies who sleep in their parents' rooms but not in their beds have a 30 percent lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, the most common cause of infant death, than babies sleeping in a separate room from their parents, according to a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute report published in the June 2006 issue of "Canadian Medical Association Journal."

Choosing a Co-Sleeper

Because there are no specific safety standards for bassinets, you can keep your baby safest by buying a co-sleepers that meets the same safety standards as a full-sized crib or playpen. Mesh sides are safer than slats or non-permeable sides, such as fabric. Mesh should be no more than 1/4 inch apart; check for holes that could trap a limb or an article of clothing. If your co-sleeper has slats, they should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. The mattress must fit tightly to the side; if you can fit two fingers between the mattress and the side, it poses a smothering risk if your baby rolls into the space. The mattress should be level with or no more than 4 inches below the adult mattress. Check the locking mechanism on the legs to prevent collapse.

Safe Use

Don't place blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or any other bedding inside the co-sleeper; all have caused babies to smother. Never substitute a pillow of soft blankets for a firm mattress. Place your baby only on his back for sleep; this position has reduced the risk of SIDS deaths by more than 50 percent since 1991, according to the AAP. Dress your baby in a warm sleeper rather than using loose blankets in the co-sleeper.

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About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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