Researchers at Durham University are enlisting the help of parents with babies of up to six months old to take part in studies looking at safe and healthy sleeping in tots.

The team from Durham's Sleep Lab are testing the effectiveness of baby sleeping bags and bedside cots, which attach to the parents' bed, at keeping babies safe at night.

So far, no research has been done outside of hospitals to see whether bedside cots are better or worse than standalone cots in keeping babies safe and whether or not they make a positive impact on night-time breastfeeding.

The team also wants to test the effectiveness of baby sleeping bags in keeping babies' body temperatures at a safe level, compared with traditional sheets and blankets.

The recommended room temperature for young babies is between 16-20ºC with light bedding or a light-weight sleeping bag as the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or cot death, is higher in babies who get too hot.

Bedside cots and sleeping bags are increasingly used by parents in the UK with some figures suggesting more than 90 per cent of parents use baby sleeping bags.

For both studies, parents and babies will sleep in the Sleep Lab at Durham University's Queen's Campus in Stockton, which is a bedroom with facilities such as a bathroom, TV and kitchen.

All information collected will be securely stored and remain confidential using anonymous codes.

The Sleep Lab is one of the world's leading centres for parent-baby sleep research and is focused on providing evidence-based research into safe and healthy sleeping for babies.

Studies conducted by the scientists include those looking at bedding, temperature control, sleep in toddlers, breastfeeding, use of dummies and bed-sharing.

Professor Helen Ball, Director of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University, said: "Our aim in the Sleep Lab is to provide solid evidence which health professionals and parents can use to make decisions about how and where babies can sleep safely.

"There is so much pressure on new parents in particular to make the 'right'

decisions about how to care for their baby and to choose the ‘right’ equipment to do so.

"The problem is that there is a shortage of evidence-based guidance about a lot of the products on the market and we really want to make sure parents, and health professionals, can have access to this."

Jo Lundy, who is 31 years old and from Middlesbrough, took part in the sleeping bag study with her son Ollie, who is now six months old.

She said: "I took part in the study as I didn't know very much about the research that had been carried out in relation to baby grow bags and was contemplating putting Ollie in one.

"I was curious as to whether their statements about maintaining baby body temperatures were true and I was also keen to support such a worthwhile study.

"I found the whole experience very positive and enjoyable, from the researcher's first visit to my home, to the actual study at Durham Uni, and Ollie was everyone's highest priority throughout."

The Sleep Lab launched an online resource last year,, which brings together research on normal infant sleep and sleep safety, and how this can be affected by different cultural behaviours and expectations.

Parents and babies of up to six months old will sleep in the Sleep Lab for two nights. One night, the baby will sleep in a sleeping bag and the other night under a sheet and blanket.

The researchers will video the baby throughout the night to observe the baby's sleep behaviour and temperature monitors will be used to record their body temperature.

Parents will also be asked a few questions about how they normally dress the baby for bed and what blankets or sleeping bag they use.

The two nights do not have to be consecutive but should fall within the same week.

Parents and babies of up to five months old will sleep in the Sleep Lab for one night.

The researchers will video parents and babies throughout the night to see how bedside cots are used. No other monitoring devices will be used.