As a parent, you’ve heard people, perhaps even friends, raving about using a Dock-A-Tot to get their babies to sleep better. New parents are exhausted and desperate for even an extra hour of slumber, and you might be willing to overlook the nearly $170 price tag.

Even if your friends mean well, their experiences don’t answer whether or not a Dock-A-Tot is safe for sleeping.

All parents agree that their baby’s safety is their top priority. Unfortunately, when it comes to safe sleeping, misinformation spreads widely online. So, our goal is to answer once and for all this earnest question – is a Dock-A-Tot safe?

The answer might surprise you, so keep reading.

Note that:

While I’m expressing my opinion to you, please know that I’m not a medical professional giving you any advice. Any medical questions you have need to be directed at your pediatrician.

Is a Doc-A-Tot Safe for Sleeping?

When we talk about safety, it’s important not to look at your friends’ experiences. These are all anecdotal. For example, we all know that rear-facing until two-year-olds is safer, but just because you don’t know a child injured because their parents forward-faced their car seat too soon doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

It has; you just don’t know anyone who suffered the terrible consequences of their choices. 

Now, I don’t say this to make you feel bad. We all make the best decisions that we can for our kids with the information we have been given. However, know better, do better, right?

So, to answer your question clearly – No, a DockATot is NOT safe for sleeping. This is sad because it has helped babies sleep well.

Let me show you why we know that they’re not safe for our babies. 

It Doesn’t Create A Safe Sleeping Environment

The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines what a safe sleeping environment is. Using a Dock-A-Tot with a newborn baby doesn’t fit into these recommendations. 

The AAP advises parents to use a flat, firm surface with a CPSC-approved mattress. Your baby should sleep alone and on their back. Nothing else besides your baby should be present in the crib, including blankets or crib bumpers.

When you read the description on their website, including the DockATot Deluxe vs. Grand details, you can see that they state:

“… The built-in, air-permeable bumpers on the DockATot Grand…” 

Now, chances are you’ve seen companies that sell mesh, breathable bumpers as an alternative to using in your baby’s crib. However, despite being marketed as breathable, they still carry a significant risk of suffocation and strangulation. 

Even if the sides of their product is permeable, we know that mesh bumpers still are risky, so this product would be as well.

The Website is Truly Misleading About Its Use

Before I go further, I think we must define two critical words – bedsharing and co-sleeping. They are NOT the same, and you need to know the differences.

  • Bedsharing is when your child sleeps on the same mattress with you. While controversial in the United States, bedsharing is a cultural norm in many parts of the world.
  • Co-sleeping is when your child sleeps on a separate surface near your bed but not IN bed with you. The most common choice would be a co-sleeper that hooks to the side of your bed. 

So, the DockATot is designed as an in-bed co-sleeper, but anything in bed with you would be considered bed-sharing. While bedsharing is a controversial subject, families that do so safely follow the seven rules. Those rules state you cannot have anything such as a large pillow in your bed. 

Direct Supervision is Needed

Here is another reason why their website is misleading for parents.

If you read their descriptions carefully, you’ll find that: “Direct supervision is required when Baby is in DockATot.” 

Then, on the same page, it takes about sleeping in the same bed as your baby, who is in the middle of the pillow. Maybe we all sleep a bit differently, but I’m typically unable to provide direct supervision if I’m sleeping. How do they suggest that we supervise our babies while sleeping as well?

It’s Not Safe in a Crib or Bassinet Either

At the same time, their website states it’s unsafe to have a DockATot in a crib, nor should you place your DockATot in a bassinet. So, that eliminates using one in a co-sleeper beside your bed. 

However, when you talk to your friends and family members who use one, most will tell you that they put them in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper. 

Why would they do that? Marketing and advertising.

I can tell you that I was around the parenting world when DockATot first came out in the market, and they shared dozens and hundreds of photos of their product being used in unsafe ways. Despite their directions, they shared pictures of babies sleeping in cribs or bassinets snug inside the nest. 

Since then, their advertisements have changed, and we do have to give them props for understanding that sharing photos have misled parents and created an unsafe situation. However, the damage is done. Parents saw those photos and used this product in that manner, and they told all of their friends about how they used it and how well it worked.

Damage control is very hard. 

It Doesn’t Meet CPSC Standards

When you check out the website in detail, you find out that they recommend that parents follow safe sleeping advice and follow the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

Why is this a bad thing?

It’s ironic because the DockATot doesn’t mean CPSC standards for safe sleeping. Only cribs, bassinets, play yards, or playards are included in their safe list. 

