Do You Need a DockATot + 6 Safer Alternatives [Nov. 2022 Update]

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You’ve probably seen them on social media or on a friend’s baby registry. They look cozy and chic in pictures of perfectly stages nurseries. The DockATot. DockATots are seen as a must-have luxury baby item. But do you really need a DockATot? And, are there safer DockATot alternatives?

Parents often recommend DockATots to friend because they swear they were the only things that let them get any sleep in the newborn days. The cushy DockATot with pillowed walls help a baby feel snug and contained like in the womb.

But that’s exactly the problem. DockATots are not sleep safe.

November 2022 Update: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a formal press release on Nov. 9, 2022 declaring DockATots unsafe. As of June 2022, DockATots are no longer allowed to be manufactured or imported into the United States. I go more into this below and you can read the full release here.

Babies need to sleep on their backs in an approved crib or bassinet with breathable sides. The DockATot poses a suffocation risk for newborns left to sleep unsupervised.

And if you can’t use a DockATot for sleep, what exactly are you paying for? DockATots are not cheap. They’re basically $200 pillows which is pretty crazy when you think about it (general price as of Nov. 2022). Honestly, I am baffled by the appeal.

So let’s dive into what a DockATot actually is and the multiple reasons you should save your money and not buy one. Plus, we’ll close with 6 safer DockATot alternatives — because you do still need somewhere to park a baby sometimes.

Do you need a DockATot, plus 6 safer alternatives

November 2022 CPSP Update: DockATots Unsafe and No Longer Manufactured

On Nov. 9, 2022, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission formally announced their assessment that DockATots are not safe and that parents should “immediately discontinue” their use.

Further, the CPSP has notified DockATot that they are in violation of safe sleep standards and they barred their production of DockATots as of June 23, 2022.

You can read the CPSP announcement here.

DockATot also issued a response announcing that they will no longer produce their Deluxe+ Docks in the U.S. market and will launch something new in Jan. 2023 instead. You can find the statement on their website but I’m not linking it because it completely glosses over the safety concerns of their product.

Note: Below you’ll find my original article discouraging people from getting DockATots. Unfortunately, DockATots are still available to buy in the U.S. (more on that in the next section), and will remain available globally. I also anticipate that DockATots will continue to circulate on the secondhand market even after this CPSP announcement so this information remains relevant.

Why are DockATots Still Available for Sale in the U.S.?

You may be wondering why you are still able to buy new DockATots if the CPSP has come out against them. The CPSC has the authority to stop production and importation of new products but they have not barred the sale of DockATots made before the June 2022 ban.

DockATot is free to continue selling products they already had in stock until they run out, but they can not produce any new DockATots. Though, some retailers have already pulled DockATots from their storefronts.

What is a DockATot?

A DockATot is a “docking station” for babies. Essentially it is a parking spot where you can put your newborn. When they get a little bigger, you can use the sides as a support during tummy time and supervised play.

It is considered a lounger and while it is not sleep safe, parents often use it for sleeping or bed-sharing (more on these safety concerns below).

It also markets itself as a diaper changing station but that seems like it would be a headache to clean when your baby inevitables pees during a diaper change.

The standard DockATot is for babies from 0-8 months old and is almost $200 (prices as of Nov. 2022). You can get a bigger model that is allegedly usable from 9 months to 3 years old for an extra hundred, but there isn’t a strong use case for a DockATot for a two-year old.

Frankly, I don’t see how the DockATot is much different than this dog bed that you can buy for less than $20 (priced Nov. 2022).

The dimensions and design are essentially the same. Plus you can throw the entire dog bed into the washing machine to easier cleaning.

[Note: this dog bed is also not sleep safe and I share it only to make a point about the ridiculous pricing of DockATots — I offer a list of safe DockATot alternatives at the end of this article.]

A picture of a nursery on the bottom with text on top that says dockatot alternatives that are safer and will save you money

5 Reason You Don’t Need a DockATot

You do not need a DockATot. I don’t care how good they look in influencers’ perfectly curated nursery pictures, they’re essentially overpriced pillows because they aren’t sleep safe. Here are 5 reasons you should pass on DockATots.

  1. Not Sleep Safe: I’ll keep hammering this one home because it is important. DockATots pose a suffocation risk if babies sleep in them unsupervised. I’ll dig more into the safety concerns below.
  2. Cost: How is it so much money? Seriously, what am I missing here? Simply put, DockATot does not provide enough use and value to justify the cost.
  3. Short use life: You likely won’t need a DockATot for very long. The company says they’re used until 8 months old, but a lot of babies will start moving around before then.
  4. Better Alternatives: There are safer alternatives to the DockATot. Even if you do want a lounger, there are cheaper alternatives out there. I’m not going to link other loungers because they also have sleep suffocation risks. Plus, those are still more expensive than the highly affordable dog bed alternative!
  5. Outlawed in Some Countries: DockATots are not allowed to be sold in some countries because they do not meet safe sleep standards. Health Canada, for example, does not permit their sale within Canada.

Are DockATots Safe?

