When baby hates the cot: An alternative option

Have you tried everything to get your baby to sleep in the bassinet or cot, and they resist or wake as soon as you put them down? You’re definitely not alone.

Some parents aren’t comfortable with bed sharing or are afraid of the potential risks, so instead they resort to sitting in a chair or sofa with their baby, and then falling asleep themselves. It might feel like the only option to get some much-needed sleep, but it’s highly dangerous.

There are several  reasons your baby and many, many babies hate the cot:

  • It’s not biologically natural. Humans are the only mammals that have created something artificial to sleep their babies in separately from their caregivers. All other mammals sleep in close contact to their babies.
  • An innate reflex wakes them to protect them. The falling reflex can be triggered when you put them down in the cot or bassinet. This reflex startles babies to wake because they sense a risk.
  • They don’t get a ‘say’ in their own tiredness cues. When they’re tired, they can’t just get in their sleeping space if they want to, and when they wake, they can’t get out. They have to rely on their adult, and when they can’t speak, this means they have no control over their own tiredness cues.

When baby hates the cot: An alternative option

There is another safe option if your baby hates the cot, and prefers to be in your arms or sleep close to you…

Enter the floor bed. 

Many families find a floor bed to be a total sleep gamechanger. Here’s why:

  • Your baby can be fed or cuddled to sleep, whilst being close to you when they fall asleep.
  • You won’t need to put them down, so it avoids the reflex that wakes them up.
  • Because the bed is on the floor, you can leave them once they’re asleep if you choose to.
  • It gives your baby some autonomy over their sleep, particularly if they’re mobile and can go to bed when they choose to.

How a floor bed works

There are a number of ways you can use a floor bed:

  • You can simply get rid of the cot and use the mattress from it, or use a single mattress. It could be placed either in your bedroom or their room if they sleep separately from you.
  • If you would prefer not to bedshare but your bub needs your help to fall asleep, one option here is to use a queen-sized mattress so that you can snuggle them to sleep. Once asleep, you would roll away and go about your day while your baby naps, or move to your own bed at night.
  • Alternatively, you can remove your own bed base so that you can bedshare, or get a king-sized mattress if you don’t have one already to allow for more space.

How to set up a safe floor bed

  1. The mattress must be clean, firm, and flat (not tilted or elevated).
  2. The mattress can go directly on the floor, or you might use some bed slats to allow the air to flow beneath. You can just stand the mattress up regularly during the day to air it out as well.
  3. The mattress should be in the middle of the room, not pushed up against walls.
  4. If you have hard floors, do not surround the mattress with pillows or blankets in case baby falls out. Instead you could use a padded mat (similar to a yoga mat) or soft rug under the bed that extends out to cover the floor around the mattress.
  5. Keep adult bedding, blankets, pillows, and any other soft items away from your baby. Use a safe baby sleeping bag instead.
  6. Always place your baby on their back to sleep, and ensure nothing can cover their face or head.
  7. Ensure the bedroom is baby-proof, including securing furniture to walls, placing locking devices on cupboards and drawers, removing any household plants and wall hangings; possibly putting a stair gate at the doorway; and ensuring there is nothing hanging down like blind cords. Read more about baby proofing here.
  8. If you plan to bedshare, educate yourself on the risks and the benefits (read this to understand when it is not safe to bedshare). Sharing a sleep surface with your baby increases the risks of SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents, however Red Nose supports a risk minimisation approach. In addition to the above, reducing the risks includes:
  • Use lightweight blankets and wear a warm top (no spaghetti straps) instead of using heavy doonas/duvets.
  • Never wrap or swaddle your baby.
  • Remove your own jewellery and your baby’s teething necklaces if applicable prior to sleep.
  • Place the baby at the side of one parent and not in the middle of two parents or older siblings.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back in a ponytail.

Flexible sleep locations is normal and healthy

Being flexible, but safe, regarding sleep locations, is key to everyone getting more sleep, reducing parental stress, and improving infant settling with less crying.

What a lot of families don’t talk about is the fact that they play ‘musical beds’ each night.

That will look different for every family. It might be that a baby transfers okay to a cot in the beginning of the night, but then will only sleep close to their parents. Many families end up bedsharing at some point in the night, which is biologically normal and healthy. The added bonus of the floor bed is that you don’t have to worry about your baby falling out.

Remember that if your baby doesn’t like the cot, it’s not your baby or anything that you’re doing ‘wrong’. Babies are hardwired to want to be close to their caregivers. You won’t start bad habits by doing anything else.


This alternative to using a cot is a suggestion only. Do your own research and use your own judgement. Head over to Red Nose for safe sleeping advice and information. If you would like to book a free initial sleep consultation with our resident holistic and gentle baby sleep specialist Kara Wilson from Nurtured Infancy, submit your details here.

Evolutionary Parenting

Red Nose Australia

Sarah Ockwell-Smith

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