Nor Does the FDA Approve Them

If the AAP and the CPSC speaking out against these nest-like products isn’t enough, the FDA reminded parents in 2019 that sleep positioners are not safe for babies. Their statement tells us that:

“These products – sometimes also called “nests” or “anti-roll” products – can cause suffocation that can lead to death.”: FDA

It’s Essentially a Large Pillow 

When I first saw one, I immediately wondered if a baby could suffocate in a Dock-A-Tot. After all, despite claiming that it’s breathable, it’s mostly a huge pillow. We know that cribs need to be empty, and pillows are not recommended for infants. 

I know that their website tells us that breathability is crucial and that their product is breathable to prevent suffocation. However, that term isn’t regulated, so any product can say that on their description. We have no proof that it’s true.

Marketing can be a dangerous and robust tool that companies have, so always be cautious.

What you might not realize is that the DockATot could lead to SIDS because of rebreathing carbon dioxide. If a newborn is sleeping with her face towards the side, she could rebreathe carbon dioxide, widely believed to contribute to SIDS.

Your baby’s face doesn’t need to be pushed against the side to be a danger. The danger is present if your child is facing the sides, creating a little air pocket. 

Has Any Babies Died in a Dock-A-Tot?

Are you struggling to decide whether to give up your newfound love?

Babies have died in a DockATot. We know that the CPSC contributed two fatalities to sleeping in one of these pillows.

Of course, this is not the only sleep product marketed to infants that have led to death. Sleeping pillows or wedges contributed to dozens of infant deaths over the decades, and a DockATot is no exception.

Babies have died from using this product. While it might help your baby sleep easier, it’s not worth the risk. 

Can I Safely Use a Dock-A-Tot?

So, what do you do if you already have one? I wouldn’t recommend selling it unless you can explain to the family why it’s not safe. Instead, you need to know how to use it safely; it did cost over $100 after all.

The only safe way to use these nests is to ensure your baby is awake inside of it while you supervise. 

You can put your baby awake in it, sitting beside you on the floor. Try using it for tummy time. Some people use their DockATot for their toddler sleeping, and while that might be safer than a newborn who is unable to roll around, it’s still not the safest environment.

Some babies and toddlers love the snug environment, and you might find that your child will spend time awake inside the pillow. As long as your baby is awake and supervised, it can be safe for your baby. 

How to Wean Your Baby Out of a DockATot

Listen, we all make mistakes. I’m not about shaming parents; I’ve made plenty of choices that I look back and realize might not have been the safest. I used the Rock ‘n Play for years and let my baby sleep in it at night several times.

We’re all humans, so don’t feel horrible about it.

So, now we are at the place where you started letting your baby sleep all night in the DockATot, and you realize it’s not safe. So, you have to wean your baby out of it.

Here are a few things you can try. 

  • Cold Turkey Your Baby

The hardest but quickest way to change anything you’re doing with your baby is to cold turkey him. You can abruptly stop using any product and deal with the aftermath for a few days. Then, life will be back to normal.

I would try removing it at bedtime first. It’s the hardest yet most dangerous time, so expect your baby not to sleep well for a few days. It’s to be expected, but once he sleeps without it, remove the pillow at naptime too. 

  • Try a Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit

Babies who love sleeping nests love feeling snug and tight, so a Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit is an excellent option if your baby is too old for swaddling. These are considered a transition swaddler because your baby has access to his arms and legs, but it still provides that snugness babies crave.

  • Gradually Wean

Your other option is to wean gradually. Get your baby down to sleep without the pillow and see how long you can get her to sleep in her bare crib. If she won’t go back to sleep, put her back in the DockATot.

Then, the next night, you hope for longer. This takes a lot of time, but it can reduce the amount of crying that your baby needs to go through. 

What About Dock-A-Tot Alternatives?

I wish that I could recommend a DockATot knockoff or an alternative for you to try, but I can’t.

Why?

No matter the brand, sleeping nests, pillows, or positioners are unsafe for babies when it comes to sleeping. You should never use one without first talking to your pediatrician.

A few medical devices can help with extreme reflux or similar problems, but those are FDA approved. Your doctor can help you find one if your child truly needs one. Otherwise, the AAP, FDA, CPSC, and every pediatrician board worldwide agree – these are all highly unsafe and should not be used with your baby.

Final Thoughts

Every year, something we thought was safe for our kids is discovered to be unsafe. I mentioned to you that I used a Rock ‘N Play for three of my kids, and we know that babies died in this product. My kids slept so well in it, but not I see how dangerous it indeed was.

Parents can only do as good as the information they have given to them.

Remember that, no matter the pictures you see or advice from friends, a Dock-A-Tot is not safe for sleep. Your baby should not be left to sleep in this sleeping pillow. It does increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS if your child sleeps in this product.

Author

Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old. I'm passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I've faced it over the last ten years.

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