No, DockATots are not safe. The safety concerns with DockATot bear repeating — this thing is not sleep safe. Babies are should sleep in firm, flat sleep spaces, without bumpers or pillows, such as a CPSC-approved crib, bassinet or playard (more details here).

As discussed above, the Consumer Product Safety Commission formally came out against DockATots in a November 2022 press release and barred their future manufacturing.

A DockATot’s pillowed sides are a suffocation risk, especially for young babies. Many people love DockATots for co-sleeping which is also an unsafe sleep practice according to the AAP.

Frustratingly, DockATot’s website markets a long list of safety testing and certifications but does not specifically address sleep safety. I find this omission very misleading.

Most other baby products add warnings on their products when they are not safe for sleep. I had to dig into the links at the bottom of the DockATot website to find their sleep warnings. These warnings are notably absent on the product sales pages themselves. They have a bit more prominent “Safety Tips” page but nearly all the safety tips are about a baby in a DockATot, with only one about moving babies to a crib for sleep.

Honestly, I feel like it is only a matter of time before DockATots get recalled. Similar products like the Boppy Lounger recently faced recalls for being unsafe sleeping spaces. The new Safe Sleep for Babies Act is supposed to remove many unsafe products like loungers from the market later in 2022.

Listen, we used and loved some baby items that had been recalled for sleep safety concerns (miss you, love you Rock-N-Play & Boppy Lounger). But we never, ever used them for unsupervised sleep.

So, theoretically you could use the DockATot in a similar supervised way. But again, it’s a ~$200-300 pillow (prices as of July 2022). For $300, it sure better be sleep safe. If you’re already supervising sleep, just get a reasonably priced bouncer (or again, this dog bed really seems equivalent) instead.

6 Safer DockATot Alternatives

You still need a place to put down your baby, so what are some safer DockATot alternatives? Below are DockATot alternatives including both baby sleep spaces and spots for playtime.

1. Guava Lotus: If you’re already planning to drop DockATot-kind-of-money on a baby item, consider getting something more useful and sleep safe instead. The Guava Lotus is a way more functional and safer alternative to a DockATot, and you’ll use it for a lot longer.

It is a sleep safe travel crib and playpen that you’ll use until toddlerhood. It is light and I’d argue easier to transport than a big pillow. Plus it has fancy features like a side-zip door for extra convenience.

2. Fisher Price On-The-Go Dome: If you’re looking for something smaller and easier to move around the house, check out the Fisher Price On-The-Go Dome. Unlike the DockATot, this alternative is safer because it has breathable mesh sides. It is light, easier to transport than a DockATot, and has a sunshade.

What I like about this dome is that it is easy to pop opened and closed, and you can use it outside. This ability to take the dome on out of the house with you adds a lot of function over the DockATot.

3. Galt Playnest: DockATots serve as a parking spot for small babies. For a baby container alternative, check out the Galt Playnest. The Playnest also boosts more functions than a DockATot: a baby holder, activity center, and sitting support all in one.

The Playnest is not designed for sleep. Its shape makes it less likely to be improperly used for sleep or bed-sharing. You can plop a small baby in it when hanging out on the couch or flip them over for tummy time with sewn in toys. I wished we had something with similar 360 padding when our baby was learning to sit. The ring also deflates for very easy transport.

4. Boppy: One of DockATot’s marketed uses is as a spot to practice tummy time. You likely already have an easy alternative to use for tummy time practice: a boppy. A boppy is an ever-popular support pillow for feeding and nursing.

As your baby gets bigger, boppies can also be used as a support for tummy time and sitting practice. Save your money and try your boppy as an alternative for tummy time play before splurging on a DockATot.

5. Play Gyms: If you’re looking for a baby drop zone, a play gym is a safer and more engaging DockATot alternative. Play Gyms provide a firm flat surface and allow more free movement for motor development than a DockATot.

Play Gyms have floor mats with hanging activities to keep babies occupied. They’re great for plopping a baby down and making a quick dinner. However, they’re definitely not a must-have item, a blanket and some toys do a similar job. Read more about whether you really need a play gym.

6. Snoo Smart Bassinet: DockATot markets itself as luxury baby gear. If you’re in this high-end baby gear market, go all in and check out the Snoo as a much safer and better DockATot alternative. The Snoo senses when your baby is stirring and tries to put them back to sleep for you.

In terms of sleep safety, Snoo is everything that DockATot is not. It is a safer DockATot alternative because it is specifically designed with sleep safety in mind. It uses its own proprietary swaddles to prevent babies from rolling onto their bellies while sleeping. Plus, it is easier to resell than a DockATot (check out our list of other baby gear with high resale value).

If you’re interested in the Snoo, check out my list of 12 Ways to Save Money on a Snoo and this deep-dive into whether you should rent or buy a Snoo.

There you have 6 safer DockATot alternatives. Looking for more “baby parking spot” ideas? Check out this comparison of Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up Seats vs. UpSeats.

And if you’re wondering what other baby gear you can skip, check out my “do you really need a…” series:

About the Author

Elizabeth Jon is a Ph.D. researcher whose work focuses on pregnancy and education. At Shoestring Baby, she uses her skills to research baby name trends, in-depth baby gear reviews & money savings ideas for parents.

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