It’s no wonder this stylish, relatively new baby gear product is lusted after by many new moms: The DockATot has over 280,000 Instagram followers, plenty of devoted mom bloggers plug it in their feeds, and celebs like Kim Kardashian and Lauren Conrad are fans.
The DockATot came to Canada in the spring of 2016 and is available in two sizes. (The smaller “deluxe” size for babies under nine months will cost you about $270 new and the “grand” size runs about $470.) But parents who are considering adding the increasingly popular cushioned baby lounger—or another similar product—to their registries should be aware that using it as a place for infants to sleep can be dangerous.
Recently, Health Canada released an advisory warning parents that letting babies sleep in baby nests, or "baby pods," puts them at risk of suffocating. They define a baby nest as any portable infant bed with soft padded sides.
“We are aware of open investigations in another jurisdiction regarding baby nest incidents,” says Gary Holub, spokesperson for Health Canada. He adds that “there have not been any incidents involving baby nests reported to Health Canada.” Health Canada’s statement warns against leaving babies unattended in those products (this includes letting babies sleep in them while a parent sleeps nearby), putting the nest inside a playpen or crib for sleep, or using the product as a co-sleeper in a parents’ bed. Putting a baby nest product on soft surfaces like mattresses or couches increases the risk of suffocation.
In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a statement advising parents not to use sleep positioners, which are intended to keep a baby in a specific position while sleeping.
Elina Furman, director of marketing at DockATot, explains that her company’s product isn’t intended to be used for baby sleep. “The DockATot is used by many for supervised lounging, chilling and play time,” she says. “We subscribe to Health Canada's guidelines for the promotion of our products to Canadians. We do not promote our products to Canadians as intended for sleep accommodation.”
The DockATot’s website is clear that the Deluxe version, which is made for babies up to nine months old, isn’t for unsupervised sleep or nighttime sleep. (Safe sleep rules—such as keeping pillows and blankets out of the crib—are much more lax for babies and toddlers over 12 months of age.) Despite this, many parents are using it that way. Its online reviews contain comments like “my newborn baby loves it and sleeps 5-6 hrs straight in it!” and “ridiculously expensive but worth it… it’s the safest way to co-sleep.”
Unfortunately, that’s not true. “There’s no question that the DockATot isn’t a safe sleep device,” says Denis Leduc, a community based paediatrician and clinical director of the newborn nursery at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. “On the contrary, a baby can easily obstruct its airway by turning towards one of those elevated sides. This is not anything that I would be comfortable recommending to parents.”
The company’s website also advertises the DockATot as “100 percent breathable.” But that isn’t reassuring to Lori Feldman-Winter, a paediatrician in Camden, New Jersey, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Feldman-Winter says that products claiming to be breathable haven’t been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. “That’s why we don’t recommend any bumpers or mattress pads, even those that are marketed as breathable,” she explains.
Health Canada’s guidelines for safe sleep recommend that all babies under a year old are put to sleep on their backs, in a crib or bassinet, with nothing else in it whatsoever. That includes any kind of pillows, loose blankets, sleep positioners or foam padding. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: “When we talk about infants, we don’t recommend anything that would be analogous to a pillow, or a bumper, or a soft surface,” says Feldman-Winter. “This might be nice while the baby is awake and playing, as a cushion, but [the] observation is the key here.”
For moms who are desperate for a few more minutes of sleep, she says a sidecar co-sleeper—a three-sided bassinet that attaches to the side of the parents’ bed—is a safer choice, but not the safest choice. (While co-sleeper sidecar bassinets are available to buy in the US, three-sided styles are not recommended by Health Canada, and some sidecar bassinet products have been discontinued in Canada.)
Leduc agrees. “The first thing we recommend is baby sleeping in his own crib or bassinet next to the parents’ bed, but if that seems to be something that the parents can’t handle, [a] is something we could agree to, as a compromise,” he says. “It’s a reasonable alternative.”