The Co-Sleeping Conundrum

With less than two weeks to go before Baby #3 is due to arrive, we are busy getting everything ready.  I can’t believe a little baby will be sleeping in our home so soon!  When we brought Evie and Mack home from the hospital, they both slept next to me in the bassinet attachment of our Graco Pack & Play.  When we bought it, it seemed like a very logical purchase because we wouldn’t need a separate bassinet. I thought I would use it for all my babies.

However, last summer the unthinkable happened. My close friend’s three month old daughter died after the bassinet attachment of her Pack & Play came unhinged. It was a horrible, tragic accident that happened to one of the loveliest, most beautiful families we know. My heart still aches for the family. We all miss their precious little girl and her gentle smile.

Shortly after her death I threw our bassinet attachment into the dumpster – I was so angry at the stupid thing.  It was painfully clear to me that using the bassinet attachment is NOT worth the risk.  I was barely two months pregnant when I tossed it, and right then I decided to look for a safe sleeping arrangement for little #3.

While doing some research I learned a lot about the pros and cons of co-sleeping.  I know the issue of co-sleeping is a contentious one.  Parents who practice it firmly believe that it is safe and healthy way to develop a close bond between mother and child.  Parents who choose to keep their babies in a crib do so for a variety of reasons, including concerns about the safety of co-sleeping.  I am not here to judge either decision; I know enough about parenting to know that every parent is different.

Mack co-slept with me, and I enjoyed that special time with him.  He could be a bit fussy, and the extra warmth and snuggles he found in our bed kept him content for longer than if he was sleeping on his own.  Plus, it made nighttime breastfeeding about a million times easier.  But, my friend’s tragedy taught me that accidents can happen despite the best intentions.  For Baby #3, I wanted to find a happy middle.

I found some research by Professor James McKenna from the University of Notre Dame’s Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory.  While he supports co-sleeping in a controlled, safe and aware environment, he also acknowledges that accidents can happen if parents are not careful.  He advocates using a co-sleeper bassinet next to the bed to simulate the co-sleeping experience, and the brand he strongly recommends is ArmsReach.  I trust the research and analysis of Prof McKenna and his team, so I decided to bring an Arms Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet into our room because it attaches to our bed but provides a separate sleep space for the little one.

One side of the ArmsReach Co-Sleeper comes down and the bassinet attaches firmly to our bed with a tight cord, preventing gaps or movement of the bassinet away from the bed. More than a million of these bassinets have been sold over the last fifteen years without one infant dying or being injured.

Chris and Mack assembled the Arms Reach Sleigh Bed this morning while I was gone.  Chris said it was super easy to set up, and based on the pictures Mack had a great time helping prepare for the new baby.  I’m glad the two of them had that special time together, and when I came home Mack proudly showed me the bed he put together for his new little sibling.

*Read about how to safely put your baby to sleep here and here

*You can learn more about the dangers associated with portable cribs and their attachments here

*To learn more about Professor McKenna’s guidelines for safer co-sleeping, click here:

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7 Comments for this entry

  1. Cassidy says:

    We love our cosleeper, but just started using it. My daughter, Evie, slept in bed till this week, lol. She hated it up until Monday. She’ll be 2 months on Friday.

  2. amanda says:

    Im sorry to hear that such a tragedy struck your friends, but I am a little curious about what kind of bassinet attachment they had. When I was shopping for them a few years ago I saw that some stayed attached merely by plastic clips thatwent over the edges of the packnplay but some had metal rods that xsupported the attachment in addition to the plastic clips. I noticed that their was a price break between the two designs and the plastic clips were on the bassinets under 100, but over $100 usually included the metal bars. I thought the metal bars were a much safer design and opted for a bassinet that was pretty much identical to several others but cost $40 more. So I have always had suspisioons that the other design wasnt as safe and i’d be curious if your friends bassinet had the metal bars or not.

    I think the arms reach cosleepers are great but the design or our bed doesnt allow for something to be sidecarred up snugly against it so they are not an option for us. I actually think if I have another child I might take the montessori approach and use a thin mattress on the floor instead of a crib (in the baby’s room where all hazards have been removed). Strange as it sounds I think that might be the best solution for us.

  3. Sarah, Mia's Mom says:

    We had the most expensive pack n play available. You cannot assume anything is safe for your child just because of the cost. We learned the hardest way. Every moment without Mia is so painful. To know that we had a healthy, beautiful girl whose death could have been prevented is pure torture. I think one baby losing her precious life should be enough for everyone to seek a safe alternative to using any attachments in the play yards. Maureen, we appreciate that you’re alerting parents to the potential danger. You are such a kind friend.

  4. julie says:

    Did the bassinet asttachment cover the whole pack n play or just half of it? I am about to have my 3rd and trying to decide what to use as well. thanks!

    • Maureen says:

      Julie, there have been horrible accidents with all pack & play attachments. I would encourage any mother to seek out an alternative. The Arms Reach Co-Sleeper has worked wonderfully for us. Good luk with #3!!

  5. Amanda says:

    Coming back to this message after your update, I don’t think that my comment was understood. I’m an engineer and I’m just very interested in wondering if the design of the pack and play and how that might have contributed to the tragedy. My comment wasn’t about price of the pack and play but rather a note that price seemed to correspond to (what I thought was) a sturdier design.

    The death of a child is always a tragedy, but it’s important to understand if their was a specific failure in the product that contributed to the tragedy. Perhaps an example of what I’m trying to get at would be the drop-side crib issue. I don’t know how many children died or were injured by those things but it’s not that all cribs are unsafe, and if you do the research on the subject, it’s not that all dropsides are even unsafe, it’s that the newer dropsides made with plastic hardware and incorrect installation were really the dangerous cribs. (And I noted something interesting when I bought my son’s crib, a Graco Lauren, the dropside version was ~$20 cheaper. I think a lot of parents might have chosen a less safe crib because it was cheaper and they got the *bonus* of a dropside. It does make me sad that so many decisions are made because of price considerations with safety as a secondary factor.)

  6. Beckey says:

    This is still a great article! We are expecting our 2nd in a few months and I want a great co-sleeper. I’ve been considering the Arms Reach one and a pack & play one, now it will be an Arms Reach for sure.

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