Sleeping arrangements for our other babies
For our two oldest, we had various sleeping arrangements but I knew for our third baby that we wanted something a little easier to keep baby close at night. Bridger, our oldest, always slept in a pack 'n play in our room and I had to get out of bed and get fully woken every time he needed to nurse during the night. And then after the last time each night, he usually just stayed in our bed anyway. Colden, our second, was similar but we kept the pack n' play a little closer to our bed. So when this baby came, I just wanted to be able to roll over and feed her without all the getting up. We kind of fell into co-sleeping with the others so this time around I wanted to be a little more intentional about it. I had read about the Safe Sleep 7 from Sweet Sleep and felt good about co-sleeping from the get-go after knowing we could follow those.
Side car for new baby
The crib side-car seemed to be the most economical solution. There are co-sleepers on the market but the baby quickly grows out of them. And our older kids end up in our bed at some point during the night half the time anyway, so we really just needed a bigger space for all of us to fit! Buying a king sized mattress seems like an obvious choice but I wanted to be able to keep the baby in the bed without risk of her falling out!
We scoured the internet for tutorials on crib sidecars and never really found a true tutorial. I wish I could share an easy step-by-step with you but each bed is so different that you really have to wing it. However, we did stick to a few principles (some can be found in the Safe Sleep 7).
- Crib mattress flush with the adult mattress. They had to be the same height.
- No gaps between the mattresses or between the crib mattress and crib rails.
- No gaps between crib and wall.
How we made it work
So when we started this, our bed was on a traditional box spring, bed frame and then risers (for under bed storage). Living in 800 sq ft, we needed to keep the under bed storage, so we needed a way to keep that but lower the overall height of the bed.
Box spring to bed slats
We ended up leaving the risers but got rid of the box spring. Nate cut slats that fit in the bed frame and then our mattress went on top of that. You can find tutorials for this or you can buy them from Ikea. Makes you wonder why on earth we are sold bulky, unnecessary box springs!
Height of crib bottom
The Ikea crib (Sniglar) we chose comes with two pre-cut heights for the crib bottom. Neither of these would make the crib mattress flush with our mattress. So we measured the height of our bed by measuring from the floor to the top of our mattress. Then used that measurement to make new holes in the crib frame for the crib bottom with the electric drill. This way, the mattresses would be flush.
Then we attached the crib to our bed frame with 2 heavy duty ratchet straps (like you would use to attach a kayak to the top of your car). I added a pool noodle, seen below, to keep the mattresses pushed together really well. But the older boys just steal it all the time to play with it. So we just make sure to push the mattresses close together if they spread any. Sometimes I will lay a baby blanket under the baby and me so there isn't any risk of her falling in a theoretical gap but it's not something I really worry about. The crib mattress is the right size for this crib so there isn't ever really any gap.
So that's pretty much it! I hope this gets you a better idea of how to make it work. Baby is 10 months now and still sleeping like this. We love it. I lay next to her at night and just have to roll over to nurse! Even with her being the third baby and adding a baby to a family with a 3 yr old and 2 yr old, the newborn period was so much easier this time because I got REST! She would murmur in her sleep and I could roll over to feed. Then when she was done, I could, mostly in my sleep, pull my shirt back down and roll back onto my pillow or stay curled around her in the sidelying position. And she was much happier than my other newborns because she didn't need to cry to be fed at night. I could answer her needs much faster. <3
This was taken one night that Nate was out of town, so other than him not being in this photo, this is a pretty good visual of what our bed looks like many nights. I used to hate when they came into our bed. But I've learned that this is normal. When put it into global evolutionary and anthropological terms, this is how the majority of humans sleep and have slept for millennia. Right next to their family members. For protection, for food, for warmth, for simple human comfort. I've learned to embrace it and it sure feels good to parent instinctively.
And yes, we did use a Dockatot for a few months but not every night or nap. It's a good tool if you have concerns about rolling onto your baby but I wouldn't characterize it as a necessity.
If you are thinking about bedsharing, I would urge you to read about the Safe Sleep 7 and pick up a copy of Sweet Sleep. It takes the fear-mongering out of the sleep debate and gives you the facts, all based on the best available evidence.
I hope this give you an idea of what one possible sleep arrangement looks like. Every family and every baby has different needs but this is what is working for us...right now.
More reading on infant sleep
Our Babies, Ourselves
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
The Myth of Sleeping through the Night
Sleep Needs Versus Sleep Wants
This is Why Your Baby Doesn't Sleep through the Night
Here are Some Lies People Tell You About Infant Sleep
Why Your Newborn Should Not Be Sleeping through the Night